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25 July 2005, 10:17 am
Registration Begins Today
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Optimist World Championship 2005
Lake Silvaplana, Engadin, Switzerland

The 43rd Optimist World Championship starts registration today on the beautiful Silvaplana lake in the Swiss Engadine. Following three days of practice and measurement the first races are on Thursday 28 July.
52 countries are expected to enter a total of 242 sailors, each country being allowed five sailors. This establishes a new record for a ' normal' Championship (in 2000 the Class ran a special 'Millennium Worlds' with 59 countries, but many of these were given free entry). It is a long way from the last time Switzerland hosted the Championship in 1974 when just 20 countries were represented.

Understandably by comparison with last year's event in Ecuador more European countries are represented including Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia and Serbia and Montenegro. But the move to Europe has not deterred too many of last year's entries from the Americas with, for example, five Caribbean teams.

The reigning champion is Wei NI of China who is present to defend his title, as is the 2002 and 2003 champion Filip MATIKA (CRO) competing in the event for the fourth time. Among the other top ten sailors from last year are Paul SNOW-HANSEN and Daniel WILLCOX from New Zealand, Kacper ZIEMINSKI (POL), Matthew SCOTT (TRI) who recently took the bronze medal at the North Americans, and Baepi PINNA (BRA).

40 of the sailors are girls. In the Optimist class places at the European Championship are reserved for them, but at the Worlds they have qualified in open national competition. A majority of the teams (28) include at least one girl. On two occasions the Championship has been won by a girl.

Tina LUTZ (GER) was top girl in Ecuador and is one of relatively few lake sailors present, being from the Chiemsee. Perhaps surprisingly to those who do not know the changing world of women's sailing the main challenge to her may come from outside Europe with Asian champion Griselda KHNG (SIN) and several South Americans.

The future for these young sailors is bright. 40% of the Olympic helms in 2004 were graduates of this Optimist Worlds, including gold medallists Robert SCHEIDT (BRA), Ben AINSLIE (GBR) and Siren SUNDBY (NOR).

A history of the event can be found at http://www.optiworld.org/ioda-worldhistory.html and recent results at www.optiworld.org/ioda-results.html.

Robert Wilkes
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