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26 June 2007, 12:00 pm
Runners And Riders - Laser Fleets
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ISAF Sailing World Championships 2007
Cascais, Portugal

Just one week remains until racing gets underway at the 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships start in Cascais, Portugal, with 11 World Championship titles and Olympic qualification up for grabs. Over 250 sailors line up in the two Laser fleets, which look set to provide some of the closest racing of the Championships.
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The strict one-design nature of the two One Person Dingy events makes them a straight shoot out of sailing skill. Designed by Bruce KIRBY in 1969, the Laser had gone on to become one of the most successful and popular racing dinghies ever. Designed to emphasise performance and simplicity, the worldwide availability of the Laser gives it a huge base of sailors to draw from and it is the Olympic Class with the biggest entry in Cascais.

The Laser Radial uses the same hull as the Laser with a smaller sail and more flexible and shorter mast. It replaced the Europe as Olympic equipment in November 2004. Compared to the Europe, the Radial has a longer and heavier hull but a smaller sail area. The Radial has fewer options in the set up, emphasizing the sailor's performance on the water.

With such a large and diverse entry it is no surprise that racing in the two One Person Dinghy fleets is some of the hardest to call. With plenty of breeze predicted Cascais, the racing should be highly physical and exciting to watch. This year's European regattas have been dominated by light winds, making reading the form book even harder.

Racing for the Laser and Laser Radial fleets begins on Wednesday 4 July. Two races are schedule for each day on 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9 July, with the Laser and Laser Radial Medal Races on 10 July.

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Laser

The Basics

Event: Men's One Person Dinghy
Equipment: Laser
Fleet size: 149
Olympic qualification places: 29
Reigning World Champion: Michael BLACKBURN (AUS)
Reigning Olympic Champion: Robert SCHEIDT (BRA)

Leading Challengers

Ones to watch...

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World Champion Michael BLACKBURN
© Otto Kasch/www.segel-bilder.de

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Tom SLINGSBY
© Tomek Ignatowicz

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Gustavo LIMA
© Walter Cooper/Rolex

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World #1 Paul GOODISON
© Richard Langdon/Skandia Team GBR

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Vasilij ZBOGAR
© MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

Michael BLACKBURN (AUS)

Age: 37
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 6
Career Highlights: 2006 World Champion, 2000 Olympic Games bronze medallist

The reigning World Champion is one of the most experienced sailors in the Laser fleet and is currently on his fourth Olympic campaign, going head-to-head with Tom SLINGSBY (AUS) for the Aussie Laser spot in 2008. BLACKBURN took a two-year sabbatical from the Olympic Classes following the Athens Games but returned last year at the peak of his powers. Victories this year at both Hyères and Kiel, together with podium finishes in Palma and Miami indicate this is a man currently at the top of his form. However his strongest performances have been in the lighter wind ranges, and having lost weight for the racing in Qingdao, he could be disadvantaged when the breeze gets up in Cascais.

Tom SLINGSBY (AUS)

Age: 22
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 2
Career Highlights: 2006 World Championship silver medallist, 2006 ISAF World Sailing Games gold medallist

The rising star of the Laser scene will be relishing the breezy conditions expected in Cascais. Over the last three seasons SLINGSBY has racked up a series of wins in the top European events and just a few weeks ago won at the European Championship in Hyères. In almost any other country, he would be a shoe-in for the Olympic spot, but he has to prove himself against World Champion Michael BLACKBURN (AUS) for the Aussie spot. Typically very strong in the breeze and needing a big result to stake his claim for the Olympics, SLINGSBY is definitely one to watch.

Gustavo LIMA (POR)

Age: 29
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 3
Career Highlights: 2003 World Champion

LIMA is one of the host nation's biggest hopes for World Championship glory, having won the title at the last ISAF Worlds back in Cadiz in 2003. The Portuguese star has been one of the leading lights in the Laser class since finishing sixth at the 2000 Olympics. Has found his best form this season with a string of impressive performances, including victory at the ISAF Grade 1 Rolex Miami OCR.

Paul GOODISON (GBR)

Age: 29
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 1
Career Highlights: 2007, 2006, 2005 European Champion, 2002 Laser World Championship bronze medallist

Probably the most consistent performer in the Laser fleet, GOODISON has held the world #1 spot for over a year. Victory at the Olympic Test Event in Qingdao last year was one of his most impressive performances and a highlight of a great season. Has started this year well, although he is yet to hit the heights of 2006 and over the past few years he has failed to produce his best sailing at the Worlds.

Vasilij ZBOGAR (SLO)

Age: 31
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 7
Career Highlights: 2004 Olympic bronze medallist

Won Slovenia's first-ever sailing medal at the 2004 Olympic Games. Since then he has been consistently amongst the top ten at the big events, without recording any major wins. Will be looking to make up for the disappointment of finishing a lowly 27th at last year's Worlds.

Andrew MURDOCH (NZL)

Age: 24
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 8
Career Highlights: 2005 Laser World Championship bronze medallist

The young Kiwi is a double Youth Worlds medallist who has steadily made his impact felt on the senior scene. Has been impressive so far this season and seems to thrive under pressure, as an impressive World Championship record testifies.

Outside Bets

Andreas GERITZER (AUT)

Age: 29
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 16
Career Highlights: 2004 Olympic silver medallist

The silver medallists from Athens has a tendency to blow hot and cold, but on his day is a match for anyone in the Laser fleet. His results have been inconsistent since 2004 and he has never really been at his best at the World Championships, only once (2004) finishing in the top ten.

Maciej GRABOWSKI (POL)

Age: 29
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 15
Career Highlights: 2006 European Championship silver medallist

Two-time Olympian is one of the most talented sailors in the sailor fleet, although has a surprisingly poor record at the Worlds. Has not been at the peak of his powers this year, but he has been focussing on Cascais and should be well suited to the heavy airs expected.

Matias DEL SOLAR (CHI)

Age: 31
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 4
Career Highlights: 2007, 2005 Laser Central and South American Champion

With Robert SCHEIDT's (BRA) defection to the Star class, Chile's DEL SOLAR will lead the South American challenge in Cascais. A strong start to the season has seen him rise up to #4 in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, and last year's 15th in Korea was comfortably his best-ever Worlds performance.

Michael LEIGH (CAN), Bernard LUTTMER (CAN)

Age: 22; 28
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 4; 9
Career Highlights: LEIGH - 2006 Laser World Championship fourth place; LUTTMER - 2002 Laser North American Champion

LEIGH has been one of the surprise packages in the Laser fleet since posting some impressive performances in Europe last spring and showed he could handle the pressure on the big stage with a fourth place at the Worlds in Korea last year. LUTTMER is the more experienced of the two. The pair's private battle could help push them towards the top.

Diego ROMERO (ITA)

Age: 32
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 35
Career Highlights: 2005 Laser World Championship silver medallist, 2006 ISAF World Sailing Games bronze medallist

After sailing the last two Olympic Games for Argentina, ROMERO will be lining up for Italy in Cascais. He missed last year's Worlds in Korea and has been slightly off the boil in 2007, missing out on the Medal Race at Palma, Hyères and Medemblik.

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Laser Radial

The Basics

Event: Women's One Person Dinghy
Equipment: Laser Radial
Fleet size: 109
Olympic qualification places: 19
Reigning World Champion: Lijia XU (CHN)
Reigning Olympic Champion (in Europe dinghy): Siren SUNDBY (NOR)

Leading Challengers

Ones to watch...

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European Champion Evi VAN ACKER
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World #1 Anna TUNNICLIFFE
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Paige RAILEY
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Sari MULTALA
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World Champion Lijia XU
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Evi VAN ACKER (BEL)

Age: 21
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 2
Career Highlights: 2006 European Champion

The current leading light in the Radial class, VAN ACKER goes to Cascais on the back of five straight wins in Europe. Since coming to prominence with a victory at the Europeans in 2006, VAN ACKER has gone from strength to strength and looks certain to feature in the battle for medals in Cascais.

Anna TUNNICLIFFE (USA)

Age: 24
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 1
Career Highlights: 2005 World Championship bronze medallist

TUNNICLIFFE is the current world #1 and one of the class' most consistent performers, although as yet she has not matched the string of event victories put together by the likes of Paige RAILEY (USA) and Evi VAN ACKER (BEL). Like RAILEY, the breezy conditions should suit her well.

Paige RAILEY (USA)

Age: 20
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 17
Career Highlights: 2005 World Champion, 2006 ISAF World Sailing Games gold medallist

After starring on the youth circuit, the switch in the Europe to the Laser Radial saw RAILEY dominate the first year of the new Olympic Class, culminating with her World Championship win in Brazil. Things have not gone so smoothly since then, notably with treble Rule 42 infringements (for illegally using body kinetics to propel the boat) at last year's Worlds and in Miami this January. Proved she has plenty of mettle by winning the Olympic Test Event in Qingdao last year and should be well suited to the conditions in Cascais.

Sari MULTALA (FIN)

Age: 28
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 10
Career Highlights: 2004, 2000 Olympic Games fifth place, 2001 Europe World Champion

After being one of the leading lights in the Europe class, MULTALA made the switch to the Laser Radial in 2005. This year has been her best to date in the new Olympic equipment, highlighted by a win in Miami. MULTALA is amongst the fastest in the fleet when the wind gets up and should relish the Cascais conditions.

Petra NIEMANN (GER)

Age: 28
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 4
Career Highlights: 2006 World Championship silver medallist

Another of the experienced Europe sailors to make the transition to the Radial, NIEMANN has been impressively consistent over the past two seasons. Fourth and second places at the Worlds demonstrate her ability to peak at the right moment and she comes to Cascais on good form after a second place finish at Medemblik.

Lijia XU (CHN)

Age: 19
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 27
Career Highlights: 2006 World Champion

First came to attention when she took RAILEY to the wire at the 2005 Youth Worlds, but her star really shot to prominence when she converted that silver to gold at the 2006 Laser Radial Worlds. She is the first Chinese sailor to hold an Olympic Class World Championship title.

Tania ELIAS CALLES (MEX)

Age: 28
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 3
Career Highlights: 2006 World Championship bronze medallist

After two Olympic campaigns in the Europe, ELIAS CALLES has flourished since the switch to the Radial at the start of 2005. Third place at last year's Worlds in Los Angeles was a career-best result, and she followed it up with strong performances in Miami and Palma at the start of this year.

Sarah BLANCK (AUS), Krystal WEIR (AUS)

Age: 30; 22
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 5; 7
Career Highlights: BLANCK - 2004 Olympic Games fourth place, 2002 Europe World Champion; WEIR - 2005 World Championship fifth place, 2004 Laser Radial World Champion (when not an Olympic Class)

Australia's two leading lights in the Radial are sure to be relishing the breezy conditions in Cascais. BLANCK is the more experienced of the pair, WEIR the young gun - honours are pretty much even between the pair so far this year.

Jo ALEH (NZL)

Age: 21
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 9
Career Highlights: 2006 Olympic Test Event silver medal

ALEH is currently sailing at the top of her game and goes to Cascais on the back of a dominant victory at the ISAF Grade 1 Kiel Week.

Outside Bets

Katarlyna SZOTYNSKA (POL)

Age: 26
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 11
Career Highlights: 2002, 2001, 2000 Laser Radial World Champion (when not an Olympic Class)

After winning the Youth Worlds back in 1998, SZOTYNSKA went on to win a trio of World titles in the Laser Radial before it became an Olympic Class in 2005. Since then the Europeans have brought out her best performances, although she also impressed in Qingdao at the Olympic Test Event last year.

Sophie DE TURCKHEIM (FRA), Sarah STEYAERT (FRA)

Age: 26; 20
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 13; 23
Career Highlights: DE TURCKHEIM - 2005 World Championship silver medallist, 2002 ISAF World Sailing Games gold medallist; STEYAERT - 2005 European Champion

The French Radial sailors both seem to mirror each others inconsistency. DE TURCKHEIM has had a poor start to the season, but has a good record at the Worlds and is very strong in the breeze. STEYAERT has also been slightly off the pace so far this year, but both sailors are capable of hitting the front if they find their best form.

Gintare VOLUNGEVICIUTE (LTU)

Age: 24
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 19
Career Highlights: 2006 European Championship silver medallist

2007 has been VOLUNGEVICIUTE's best season to date, with podium finishes in both North America and Europe. However, the strong winds in Cascais might not play to her strengths.

Andrea BREWSTER (GBR), Lizzie VICKERS (GBR), Penny CLARK (GBR), Laura BALDWIN (GBR)

Age: 24; 26; 32; 27
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 6; 14; 15; 20
Career Highlights: BREWSTER - 2006 European Championship fifth place; VICKERS - 2005 World Championship tenth place; CLARKE - 2006 European Championship bronze medal; BALDWIN - 2006 North American Championship bronze medal

It is very tough to call who will spearhead the British challenge in Cascais. CLARK is stronger in lighter winds, but both her and BREWSTER placed well at the recent ISAF Grade 1 Breitling Regatta.

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:© Dan Nerney/Rolex
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