728 days to go to the 2004 Olympic Games and sailing is getting ready, with racing at the first test event starting tomorrow from the Agios Kosmas Olympic Sailing Centre.
A practice race is scheduled for today, with racing starting on Friday 16. All events are due to have 11 races to complete the series, apart from the double-handed dinghy open (49er) for which there will be 16 races. Racing will take place on four course areas.
Participation is high and includes many high-profile sailors, who will be familiarizing themselves with the wind and local currents, so that they can be prepared for the 2004 Olympic Sailing Regatta.
Registration ended at 18:00 hours yesterday, with total figures per event being:
Event-No Of Boats -No Of Athletes
Multihull open - Tornado - 26 - 52
Keelboat Women - Yngling - 19 - 57
Double-handed dinghy women - 470 - 27 - 54
Double-handed dinghy men - 470 - 29 - 58
Double-handed dinghy open - 49er - 28 - 56
Single-handed dinghy men - Finn - 28 - 28
Single-handed dinghy women - Europe - 4 - 4
Single-handed dinghy open - Laser - 43 - 43
Windsurfer Women - Mistral - 31 - 31
Windsurfer Men - Mistral - 34 - 34
In total, 43 countries will be represented at the Regatta, sixteen of which will compete in all events. There is no racing for the keelboat men (Star) as insufficient entries were received. The 2002 Star World Championships and first Olympic Qualification event for the Star is currently being held in the USA.
The sailors are all ready and looking forward to racing in the surroundings as for the 2004 Olympic Regatta.
Greek and foreign athletes spoke of the importance of the event and their eagerness to participate. Nikos Kaklamanakis, 1996 Gold Medallist in the men's boardsailing event (Mistral) commented: "I'll have a go at all the races to see what kind of shape I'm in. Then the next target is the European Championships in Austria at the start of September".
Greece's leading sailors in the women's double-handed event (470), Sofia Bekatorou and Emilia Tsulfa had their eye on competitors who had raced in the recent European Championships and would be racing in the World Championships in Italy shortly after the test event. "That will make the test event a really big one for us",
they said. "When we race, we always aim to come first".
Racing in the men's double-handed event (470) are Andreas Kosmatopoulos and Kostas Trigonis (GRE), who commented: "All the foreign competitors were full of admiration for the venue when they saw it. Our own experience leads us to the same conclusion. We want to distinguish ourselves here and in the World Championships which follow".
24 New Zealand sailors have been in Athens for the past week preparing for the 2002 Test Event. Laser Sailor Robbie McMillan gave the venue a thumbs up, "Athens have done a fantastic job of the Olympic sailing venue, the security is unbelievable and there are volunteers to help everywhere".
The sailors have been acclimatising to the conditions in the past week and are now ready to race. New Zealand boardsailor, Julie Worth commented on the heat, "40+ degree temperatures and light winds seems to be the norm here it takes a bit of time to get used to the heat, but drinking 4-5 litres of water a day certainly helps".