The 2002 470 Class World Championship starts today, in Cagliari, Italy. Racing starts on Thursday 5 September with the Qualification series before the fleets are split for the final races on 8 September.
Not only will a women's and men's World Champion be crowned but 16 teams will qualify their nations for the 2004 Olympic Regatta in Athens in the men's double-handed dinghy event and the women's double-handed dinghy event. The first 10 nations in the men's fleet will qualify and the top 6 of the women's fleet.
As per the provisional entry list 34 nations have registered to compete in the Men's World Championships with the biggest teams coming from Italy and Spain. The Women's Championship expects to welcome 25 nations from 4 continents to the event.
Both fleets can expect some fierce competition with many veteran 470 teams trying to fight off the up and coming young stars whose sights are set on Athens 2004. The 2002 Test Event in Athens served as an ideal warm up for the World Championships and it will be interesting to see how the positions change when the fleets start on wednesday.
There are 3 nations whose top sailor's recent form suggests they can qualify in both the men's and the women's events.
The Greek teams of Kosmatopoulos/Trigonis and Bekatorou/Tsoulfa have firmly established themselves at the top of their respective World Rankings since 2000 and both have an incredible string of wins at ISAF Grade 1 Events - they will surely be hoping to match the Australian's Sydney 2000 double gold in Athens 2004. Kosmatopoulos/Trigonis are currently ranked at number 2 in the World but have not made it into the medals at their class World Championships since taking the gold in 1995. The pairs' results in 2001/2 have kept them consistently at the top of the fleet and they will be confident of qualifying for Greece.
In the Women's fleet Bekatorou/Tsoulfa are seemingly unbeatable so far this season winning the Europeans, the 2002 Athens Test Event, Hyeres, SPA, the Princess Sophia and Athens Eurolymp and they have won the World Championship title for the past two years. They will be looking to redress a disappointing 14th in Sydney by consolidating their position at the top and qualifying Greece for Athens 2004.
Spain will also be confident of qualifying in both the men's event and the women's, despite both their top teams sliding down the rankings after the ranking release on friday. In the men's ranking Martinez/Cantero (ESP) dropped 4 places down to number 6, paying the price of not competing at the Test Event in Athens. They finished 4th at the World Championships in 2001 and will be looking for a podium finish for 2002. In the women's fleet Dufresne/Azon, currently ranked at number 3 in the world and bronze medal winners at the Worlds in 2000 and 2001 will be fighting to break the pattern in 2002. The results in the women's event at the worlds have seen the same three crews finishing in the same order for two successive years, Bekatorou/Tsoulfa coming out on top, followed by Armstrong/Stowell (AUS) and Dufresne/Azon in 3rd.
The 3rd nation with a strong chance of qualifying in both events is Australia. In the men's event, Wilmot/Page have been steadily working their way up the rankings and finished 3rd at the Worlds in 2001. 2000 Olympic gold medallists Armstrong/Stowell will be strong favourites for the title, sitting at the top of the ranking list they have a score to settle with Bekatorou/Tsoulfa who have kept them in 2nd place at the Worlds in 2000 and 2001.
Teams to watch in the men's event are Molund/Andersson (SWE) ranked at number 8. Twice winners of the SPA regatta, Molund/Andersson thrive in heavy airs and are on good form to qualify Sweden for Athens. The hot favourite will however be World number 1 and defending champions Braslavets/Matviyenko of the Ukraine. Braslavets/Matviyenko have held the number 1 spot since 3 July 2002 and already have two Olympic Regattas under their belt, taking the gold medal in Atlanta in 1996.
The rising stars of the men's fleet, Sven and Kalle Coster (NED) could cause an upset in Cagliari with their present form. Taking 2nd place at SPA and 8th at the Athens Test Event, the Costers have nothing to lose at this year's World Championships.