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20 May 2003, 12:10 pm
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2003 SPA Regatta

With 836 boats entered and over 1200 competitors, the ISAF Grade 1, 2003 SPA Regatta, which commences on Wednesday 21 May, guarantees to be a tough contest with the worlds best Olympic class sailors competing in all eleven of the Olympic disciplines.
The single handed Laser dinghy has attracted the most entries with 178 boats competing including the six times world champion and double Olympic medallist Robert SCHEIDT (BRA), who will be looking to defend his regatta win from 2002. Competition will be tough and with such a large entry number the fleet will compete in a series of qualifying races before sailing finals on Saturday and Sunday.

Ranked first in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, Paul GOODISON (GBR) will have a tough challenge as one of a number of sailors could win the regatta including Palma Olympic class regatta winner Roope SUOMALAINEN (FIN) and Olympic bronze medallist Michael BLACKBURN (AUS).

With 98 boats in the Finn class the battle for first place will be on. The pecking order at the last two Olympic class regattas (Palma and Hyeres) has seen the 1996 silver medallist Sebastien GODEFROID (BEL) top the podium from Team world and European champion Ben AINSLIE (GBR). For Ainslie this is a result that he will be keen to reverse but will have to try and resist the challenges from world number two and 1996 Olympic gold medallist Mateusz KUSZNIEREWICZ (POL) and the world number one and Hyeres bronze medallist Karlo KURET (CRO).

The competition couldn't be tougher in the 49er class with a number of international sailors all challenging for the podium places. Recent form suggests that world number two Rodion LUKA and George LEONCHUK (UKR), who won the recent Hyeres regatta, will be ones to watch as well as the world number one and world and European Champions Iker MARTINEZ and Xabier FERNANDEZ (ESP).

The two man Star class was absent in Hyeres but is back in force for SPA Regatta with 59 boats entered. This year it will be tough to medal in the class with a number of the top Star sailors in the world making the trip to Holland.

Current world champions Iain PERCY and Steve MITCHELL (GBR) will be looking to repeat their success from last year when they won the regatta but will have to contend against Sydney gold medallists Mark REYNOLDS and Magnus LILJEDAHL (USA), Olympic gold and bronze medallists Torben GRAEL and Marcelo FERREIRA (BRA), European Champions Fredrik LOOF and Anders EKSTROM (SWE) and world bronze medallists and world number one Xavier ROHART and Yannick ADDE (FRA).

In the three-women keelboat class, the Yngling, 33 boats have made the trip to Medemblik including world champions Monica AZON, Laia TUTZO and Julia GARCIA (ESP) and world silver medallists and recent Hyeres regatta winners Ulrike SCHUMANN, Wibke BELLE and Winnie LUPERT (GER).

This year spectators will be able to follow SPA Regatta in depth as the boats will be equipped with GPS/GMS receivers, which will determine the exact location of the boats on the course areas. The receiver will send a data message back to a computer every few seconds, which will translate the content into a position on a chart of the racecourses on the IJsselmeer. This will be linked in with sail numbers and names of the crew, which will ensure that spectators worldwide will be able to follow the racing.

The website and results are also linked to available ISAF Sailor biographies on the ISAF website, to enable spectators to learn much about these Olympic sailors. To register for ISAF Sailor go to ISAF Sailor and log on.

Racing begins on Wednesday 21 May and continues through until Sunday 25 May. Daily results and news can be found on the official website at the address below
Sacha Oswald (As Amended by ISAF News Editor)
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