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27 July 2006, 08:44 am
Top Women Bring New Life To Laser Radials
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Laser Radial World Championships 2006
Marina del Rey, California, USA

Like little white leaves in a storm, 88 boats sailed by the world's best women Laser Radial sailors blow into Santa Monica Bay, California, USA this weekend, advancing their Olympic dreams one step closer to an ultimate showdown at Qingdao, China in 2008. Reigning champion Paige RAILEY (USA) will start as favourite on her home waters to lift a second ISAF Grade W Laser Radial World Championship title.
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The 2006 Laser Radial Worlds are a major step toward the class's introduction as the equipment for the Olympic Women's One Person Dinghy event in 2008. The fleet will include 19 of the top 20 women in the current ISAF World Sailing Rankings, led by defending champion RAILEY, 19, and Anna TUNNICLIFFE (USA), 23; Laura BALDWIN (GBR), 26 and 2004 World Champion Krystal WEIR (AUS), 21.

The Details

They will be among 90 women competitors from 31 countries racing Sunday through to Friday, following a practice race and opening ceremonies at the host California Yacht Club on Saturday. The first of two races daily will start at 1300 local time, conditions permitting. The first six races will be a qualifying series to determine a split into gold and silver fleets for the final six races.

The women will share the race course off the beach west of Los Angeles with 74 men from 21 countries contesting the Men's Radial championship, to be followed the next week by the Radial Youth Worlds, from 5-12 August, for 181 boys and girls ages 15-18.

If sailing's spotlight falls on the women, it is their talent level and significance of their competition that draws it. The Laser Radial, with 5.76 square metres of area in its single sail, has joined the Laser (7.06) in the Olympic Games, replacing the Europe as the equipment for the Women's One Person Dinghy event. The Laser became equipment for the Olympic Men's One Person Dinghy event at Savannah in 1996, but the men in this event will sail Radials without Olympic implications.

The switch from Europe to Laser Radial has turbocharged the class, and most of the top women Europe sailors - including RAILEY, BALDWIN and WEIR - have made the leap to the Radial.

BALDWIN Makes The Switch

BALDWIN sailed a Europe for Great Britain at the Athens Olympics in 2004, and about three months later the Europe was out and the Radial was in. BALDWIN joined the exodus.

'I loved my 2005 training group,' she said. 'Great girls. The problem was that we were all Europe sailors with no idea about how to sail a Laser properly, so I broke away just before the World Championships to work with the 2005 Laser World Championships silver medallist, Diego ROMERO [(ARG)], and gained my best result at a Worlds, finishing eleventh.'

BALDWIN now ranks third in the Radial class, just ahead of WEIR.

If the transition of the class has a benchmark, it may be Katarzyna SZOTYNSKA (POL), 25. Before the Radial went Olympic, she held sway with Women's World Championships in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Now she ranks 15th, although she placed fourth in the recent ISAF Grade C1 Laser Radial European Championships in Italy.

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Anna TUNNICLIFFE revives her rivalry
with Paige RAILEY
© Dan NERNEY/Rolex

American Challenge

TUNNICLIFFE, the women's College Sailor the Year at Virginia's Old Dominion in 2005, said, 'The class has grown huge and it's very, very competitive.'

She sailed a Europe only for two months up to the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2004 and did not grieve the passing of the class in favour of her favourite boat, the Radial.

'I was very excited,' she said. 'I was rooting for it the whole time.'

While still a junior, RAILEY enjoyed international success in the Europe, but her move to the Radial led to an ongoing turf rivalry with TUNNICLIFFE.

'Paige and I being one two just makes for a good battle,' TUNNICLIFFE said. 'I'm not sure she feels the same way, but it's always exciting to outdo the other one. We're [American] team mates but rivals at the same time.'

Rivals. that is, for one of the sole Olympic berths available to each country in each class. They are the only Americans currently ranked one and two in any Olympic class. The winner will not be known until the Trials late next year, and then the Rankings will not count.

'All that counts then is who's best on the water,' TUNNICLIFFE said.

The Radial is set up for sailors weighing from 55 to 70 kilos (121 to 154 pounds), the Laser for 60 kilos (132 pounds) and up.

The Laser Radial Worlds are supported by sponsors Nestlé, producer of Arrowhead Water and PowerBar©; Vanguard Boats, Sailing World Magazine, Body Glove and the John B. and Nelly Llanos Kilroy Foundation.

For a complete list of all the news about the Laser Radial World Championships CLICK HERE.

Rich ROBERTS (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Laura BALDWIN is looking to make her mark in California:© laurabaldwin.co.uk
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