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5 May 2006, 09:00 am
Anticipation Everywhere
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ISAF World Sailing Games 2006
Lake Neusiedl, Austria

In the villages surrounding Lake Neusiedl, Austria, the excitement is almost visible with the start of the ISAF World Sailing Games now less than a week away. Further adding to buzz around the lake has been the return of the Austrian sailors from Hyères and the arrival of the boats for the ten World Championships.
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Most of the Lasers and Hobie Tigers arrived in Neusiedl and Podersdorf on Tuesday morning, whilst the 470s arrived last week. The racing in supplied equipment (except for the 49er) is one of the great attractions of the ISAF World Sailing Games, with the world's best going head to head in a straight battle of sailing skill. With over 700 sailors coming from more than 60 nations, and many entries coming from many smaller, developing sailing nations as well, the mass of competitors have a unique opportunity to measure themselves against the world's best.

When it comes to world's best, the home nation Austria can claim a healthy scattering of representatives across the fleets. In the latest release of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings on 3 May, the World Sailing Games' hosts came out tied with Spain and the USA in third in the list of top performing nations, with only France and Great Britain ahead of them. Olympic silver medallist Andreas GERITZER (AUT) in the Laser, Nico DELLE KARTH and Niko RECSH (AUT) in the 49er and Sylvia VOGL and Carolina FLATSCHER (AUT) in the Women's 470 all feature in the top three in their respective Rankings, and all will be in Austria looking for glory.

HAGARA And STEINACHER Set For Hobie Challenge

Perhaps Austria's biggest star of all though comes in the form of their double Olympic gold medal winning Tornado team of Roman HAGARA and Hans Peter STEINACHER (AUT). The Men's Multihull competition in Austria is being contested in Hobie Tigers, something the Olympic campaigners will have to learn to quickly adjust to, especially with the likes of Hobie Tiger World Champions Enrique FIGUEROA and Jorge HERNANDEZ (PUR) lining up.

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The Hobie Tigers will present a different
challenge to many of the Olympic
multihull sailors
© ISAF World Sailing Games
With the exception of a silver medal at the Europeans, since Athens HAGARA and Peter STEINACHER have not been firing on all cylinders and have fallen out of the top ten in the World Rankings. A seventh place at the ISAF Grade 1 Semaine Olympique Française last week could not reverse this decline, with HAGARA and STEINACHER dropping to 13 in the Ranking list.

The racing on Lake Neusiedl will consist of a qualifying series, from 10-14 May, a final series, from 16-19 May, and then Medal Races on Saturday 20 May. All the top ten crews from the Rankings and the current World Champions automatically progress to the final series. However, HAGARA and STEINACHER believe having to race in the qualifiers could well prove to be an important advantage. 'We see the positive side,' they commented. 'The additional qualification runs give us much more opportunity to get used to the Hobie Tiger.'

National Battle

Austria's star names will not only be battling for personal glory on their home waters, but will also contribute towards national success as well. Another of the World Sailing Games' most attractive elements is the contest for the King's Trophy, awarded to the top performing nation at the World Sailing Games and presented by ISAF President of Honour HM King Constantine.

The top four national performances count towards a nation's King's Trophy points tally, with a winning performance scoring ten points; second place scoring nine points; down to a tenth place finish scoring a single point. Each nation can count only one performance from any event, with ties broken in favour of the nation with the highest number of first places. Four years ago it was the hosts France who won the King's Trophy, a feat the Austrians will be looking to repeat, and with the likes of HAGARA and STEINACHER and GERITZER lining up, have every chance of doing so.

Italy also look set to mount a strong challenge, having won the Trophy twice previously in 1998 and 1994. With the likes of Paige RAILEY (USA) lining up and after a great nation performance at the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship last year, the USA will fancy their chances. Logically Great Britain should start as favourites, they have been the top Olympic Sailing nation at both Athens and Sydney, and have been the top performing nation in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings all year long. However, not all of Britain's star names are heading to Austria, but whether or not this could prove costly in terms of national glory will only be reveal on the waters of Lake Neusiedl next week.

The ISAF World Sailing Games get underway next Wednesday 10 May. As the boats and the sailors continue to arrive, all is getting ready for a festival of sailing in Austria.

For all the news on the 2006 ISAF World Sailing Games CLICK HERE.

ISAF. Image, Nico DELLE KARTH and Nikolaus RESCH will help lead the Austrian charge on Lake Neusiedl:© Clive MASON/Getty Images
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