With only 10 days to go before the official start of the ISAF Match Racing World Championship, some of the world's best skippers are awaiting the challenge of contesting the skill of the winning skipper of the America's Cup, Russell COUTTS.
The skippers from both the Defender and Challenge of the XXXI America's Cup were invited to attend the 2003 ISAF World Match Racing Championship, although only Russell COUTTS will be present.
Whilst Russell does not feature highly in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings, due to his America's Cup commitments and subsequent absence from the international match racing circuit, it would be an understatement to say he is a force to be reckoned with. Not surprisingly, back in 1995, 1996 and 1997 Russell dominated the world match racing circuit and sat atop the ISAF World Rankings for the majority of the period.
Also invited was the defending ISAF Match Racing World Champion, Karol JABLONSKI (POL) and the top nine skippers on the ISAF World Match Racing Rankings as of the ranking release of 8 July 2003.
With the 12 skippers selected and confirmed, the countdown is now on. There is no question that each of the skippers will be relishing the chance to compete against Russell and it will be very interesting to watch the racing unfold in Riva del Garda.
The event will run with a double round robin where all skippers sail each
other twice, and a best-of-three semifinal, petit final and final. Racing will take place in the BLUSail 24' Sport, an evolution of the former BLUSail 24. The new Sport version was co-designed by America's Cup skipper Paolo CIAN (ITA).
Russell COUTTS (SUI) - Alinghi/Switzerland) - Winner of the XXXI America's Cup
Russell is considered as one of the most talented sailors of his generation, having achieved results in the America's Cup, on the international match racing circuit and the Olympic Games.
ISAF World Ranking' - 221
Karol JABLONSKI (POL) - Jablonski Sailing Team - Poland
Defending match racing world champion and leader of the international ranking list, Karol is an accomplished sailor with varied experience, from offshore sailing, to one-on-one racing and ice sailing.
ISAF World Ranking - 1
Jes GRAM-HANSEN (DEN) - Victory Lane Racing
Ever present on the international match racing circuit, since 2001 Jes has been among the top five skippers of the world ranking list.
ISAF World Ranking - 2
Jesper RADICH (DEN)
In 1996 Jesper began match racing, and since 2001 he has never dropped lower than fourth place on the world ranking list.
ISAF World Ranking - 3
Ed BAIRD (USA) - Team Musto
Match Racing World Champion in 1995, Ed is a real legend for Laser sailors and for those who have followed the America's Cup throughout the years.
ISAF World Ranking - 4
James SPITHILL (USA) - Team Spithill
In 1999, native Australian James wrote a page of history, becoming, at 20 years old, the youngest skipper America's Cup in history at the helm of Young Australia.
ISAF World Ranking - 5
Bjorn HANSEN (SWE) - Gol Sailing Team
Since 1997, when Bjorn became a match racing helmsman, his sailing career has quickly risen to top levels. Before becoming addicted to match racing, he worked as a sailmaker, participating in the 1992 America's Cup with the Swedish Team.
ISAF World Ranking - 6
Mathieu RICHARD (FRA)
Another young successful sailor, Mathieu began his sailing career on the Optimist, winning four national championships. He then moved onto the 420, where he again won four national titles and the Team World Championship in 1996.
ISAF World Ranking - 7
Staffan LINDBERG (FIN)
Another talented sailor from Scandinavia, Staffan's career has soared in the past year, reaching a career best of 7 in the world in May 2003.
ISAF World Ranking - 9
Mikael LINDQVIST (SWE)
For the second consecutive year on the international match racing circuit, Mikael has been European and Swedish Champion.
ISAF World Ranking - 10
Paolo CIAN (ITA) - Riviera di Rimini Sailing Team
Helmsman of the Mascalzone Latino Team in the last America's Cup, Paolo is the number one match racer in Italy. Elected Sailor of the Year (Italy) in 1998, he began his competitive career with the Optimist, then moved on to the 470 and to the Soling.
ISAF World Ranking - 11
Ian WILLIAMS (GBR)
A young talented sailor, Ian began his sailing career in the Olympic classes, making a name for himself in the Soling when he finished second in the British 2000 Olympic trails. Since 2001 he has been competing on the international match racing circuit, and in a short period of time has climbed the world rankings.
ISAF World Ranking - 12
' World Rankings detailed are as of 24 July 2003
- Sunday 24 August: registration, crew weighing; practice. Party in town.
- Monday 25 August: registration, crew weighing; practice. Opening Ceremony.
- Tuesday 26 August: Racing Day 1.
- Wednesday 27 August: Racing Day 2. Regatta Dinner.
- Thursday 28 August: Racing Day 3.
- Friday 29 August: Racing Day 4.
- Saturday 30 August: Racing Day 5. The ten best placed skippers at the end of the final will compete in the Sanpellegrino sponsor fleet race. Official prize giving ceremony.
Daily media reports and images will be distributed by the onsite media team. Television footage is available and for further information or to subscribe to receive reports, contact the Championship Press Officer Alessanda Alghezzi on firstname.lastname@example.org