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10 May 2006, 03:22 pm
Day 1: GERITZER Confident Of Home Success
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ISAF World Sailing Games 2006
Lake Neusiedl, Austria

The ISAF World Sailing Games got underway today, with the opening exchanges on Lake Neusiedl in south east Austria blessed with fantastic breezy conditions. Austrian Laser star and Olympic silver medallist Andreas GERITZER was the star turn at the opening press conference, and he was full of optimism about the host nation's chances.
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Whilst the Laser and 49er sailors were leaving the shores of Neusiedl this morning, ready for their opening qualifying race, a press conference brought together some of the key figures of the ISAF World Sailing Games. Event Director Helmut JAKOBOWITZ, General Manager Koloman WATZEK and Secretary General of the Austrian Sailing Federation George FUNDAK (AUT) were joined by Austrian Olympic silver medallist in the Laser, GERITZER.

A Different Challenge

Asked about Austrian chances on Lake Neusiedl, GERITZER was very upbeat. For him the challenge of lake sailing, something which all Austrian sailors grow up with, is one he feels could well provide the home stars with a crucial advantage.

'Lake sailing is nothing like sailing on the sea,' he explained. 'There's not going to be big waves, but the choppy waves will be especially tricky. There will also be wind shifts, with north west, west and south east the main wind directions.'

GERITZER also flagged up another major challenge of lake sailing, especially on the shallow waters of Lake Neusiedl, where a lot of water can get into the boat. These are conditions which GERITZER says can prove a costly distraction to sailors unfamiliar with them.

Laser Favourites

Due to his top ten position in the Laser ISAF World Sailing Rankings, GERITZER progresses straight to the final series and therefore will begin his medal campaign on Tuesday. He described the situation as an odd mixture of tension and relaxation, as he and the other top Laser competitors wait on the shore as the rest of the fleet does battle on the lake.

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The Lasers head out for their qualifying races on
Lake Neusiedl this morning
With his in-depth knowledge of the lake, his Olympic silver medal and World number three status, GERITZER starts the World Sailing Games as one of the hottest favourites across the fleets. Asked who he saw as his biggest challengers, Hyères winner Tom SLINGSBY (AUS) was the first name from his lips, rapidly followed by World number two Paul GOODISON (GBR), another Aussie Laser star Brendan CASEY as well as Croatia's on form Mate ARAPOV. And GERITZER did not stop there in his list of potential winners, suggesting that any one of 20 sailors had a shout at the gold medal.

A Diverse Fleet

With the biggest fleet in Austria, the Lasers encapsulate all that the World Sailing Games is about. As well as featuring the top stars of the class, some of whom are mentioned above, the fleet includes sailors from every continent. Some of the smaller sailing nations competing include the US Virgin Islands, Peru, Armenia Uruguay, Moldova, Tunisia, the Seychelles, Korea, Japan and Malaysia.

Sailors from Barbados, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador are competing in the Laser fleet thanks to funding from the ISAF Athlete Participation Programme (APP), which supports sailors from developing sailing nations so they can attend the Games, and help some of its magic back to their home countries. Russell STREETER from Barbados, Raul AGUAYO from the Dominican Republic and Gabriel MORAN from Ecuador are all taking enjoying the opportunity to complete against the world's best Laser sailors.

Meanwhile other APP sailors in Austria include Peru's Paloma SCHMIDT in the Laser Radial and Tunisia's Sadri AYACHI in the RS:X fleet.

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Andreas GERITZER, Koloman
WATZEK and George

Home Hopes

Since HAGARA and Hans Peter STEINACHER's (AUT) first Olympic gold medal in Sydney six years ago, Austrian sailing has become an increasingly prominent force on the world circuit. There was an unsurprising focus from the local media at the press conference on their nation's chances of success. Undoubtedly the conditions and the home support should play in the favour of the hosts, and George FUNDAK was perhaps being knowingly cautious when he responded that he thought there were four classes in which he felt, 'Austria has a very, very good chance of a medal.'

He highlighted Olympic medal winners GERITZER and HAGARA and STEINACHER in the Laser and Hobie Tiger. World number three 49er crew Nico DELLE KARTH and Niko RECSH (AUT) are amongst the list of obvious favourites, whilst RS:X windsurfer Thomas KARGL, only moving onto the senior circuit this year, was perhaps more of a surprise choice.

Of course, only time will tell how accurate these predictions turn out to be, and now is the chance for the sailors to do their talking out on the waters of the Lake Neusiedl.

Tonight the Opening Ceremony will officially get the ISAF World Sailing Games underway, with the ISAF President Göran PETERSSSON (SWE) formally opening the event.

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

ISAF. Image, Andreas GERITZER put in a little extra practice on Lake Neusiedl this morning:© ISAF
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