Racing at the 2013 420 World and Ladies World Championships gets underway on Thursday 25 July in Valencia, Spain.
The 420 Worlds is hosting an international fleet of 374 sailors from 27 nations for what will be six days of challenging racing in the renowned waters off Valencia.
There is a long list of potential challengers for the podium places; not least some of the faces who claimed medals at last week's Sail First ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships. But with larger fleets and a different racing format, the cards may shuffle a bit differently in Spain compared to Cyprus.
Spain is fielding the largest team, with 14 Ladies teams and 14 Open teams, a right which is accorded to them as host nation. All other nations are limited to an entry limit of 7 teams per event. As defending holder of the Francis Mouvet Trophy as the top performing nation at the 2012 Worlds, Spain will no doubt be intent on defending its honour on home waters.
The 420 Open World Championship has attracted the best youth talent from around the world with 110 teams from 27 nations in contention. A diverse line-up in the 420 Open Fleet includes all three of the medallists from the 420 boys event at the ISAF Youth Worlds - Tiago Brito and Andrei Kneipp from Brazil who won gold, Italy's Matteo Pilati and Michele Cecchin who sealed silver and Portugal's bronze medallists Diogo Pereira and Pedro Cruz - who are inevitably going to have some focus on them around the race track as they go head to head again.
Brito and Kneipp are certainly the pre-race favourites, although Brito recognizes the competition in Valencia will be different, saying, "I expect to be in the top 15 and in the gold fleet. I know the 420 Worlds is more difficult than the ISAF Youths and we will try to stay calm and will do our my best."
The pair will also be up against their team mates and back to back 2013 Brazilian 420 National Champions and 2013 South American 420 Champions, Daniel Lombardi and Gabriel Sequeira who were on stunning form earlier this year.
All three of the podium finishers from the 2012 420 Worlds have made the transition to 470 racing, so the front of the fleet is all open for some new faces to claim medals. Next on the leader board from 2012 who will be on the starting line in Valencia is Spain's Santi Mas and David Mas who finished fourth last year, but there will be no easy route through to a top finish for them. Amongst their challengers are Spain's current 420 National Champions Pedro Martínez and Luis Bugallo.
Also in the hunt in the 420 Open fleet will be Japan's Ibuki Koizumi and Tsubasa Arioka who will be making a first time appearance at the 420 Worlds and finished 4th at the ISAF Youths. Fratzeskos Mpakatsias and Evangelos Timogiannakis of Greece were consistent last year finishing 7th at the 420 Worlds and followed up with a 4th at the Junior Europeans, and are also intent on moving up the leaderboard.
Wade Waddell and Henry Fernberger, members of the 2013 US Sailing Development Team, come to the 2013 420 Worlds with another year's experience under their belts and the benefit of a 7th place at the ISAF Youths putting them in strong contention for a top ten result in Valencia. The pair made an impression at the 2012 420 Worlds with a 15th place finish on their debut appearance, before accelerating up the leader board to finish 6th at the 2012 420 Junior Europeans a few weeks later.
Africa is fielding three teams at this year's Championship, with Angola in the 420 Open and South Africa in the 420 Ladies. A proud landmark for Angola as the nation realizes its long term goal of competing at the 2013 420 World Championships. It was back in October 2010 that the first 420 Clinic was held in Luanda, Angola and their future sailing ambitions were revealed. Significant resource has since been spent to further develop the sailors, investing in a fleet of twenty brand new 420s and holding follow up clinics, both in Angola and in partnership with the Clube Naval de Cascais in Portugal. It is tremendously exciting that Angola has achieved their goal with two teams, Paulo do Amaral and Leonildo Feliciano along with Manuel Nzuzi and Carlos Fernandes competing. Do Amaral and Feliciano won the Angolan 420 National Championships in March this year, and both teams have been undertaking some intense pre-Championship training in Portugal.
Nuno Gomes from Clube Naval de Luanda, who has been instrumental in the development of sailing and the 420 fleet in Angola, said, "There has been an intensive sailing development programme over the past 6 years. Initially it was just the Optimist class, as we didn't have 420 or 470 and just five Vaurien and 3 Laser. But when the 15-16 years old kids left the Optimists there was a need for other classes to show up and the Angolan Federation, together with Clube Naval de Luanda and Clube Nautico da Ilha de Luanda, invested in twenty 420s, ten 470s and 5 Lasers in order to promote other dreams - namely our desired Olympic participation."
On their goals at the 420 Worlds, Gomes continued, "The teams want to learn as much as possible, get some experience in big international events, have lots of fun and try to win."
Seventy-seven teams will line up in the two fleets in the 420 Ladies World Championship, with only one of the medallists from 2012 returning in the form of Chile's Nadja Horwitz.
Horwitz and crew Carmina Malsh will certainly be amongst the teams likely to be prominent at the front of the pack along with Italy's Ilaria Paternoster and Benedetta Di Salle. The two have been continuously sparring at the front of the 420 leader board at the major Championships in recent years, and it will be a repeat battle this year.
Horwitz has been on a mission to secure gold at the 420 Ladies Worlds for several years. She safely stepped onto the podium with a silver medal at last year's World Championship in Austria, a rewarding upgrade from a 5th place at the 2011 Worlds in Argentina, and at the recent ISAF Youth Worlds won silver with Malsh, to finish ahead of rivals Paternoster and di Salle who took third overall. Paternoster and di Salle won gold at the 2012 ISAF Youths, but couldn't repeat their success at last year's 420 Worlds where they finished 5th. So it looks as though scores are about equal.
The bigger fleets and pressure of the qualification series changes the dynamics of the race, and whilst these two will be amongst the main contenders, Valencia is set to serve up some challenging racing conditions, which could see any number of teams come to the front.
It has been a year of change for the Chilean team as Horwitz explained, "We had a lot of change this year with a new coach at the federation and new team work. I have had 3 different coaches and a new crew who was previously sailing a Laser. Since last year, I am not sure if 'improve' is the word but we have been working hard. We weren't expecting anything at the ISAF Youth Worlds, and found out that we weren't that bad."
A baptism of fire for Carmina Malsh who until arriving in Cyprus for the ISAF Youth Worlds had not been to Europe or competed at such a high level. Horwitz is aiming high on her expectations for the 420 Worlds, explaining, "Maybe at the Worlds we will try to do the best again and see how it works out. Top 10 and maybe top 5. We haven't trained yet in Valencia, if it gets windy we will just have to get out and see how it works. We are ready for everything."
Spain is fielding 14 teams in the Ladies Worlds including Silvia Mas and Nurio Miro who finished 5th at the ISAF Youths, and only seven points off the bronze medal. They have had a great year so far, including a third at the Spanish 420 National Championships in an open fleet and, with the added boost of sailing at home, this pair are likely to be on a roll in Valencia.
Moving to Asia and Singapore's Kimberly Lim and Savannah Siew were the top placed crew in the under-16 division at the 2012 Worlds, finishing in 4th overall. They are also veterans of the ISAF Youth Worlds, finishing 4th this year and 9th in 2012, so plenty of experience behind them. Lim hit the world sailing stage big time in 2011 when she was crowned Optimist World Champion - so expect something special from this pair.
Another nation fielding a full seven teams in the Ladies Worlds is Japan, up from a single team in 2012, notably reinforcing the commitment Japan has made to the 420 as the nation's only recognized junior two-person class.