Racing begins today in the North and South Bay of Marseille on the four course areas, with many of the world's best sailors, including world and Olympic champions racing here.
ISAF would like to welcome those countries competing at the Championship for the first time including sailors from Guam and Bahrain. Fair winds and good sailing to everybody.
The weather for today should see the day start with a light wind of 5 knots mainly from the north-west, then increasing as the wind veers to the west, with 15 knots expected this afternoon and increasing to 20 knots.
The Form - Who to Watch
The competition is very open with the racing anybody's but of course there are some hot favourites:
Single-Handed Men - Laser
The current world ranking leader, Robert Scheidt, has participated at each ISAF World Sailing Championship, but despite being an Olympic Gold and Silver Medallist and multi-Laser World Champion he has never managed to take ISAF World Championship title. In 1994 he was by Francesco Bruni (ITA) and in 1998 by Ben Ainslie (GBR). It will be equally tough to try and claim gold in 2002, as the world's top 15 Laser sailors are all here, except one, so a fierce battle will be seen on the water.
Single-handed Women - Laser Radial
The Laser Radial will be used by the women, which uses the same hull as the Standard Laser, but with a smaller sail, 5,70 meters instead of 7,10 meters. Some sailors who can normally be found sailing in the Olympic single-handed women's event, which uses the Europe, have jumped to the Laser Radial for this event. However, there are some past Laser Radial champions here, and specifically Larissa Nevierov (ITA), Sophie de Turckheim (FRA) and Marion Deplanque (FRA), with of course the French benefiting from sailing on home waters.
Double-handed Men - 470
Another tough battle will be seen in the double-handed men's event. With the event being sailed on the same equipment as for the Olympics, it is understandable that the top sailors in the world rankings are here. 2000 Olympic Bronze Medallists Javier Conte/Juan de la Fuente (ARG) will be keen to ensure defending 1998 ISAF World Champions Petri Leskinen/Kristian Heinila (FIN) remain behind them. Also entered are 1996 Olympic Gold Medallists and 1998 ISAF Worlds Silver Medallists Yevhen Braslavets/Igor Matviyenko (UKR) who will aim to be at the front of the pack. The double-handed event will see 6 of the worlds top crews in Marseille, including world ranking leaders Andreas Kosmatopoulos/Kostas Trigonia (GRE).
Double-handed Women - 470
In the women's double-handed event, being sailed in the 470, the reigning world and European champions and world ranking leader pairing of Sofia Bekatorou and Emilia Tsoulfa (GRE) will be looking to improve on their Bronze medal from the 1998 ISAF World. However, reigning Olympic gold medallists Belinda Armstrong/Jenny Stowell (AUS), who are fresh from their win at the ISAF Grade 1 Kiel Week will want to continue their winning streak to claim Gold. Belinda is making her debut at this event, but Jenny competed in 1998 with a different helm. Many of the worlds top women's 470 sailors are here so there is all to play for.
Multihull Open - Hobie 16
The Hobie 16 is going to see some extremely close fought racing with the reigning Hobie 16 world champion Gavin Colby (AUS) teaming up with fellow aussie and 2000 Olympic Silver Medallist in the Tornado Class, Darren Bundock. Trying to outsail them will be defending 1998 ISAF World Sailing Champions, Shaun Ferry and Alison Ball (RSA). But the South African duo will also have fellow countryman, Blaine Dodds (RSA) who took the bronze medal in 1994, just behind Ferry/Ball's silver, hot on their heels.
Multihull Women - Hobie 16
South Africa are also the reigning ISAF World champions in the multihull women's event, and 2002 sees the pairing of Tracey Whitelaw/Margie Alt set to defend Inge Chabort/Gillian Anley's 1998 Gold Medal.
Keelboat Men - J/80
This is the first time the J/80 has been used, having been the J/24 in both 1994 and 1998. However, this bodes well for France, as the 2002 J/80 World Champion is a French sailor, and whilst not in Marseille, the host country's hopes will be riding high on the two J/80 entries. Teams to watch include Sweden, skippered by Magnus Molin who are fresh from a eighth place finish in La Rochelle, and Great Britain's Paul Brotherton - but the podium is really wide open.
Keelboat Women - J/22
Returning in 2002 is Christine Briand (FRA) who took the keelboat title in 1994, and placed 4th in the match racing event in 1994. The J/22 is frequently used for match racing events, and as a result many of the world's leading matchrace sailors have been attracted to the ISAF Worlds, including both Italian entries skippered by Conti Giulia and Sabrina Gurioli, who are currently ranked 8 and 9 respectively in the world, Anne Le Helley (FRA) ranked 10, and Katie Spithill (AUS) ranked 20. The keelboat women event welcomes 18 entries from 11 countries and 18.
Boards Men and Boards Women - Bic Techno
The boardsailing event is making its debut appearance at the ISAF Worlds, and will be sailed on the Bic Techno.
Quite a few of the sailors from the Olympic boardsailing discipline can be found here, including Italy's 2000 Gold Medallist in the boardsailing women, Alessandra Sensini who is currently ranked 7 in the world. One place behind Alessandra on the world rankings is Olga Maslyvets (UKR), and keen to beat both of them and the rest of the fleet will be France's Lise Vidal, who is ranked 18th in the world in the Olympic event, and will no doubt benefit from sailing on these waters, as Marseille is her home town.
Over in the men's event, the field is most probably less defined amongst the 22 entries. After today's first races we will see how they are shaping up.