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25 June 2007, 12:00 pm
Runners And Riders - RS:X Fleets
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ISAF Sailing World Championships 2007
Cascais, Portugal

The 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships start in Cascais, Portugal on 28 June, with well over 1,600 sailors lining up to dispute 11 World Championship titles and Olympic qualification. The two windsurfing fleets are set to provide some of the most spectacular racing in the windy Cascais conditions - we take a look at some of the title favourites.
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The RS:X windsurfer makes it debut at the Olympic Games in 2008, but whilst the board might be new, there are many familiar faces heading up the challenge for medals in Cascais. Both fleets offer at a fascinating contest between youth and experience and although the class is just over one year old, some engaging rivalries have already begun to form.

The Neil Pryde RS:X replaced the Mistral as Olympic equipment for the Men's and Women's Windsurfer events at the start of 2006. Compared to its predecessor the RS:X is more of a hybrid board, wider and shorter with a larger sail and more in line with the modern windsurfing world.

Cascais should provide a great setting for the windsurfers, with planing conditions (when the board lifts out of the water to 'plane' across the surface, reducing drag and increasing speed) prevailing. This should provide some spectacular racing and in theory will favour the taller, heavier sailors. However second guessing the wind is always a risky business and with just one discard in the series it is likely that success in Cascais will require more than just a one-trick pony.

Racing for the RS:X fleets begins on Friday 6 July. Two races are schedule for each day on 6, 7, 8, 10 and 11 July, with the RS:X Medal Races on 12 July.

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Men's RS:X

The Basics

Event: Men's Windsurfer
Equipment: Neil Pryde RS:X
Fleet size: 115
Olympic qualification places: 25
Reigning World Champion: Casper BOUMAN (NED)
Reigning Olympic Champion (on Mistral board): Gal FRIDMAN (ISR)

Leading Challengers

Ones to watch...

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World #1 Przemyslaw MIARCZYNSKI
© Dan Nerney/Rolex

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Nick DEMPSEY, Olympic bronze medallist in Athens
© Skandia Team GBR 2008

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Tom ASHLEY at the Semaine Olympique Française
© Gilles Martin-Raget

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Casper BOUMAN, reigning World Champion
© David Bell/bellyvision@mac.com

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Gal FRIDMAN, Olympic Champion on the Mistral
© MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

Przemek MIARCZYNSKI (POL)

Age: 30
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 1
Career Highlights: 2003 World Champion, 2007 European Champion

The world #1 and newly crowned European Champion is the form sailor on the circuit. He won the last combined Worlds back in 2003 and the heavy winds in Cascais should suit him down to the ground.

Nicolas HUGUET (FRA), Nicolas LE GAL (FRA), Julien BONTEMPS (FRA)

Age: 30; 25; 31
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 2; 9; 17
Career Highlights: HUGUET - 2005 Mistral World Champion; LE GAL - 2007 European Championship bronze medallist; BONTEMPS - 2004 Mistral World Champion

The current leading lights in the French team. Whether the competition for places within the team ends up diluting or intensifying their challenge could well be key to their success.

Nick DEMPSEY (GBR)

Age: 26
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 3
Career Highlights: 2004 Olympic bronze medallist, 2006 European Champion

Dominated the European racing last year, culminating in the 2006 European title, but since a below-par performance at the Olympic Test Event has yet to recover that form. Still, the Olympic bronze medallist from Athens can never be discounted

Maxim OBEREMKO (UKR)

Age: 29
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 11
Career Highlights: 2006 ISAF World Sailing Games gold medallist

The Ukrainian is rarely out of the running at the top events. Showed he is completely at home with the new Medal Race format by grabbing the title with a bullet at last year's ISAF World Sailing Games.

Tom ASHLEY (NZL)

Age: 23
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 7
Career Highlights: 2006 World Championship silver medallist

Along with MIARCZYNSKI, ASHLEY has dominated the RS:X scene this year, although contrasting schedules mean the pair have rarely gone head-to-head. When they have, ASHLEY has come up on top. Silver medallist at the 2006 Worlds.

Casper BOUMAN (NED)

Age: 21
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 13
Career Highlights: 2006 World Champion

The reigning World Champion excels in the breezy conditions predicted in Cascais. He has not had the best season so far, but then many of this year's regattas have been held in usually light conditions.

Outside Bets

Joao RODRIGUES (POR)

Age: 35
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 4
Career Highlights: 1995 Mistral World Champion

A strong start to the season has seen RODRIGUES climb up to #4 in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings. Although he is yet to record an event win on the RS:X, home advantage could well prove important.

Ricardo SANTOS (BRA)

Age: 27
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 10
Career Highlights: 2005, 2002 Mistral World Championship silver medallist

After the heartbreak of missing out on the Olympic podium in the last race in Athens, SANTOS continues to provide the leading South American challenge on the new RS:X equipment. Win at this year's Breitling Regatta in Medemblik will be a timely confidence boost.

Gal FRIDMAN (ISR)

Age: 31
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 31
Career Highlights: 2004 Olympic Champion

The Athens gold medallist in the Mistral has yet to show the same speed on the RS:X, but FRIDMAN has always been a canny competitor well-practiced in timing his peak performances.

Chi Ho HO (HKG), King Yin CHAN (HKG)

Age: 26; 25
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 24; 25
Career Highlights: HO - 2005 Kiel Week winner; CHAN - 2006 Olympic Test Event third place

Hong Kong's two leading challengers will probably not be relishing the fierce Nortada wind, but if conditions are uncharacteristically light, expect them to shine.

Nikolas KAKLAMANAKIS (GRE)

Age: 36
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 46
Career Highlights: 1996 Olympic Champion, 2004 Olympic silver medallist

The Olympic gold medallist from Savannah and silver medallist from Athens has taken a slow and steady approach in his move to the RS:X. Beat FRIDMAN to win last year's Cascais International Sailing Week.

Mike GEBHARDT (USA)

Age: 41
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: Not Ranked
Career Highlights: 1992 Olympic silver medallist, 1988 Olympic bronze medallist

A double Olympic medallist, GEBHARDT has been closely involved in the development of the RS:X class and is one of the most highly-regarded coaches on the windsurfing circuit. Aged 41, and not having competed on the ISAF Graded circuit since the Sydney Olympics in 2000, GEBHARDT just missed out on the gold fleet at the recent Europeans.

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Women's RS:X

The Basics

Event: Women's Windsurfer
Equipment: Neil Pryde RS:X
Fleet size: 78
Olympic qualification places: 20
Reigning World Champion: Alessandra SENSINI (ITA)
Reigning Olympic Champion (on Mistral board): Faustine MERRET (FRA)

Leading Challengers

Ones to watch...

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World #1 Marina ALABAU
© Ntina Halla

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World Champion Alessandra SENSINI
© Jeff Crow, Sport the Library at Sail Melbourne

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Olympic Champion Faustine MERRET
© MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

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Bryony SHAW celebrates victory in Hyères
© Guilain Grenier/FFV

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Jian YIN, Olympic silver medallist
© MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

Marina ALABAU (ESP)

Age: 21
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 1
Career Highlights: 2006 World Championship silver medallist, 2007 European Champion

The current world #1 has rarely been off the podium this year, dominating the competition in Europe with consistent scoring across a range of conditions. Erased her heartbreaking loss to Alessandra SENSINI (ITA) at last year's Worlds by turning tables on the Italian to win the European title.

Alessandra SENSINI (ITA)

Age: 37
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 40
Career Highlights: 2000 Olympic Champion, 2004, 1996 Olympic bronze medallist, 2006 World Champion, 2004, 2000 Mistral World Champion

The current World Champion is also one of the legends of women's windsurfing, with three Olympic medals to her name. Has limited her appearances on the new board, but although she's only taken part in five ISAF Graded events, she already counts three wins. Potential battle with ALABAU could be one of the highlights of the Championships

Barbara KENDALL (NZL)

Age: 39
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 36
Career Highlights: 1992 Olympic Champion, 1996 Olympic silver medallist, 2000 Olympic bronze medallist, 2002, 1999, 1998 Mistral World Champion

The mother of two, IOC member and triple Olympic medallist is on her fifth Olympic campaign but shows no sign of fatigue. Like SENSINI, she has carefully selected a limited number of regattas to compete in - a strategy which has yielded impressive results so far.

Faustine MERRET (FRA)

Age: 29
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 13
Career Highlights: 2004 Olympic Champion

The 2004 gold medallist from Athens consistently finds her best form at the top regattas. Like many of the RS:X fleet's top performers she has been quite limited in the amount of appearances made since the move to the new board, but she has rarely failed to deliver the goods at the grandest events. Last year fought off a very strong Chinese challenge to win the Olympic Test Event in Qingdao and demonstrated her stamina by taking the bronze medal at the RS:X Worlds shortly after.

Zofia KLEPACKA (POL)

Age: 21
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 4
Career Highlights: 2006 World Championship fourth place

After dominating youth windsurfing at the turn of the century, winning a record four ISAF Youth World titles, KLEPACKA, now 21, is beginning to make her presence felt on the world scene. She narrowly missed out on the podium at last year's Worlds and has impressed again this year, rising up the ISAF World Sailing Rankings to #4. Like her compatriot MIARCZYNSKI in the men's fleet, the windy Cascais should suit her perfectly.

Jian YIN (CHN)

Age: 28
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 35
Career Highlights: 2004 Olympic silver medallist

The Olympic silver medallist will be looking to prove that she can compete at the top of the fleet when the breeze gets up. She has had an up and down season so far, best illustrate in Hyères when she totally dominated the competition until the breeze kicked in for the final two days and she fell back from first to fourth.

Bryony SHAW (GBR)

Age: 24
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 2
Career Highlights: 2006 European Championship silver medallist

Since the switch to the RS:X, the current world #2 has only missed the Medal Race in one of the regattas she has entered. After winning at Hyères earlier in the year, she elected to miss out on the rest of the European season and has focussed on her preparations for Cascais.

Outside Bets

Romy KINZL (GER)

Age: 28
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 3
Career Highlights: 2006 World Championship sixth place

Consistency is the key for the 28 year old German hope KINZL, whose form this season has seen her rise to #3 in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings. She is yet to feature on the podium this season, but with over ten years experience of the windsurfing circuit she has the experience to deal with the pressure in Cascais.

Blanca MANCHON (ESP)

Age: 20
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 17
Career Highlights: 2006 European Champion

Although MANCHON has played second fiddle to ALABAU over the past 12 months, the 20 year old has still been one of the leading lights in the new class. A podium finish at the recent Europeans shows she is in good form and the inter-nation competition between her and ALABAU could well help spur the pair on.

Qiubin CHEN (CHN), Li LING (CHN)

Age: 22; 21
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 22; 32
Career Highlights: CHEN - 2006 ISAF World Sailing Games gold medallists; LING - 2006 World Championships 12th place

Along with YIN, the other leading challengers in the six-strong Chinese team. CHEN won the ISAF World Sailing Games in Austria last year and is currently the top Ranked of the Chinese windsurfers at #22, whilst LING, still just 21, was the top Chinese finisher at last year's windy Worlds in Torbole.

Olga MASLIVETS (UKR)

Age: 28
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 10
Career Highlights: 2006 Kiel Week winner

Regularly amongst the leading challengers in the women's windsurfing fleet, MASLIVETS began the year down under at Sail Auckland. Her last appearance on the circuit ended with a top ten finish in Hyères

Lee KORZITS (ISR)

Age: 23
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 15
Career Highlights: 2003 World Champion

When aged 19 KORZITS won the Women's Mistral event at the first ISAF Worlds back in 2003, she became the youngster ever female Mistral World Champion. Since then her results on the new RS:X board have yet to hit the same heights, but she nevertheless remains a leading threat, especially if the breeze gets up.

Allison SHREEVE (AUS), Jessica CRISP (AUS)

Age: 25; 37
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 11; 49
Career Highlights: SHREEVE - 2005, 2006 Formula Windsurfing World Champion; CRISP - 2000 Olympic Games fifth place

Australia' two leading challengers are going head-to-head for the single national slot in Beijing. The windy Cascais should suit SHREEVE, the reigning Formula Windsurfing World Champion, well. However CRISP has the Olympic pedigree and has so far performed better at the very top events, especially with a seventh place finish at last year's Worlds.

About The 2007 ISAF Worlds

The 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships will take place from 28 June-13 July in Cascais, Portugal. 'The Wind Is Calling' is the official motto for the 2007 Worlds. The Championships are the principal qualification regatta for the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition, with 75% of all national places to be decided.

All Media wishing to attend the Championships will require accreditation. On-site accreditations only will be available after 31 May.

For all the news on the ISAF Sailing World Championships 2007 CLICK HERE.

ISAF. Image:© Gilles Martin-Raget
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