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20 June 2005, 01:11 pm
COUTTS Back For First Time In 15 Years
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Kiel Week 2005
Kiel, Germany

Starting this week, the ISAF Grade 1 Kieler Woche in Kiel, Germany sees the world's best Olympic classes sailors battle it out in one of the prestige event on the European Sailing Tour.
Kieler Woche is the final ISAF Grade 1 Olympic classes regatta of the year and forms the final leg of a European trio, coming shortly after the ISAF Grade 1 Semaine Olympique Française in Hyères and the ISAF Grade 1 Holland Regatta in Medemblik. From 18-26 June the array of Olympic, World and European Champions that graces Kiel every year, will once again descend on Germany to do battle on the Baltic Sea.

Amongst the famous names two time and current Olympic Champion and ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, Robert SCHEIDT (BRA), will be looking to make up for a disappointing return to the Laser in Medemblik. Former Olympic champion and three times America's Cup winning skipper, Russell COUTTS (NZL), is returning to the Kieler Woche for the first time in 15 years.

The fight for honours is sure to have a major impact on the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, released just three days after the conclusion of the regatta on 29 June. With so many of the number spots changing hands on the last Rankings release, the new leaders know that a slip up in Kiel could see their reign at the top brought to a swift end.

49er

The number one team in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR), lead the charge in the 49er fleet. The pair recently returned for their first ISAF Graded Olympic classes regatta since Athens and finished a respectable fifth in Medemblik. Marcus BAUR and Max GROY (GER) finished second here last year by an agonizing one point and will be looking to go one better to put the pressure on DRAPER and HISCOCKS.

470 men

1996 Olympic gold medallists, Eugen BRASLAVETS and Igor MATVYENKO (UKR) finished third here last year and will be looking for the necessary improvement to give them their fourth Kieler Woche title. After wins in 1995 and 1997, the Ukrainian's last victory came just two years ago. However, Sven COSTER and Kalle COSTER (NED) look like they have the form to give them a tough ride. They recently finished fifth in the ISAF Grade C1 470 European Championship in Gdynia, Poland. Medemblik and ISAF Grade 1 Sail Melbourne winners, Mathew BELCHER and Nick BEHRENS (AUS) will be keen to register a good result after they failed to qualify for the gold fleet at the 470 Euros and therefore finished well down in 27th position.

470 women

The Australian team of Elise RECHICHI and Tessa PARKINSON (AUS) enjoyed rather more success at the 470 Euros. The 2004 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Champions in the 420 finished in sixth place overall, just behind Marcelien DE KONING and Lobke BERKHOUT (NED), who will also be racing in Kiel. Last year's third place finishers, Stefanie ROTHWEILER and Monika LEU (GER), head the German challenge.

Finn

Of the entrants in the Finn fleet, Britain's Ed WRIGHT has perhaps had the most success on the 2005 world tour. Fourth in Medemblik gave him his third top five finish in an ISAF Grade 1 event this year, a record he will be looking to improve this week. Gasper VINCEC (SLO) has also had a good year so far. The Slovenian 2004 Olympic representative added third place in Medemblik to sixth in Hyères and second place in the ISAF Grade 2 Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

Laser

A large Laser fleet looks like providing some of the most exciting racing in Kiel. Current World and Olympic champion, SCHEIDT returned to the single-handed dinghy for the first time since Athens in Medemblik. However, the Brazilian put in an underwhelming performance to finish seventh overall and will be looking to reestablish his grip on the class with a successful defence of his 2004 Kieler Woche win. Without doubt the on form Laser sailor of the moment is Tom SLINGSBY (AUS). Coming into the year the young Australian had never won an ISAF Graded event, but a fantastic April and May saw him walk away from Hyères, Medemblik and the ISAF Grade 2 Expert Olympic Garda with victories over top class sailors. If SLINGSBY is to continue his run in Kiel, he will not only have to overcome SCHEIDT but also the leader of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, Paul GOODISON (GBR), and 2004 Olympic silver medallist Andreas GERITZER (AUT).

Laser Radial

The leader of the Laser Radial ISAF World Sailing Rankings, Keamia RASA (CAN), is currently not featuring on the entry lists for Kieler Woche, giving the sailors behind her an opportunity to narrow the gap on the Canadian. 2003 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Champion, Paige RAILEY (USA), lies second in the Rankings, and but for an OCS in Medemblik could well have had her second ISAF Grade 1 event victory of the year. In her last four ISAF Graded events Lizzie VICKERS (GBR) has finished fifth, fourth, third and second. The Briton will be looking for the perfect end to her run in Kiel. There is plenty of competition for the top spot though with Australia's Sail Melbourne winner, Krystal WEIR, trying to atone for a disappointing Holland Regatta, and 2004 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Champion, Sarah STEYAERT (FRA), also looking to make her mark on the senior circuit. Last year's winner in the Europe, Tatiana DROZDOVSKAYA (BLR) also lines up in this competitive fleet.

Mistral men

The Hong Kong challenge looks strong in the Mistral men fleet with Medemblik runner up and number five in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, HO Chi Ho (HKG) leading the charge. CHENG Kwok Fai (HKG) finished third in Medemblik and will also be looking for a good result in Kiel. However, it does not look like being plain sailing for the Hong Kong pair with over fifty windsurfers lining up against them.

Mistral women

A small but high quality fleet sees number one windsurfer in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, Olga MASLIVETS (UKR) lining up against world number two and recent ISAF Grade W Mistral World Championship runner up Amelie LUX (GER).

Star

The Star fleet is perhaps the most exciting of the regatta, not least because it sees the return of the 1984 Olympic Champion in the Finn, Russell COUTTS. The three times America's Cup winning skipper and match racing star has not sailed in an Olympic classes ISAF Graded event since the Laser New Zealand Championship back in 1996. His last appearance at the Kieler Woche was 15 years ago when he finished third in the Soling. COUTTS will be up against another former Finn Olympic Champion, Mateusz KUSZNIEREWICZ (POL), who is already making waves in the keelboat having switched from the Finn earlier this year. The home fans are sure to be cheering on the winners of the recent ISAF Grade C1 Star Eastern Hemisphere Championship, Robert STANJEK and Markus KOY (GER).

Tornado

The Tornado fleet is understandably small, with the racing coming so close to the ISAF Grade W Tornado World Championship. 1996 Olympic silver medallist in the Finn, Sebastian GODEFROID (BEL) crewed for the only female helm at the Worlds, the Olympic veteran, Carolijn BROUWER (NED). The Kiel entry list shows the Belgian leading his own team for this event.

Yngling

The leading helm on the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, Kristin WAGNER, with Anna HOELL and Ana HOH (GER), will be looking for a win on her home waters to strengthen the lead she has at the top of the Rankings. 2004 Olympic gold medallist, Sarah AYTON (GBR), is now at the helm with Annie LUSH and Lisa MCDONALD (GBR) crewing, and enjoying similar success with a win in Medemblik giving her a first ever victory in an ISAF Graded event. The 2004 Olympic silver medal winning team of Ruslana TARAN, Anna KALININA and Svetlana MATEVUSHEVA (UKR), finished second behind AYTON at Medemblik, and also look set to challenge for honours at Kiel.

ISAF. 2003 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, Russell COUTTS is back in Kiel after 15 years:© Phil Cole/Getty Images
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