Australia has high hopes of returning with at least one gold medal when the ISAF Grade W 470 World Championship, to be held from 21-30 January from Mordialloc SC, get underway at Sail Melbourne.
Clear favourites in the men's fleet are 2007 World Champions Nathan WILMOT
and Malcolm PAGE
from Australia, who look on track to secure their fourth World title in five years.
Athens Olympians and 2007 Qingdao Test Event winners, the Sydney pair has been busy putting in practice time and last week won the Australian Championship title, beating two sets of brothers; Benjamin BONNAUD
and Romain BONNAUD
(FRA) and Sven COSTER
and Kalle COSTER
PAGE says both pairs will keep him and WILMOT honest at Sail Melbourne's 2008 Worlds, which will be sailed on Port Phillip, renowned for its windy conditions. "They are both tough adversaries and I guess the nationals were a bit of a preview for what's to come.
"The COSTER brothers finished second to us at the last worlds and the French team in general have been putting in a huge effort; the Bonnauds, Nic CHARBONNIER and Olivier BAUSSET and Pierre LEBOUCHER and Vincent GAROS. The Poms will press us too; Nic AISHER and Elliot WILLIS (GBR) who beat us to the pip for the 2006 title in the final race and Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD [Athens silver medallists].
"There are so many great crews. The Israelis [Gideon KLIGER and Udi GAL] are hot, they're ranked #2 in the world behind us and finished third at the 2007 Worlds, and the young Kiwis [Carl EVANS and Peter BURLING and Geoff WOOLLEY and OVERINGTON] are knocking on the door. They have the potential to do well, but New Zealand is yet to qualify for the Olympics, which they might do at this Worlds."
PAGE says the Swedes, the Italians and the Spanish strong and he and WILMOT have been training hard the past four to five weeks. "Things are feeling pretty good for me and Nathan, but we'll have to work hard to retain our title."
The two will also take on Mat BELCHER
and Nick BEHRENS
(AUS) who, in a tough long term fight they overcame for the Olympic place to Beijing.
WILMOT took time out on Tuesday to take part in the Big Boat Challenge in the lead up to the Rolex Sydney Hobart race. "Yes, this is my last bit of fun. From tomorrow on, it's all about our 470 campaign."
Australia's hopes for the worlds are newly selected Australian Team members for Beijing, Elise RECHICHI
and Tessa PARKINSON
. In August the young West Australian former 420 World Champions won the 2007 Test Event in Qingdao and won Kiel Week in 2005 and 2006.
International competition will be strong as Marcelien DE KONING
and Lobke BERKHOUT
(NED) are chasing a fourth world title crown, having won the past three world championships. They were the top women's place setters at the 470 Australian Championships last week and finished in front of a number of the world's top ranked men's crews.
France's stalwarts and Sail Melbourne regulars Ingrid PETITJEAN
and Nadege DOUROUX
(second women at the 470 Australian's), Christina BASSADONE
and Saskia CLARK
(GBR) and AiI KONDO
and Kamata NAOKO
(JPN), second, third and fourth placed in 2007 and top three place getters at previous Woarlds will be strong.
Athens silver medallist Natalia VIA-DUFRESNE
with new crew Laia TUTZO
(ESP) and bronze medallists Therese TORGERSSON
and Vendela SANTÉN (nee Zachrisson) from Sweden will also be strong competitors.
Two prolific sailors in the class, Ruslana TARAN
and Olena PAKHOLCHYK
(UKR) are the 1997, 1998 and 1999 World Champions, Olympic bronze from Sydney 2000 and Atlanta 1996, and TARAN's Yngling silver medal from Athens 2004. Now back in the 470, the two placed fourth at the 2007 Qingdao Test Event and are not to be discounted.
On the upward move in the class are Giulia CONTI
and Giovanna MICOL
(ITA). CONTI finished 14th in the Yngling keelboat at Athens, then switched to the 470 in 2006. Since then, she and MICOL have won two ISAF Grade 1 regattas in the 470 and may surprise in Melbourne.
With eight Olympic places in the men's and five in the women's, the 470 Worlds at Sail Melbourne is where the remaining 13 nations will be qualified for the Beijing Games, so there is a lot riding on this event. Other competitors will be trying to out sail their fellow countrymen and women to score the prized place in their respective Olympic teams.
The entire Australian Team has already been chosen, so will be able to concentrate on winning the event.
"Sail Melbourne is privileged to host so many world championships in January and it's a great opportunity for Australia and sailing,"
says Sail Melbourne patron John BERTRAND, who will be taking the time to see all five world championship events.
At the time of writing, 118 entries in total had been received from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Great Britain, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine and the USA.
Series and courses
The 470 Men's and Women's Worlds' will consist of a Qualifying Series and the Final Series. For each series, crews will be divided into groups of equal numbers. For the Final Series, crews will be divided into final groups - gold, silver, bronze - approximately with the same number of participants each. On the last day, the first ten crews of the group gold at the end of the day before the last day will sail the Medal Race.
Qualifying 24-26 January - six races
Final Series, 27-30 January - seven races, including the Medal Race.
Courses are Olympic trapezoid and windward and leeward on Port Phillip in the vicinity of Mordialloc Sailing Club.
Sail Melbourne will hold 470 Men's and Women's World Championships in cooperation with the International 470 Class Association and the Australian 470 Class Association and organised by Yachting Victoria.
Special thanks go to sponsors: State Government of Victoria; Parks Victoria; Mercedes Benz; Helly Hansen; Bayside City Council; Mornington Peninsula Shire Council; City of Kingston; Schenker Australia; Yachting Australia; Ronstan International; Ribsport; Silver Marine
For all information on the 470 Worlds, including current entry list and NoR, go to: www.sailmelbourne.com.au