This Saturday 29 June 2002 heralds the formal Opening Ceremony of the 2002 ISAF World Sailing Games, the quadrennial event held between the Olympics which sees its third holding in 2002.
The first athletes started to arrive in Marseilles over the past weekend, ready for the 2002 ISAF World Sailing Games from 29 June to 10 July 2002.
With almost 800 sailors, including many top international sailors, the event is set to be a major focus over the coming two weeks.
The event will officially begin at 1600 hours (local time) on Saturday 29 June 2002, with the official Opening Ceremony at the venue formally opened by the French Minister of Sports. The Opening Ceremony will then proceed to the "Massalia 2002", a huge festival and show which will be held around the Old Port and culminate with a fireworks display at the end of the evening.
In order to allow the biggest number of nations to take part, the Organising Committee of the 2002 ISAF World Sailing Games has supplied all of the equipment.
Racing will be held from 2-10 July, with four races planned per event per day with the expectation that 'windward-leeward' and 'trapezoid' courses will be sailed.
There will be five separate race areas, with the sailboards and multihulls sailing close to the shore, the double-handed and single-handed dinghies sailing offshore and the keelboats to the north of the Marseilles bay area. Racing should be exciting as Marseilles is known for its tricky conditions, and sailors can anticipate everything from light breezes to full blown Mistrals.
The men's single-handed dinghy event, being sailed in the Laser Class, will see the biggest fleet with 81 entries, closely followed by the men's double-handed dinghy event in the 470 class with 47 entries. Along with all other events, these two events will be hotly contested with eight of the world's top 10 ranked 470 sailors, including the world's top three, and all except one of the world's top 15 ranked Laser sailors in Marseilles.
Sailors will be competing for the individual event medals, with the top performing nation hoping to take home the King's Trophy. ISAF President of Honour, HM King Constantine will be at the Closing Ceremony to present the King's Trophy which he especially commissioned.
The John Merricks trophy will also be awarded to the winner of the Double-handed Male discipline. The late John Merricks, sailing with Ian Walker, won this event in La Rochelle in 1994, which was their first major regatta win in the 470 class, and the John Merricks Trust donated this trophy in his honour.
Each day of the Games a famous French sailor or personality involved in different disciplines of the sport will be in Marseilles watching the racing and meeting the sailors. Sailors will include Bruno Peyron (Skipper of Orange and Trophee Jules Verne holder), Marc Pajot (Olympic Silver Medallist 1972 in the Flying Dutchman, winner of the Route du Rhum, America's Cup skipper), Lalou Roucayrol (Skipper of 60' trimaran Banque Populaire), Lionel Pean (Whitbread winner) and Alain Gabbay (Whitbread skipper).
One sailor making a special entrance to the 2002 Games is Judy Bullmore from the Cayman Islands. Judy is scheduled to arrive in Marseille this Thursday 27 June - by boat. She is sailing to Marseilles from the Cayman Islands, and will soon be transferring her skills to compete in the J/22 Class as skipper.
Full reports, results and images will be available from the event website.