For sailors in the 49er, Tornado and the men's and women's 470, a new experimental race format will present a different challenge. If six races are completed by Saturday the top six teams in each fleet will sail in a semi final comprising of short races, with the top three remaining boats competing for the podium positions. This differs from the usual eleven races and one discard format, as ISAF searches for a new and exciting format to use at the 2008 Olympic Games.
The Finn class will see the return of current Olympic champion, Ben AINSLIE (GBR). AINSLIE has been sailing with America's Cup challengers Emirates Team New Zealand in the America's Cup and this will be his first return to competition in the Finn since Athens as he begins campaigning for the 2008 Olympics. AINSLIE is in for a tough ride with recent winner of the ISAF Grade 1 Semaine Olympique Française and ISAF Grade 2 Princess Sofia Trophy, Emilios PAPATHANASIOU (GRE). The Finn class in Hyères was decided in a race off format, meaning PAPATHANASIOU has prior experience off the new format - experience that could well prove vital in such a competitive fleet.
|SUNDBY won in the Europe last
year but will be competing in
the 470 this time round
© Peter Bentley
With 135 boats entered in the men's Laser fleet the competition for the top slots will be intense. Athens Olympian and new ISAF World Sailing Rankings' leader, Paul GOODISON (GBR) and will be looking to get some good results to protect his number one slot. Olympic bronze medallist and winner here last year, Vasilij ZBOGAR (SLO), is right behind him in the Rankings and after a second place in the recent ISAF Grade 2 Expert Olympic Garda on Lake Garda, another good result could see the Slovenian claim the top spot on the next release of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings' on 1 June. Both though could be put in the shade by Australian Tom SLINGSBY. After winning his first ever ISAF Graded Event in Hyères, the 20 year old went on to repeat the feat in Italy with victory on Lake Garda and will be looking to carry his winning form over to the Netherlands.
The 49er class, introduced to the Holland Regatta in 1997, should prove an interesting class to watch. Back from a winter sabbatical, this will be the first ISAF Graded 49er event that ISAF World Sailing Rankings' number ones, Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR) have attended since they won the bronze medal at the Athens Olympic Games. They will face stiff German competition in the shape of Hyères winners and runners up, Jan-Peter PECKOLT and brother, Hannes (GER) and Marcus BAUR and Max GROY (GER).
|AYTON will be aiming to repeat
the success she had when crewing
for Shirley ROBERSTON
© Peter Bentley
The Tornado fleet does see Hyères winners, Xavier REVIL and Christophe ESPAGNON (FRA), in the lineup along with number three in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, Fernando ECHAVARRI and Anton PAZ (ESP).
Mateusz KUSZNIEREWICZ (POL) won here last year in the Finn, but this year lines up in the Star fleet, following in a plethora of successful sailors to make the switch to the keelboat. ISAF World Sailing Rankings' number one Fredrik LÖÖF and current Star World Champion Xavier ROHART (FRA) both previously had successful careers in the single-handed dinghy and they will be just two of the competitors KUSZNIEREWICZ will be up against. Robert STANJEK (GER) will be going into the regatta with plenty of confidence after victory in last week's ISAF Grade C1 Star Eastern Hemisphere Championship.
|ZANDONA will be aiming to
make up for his disappointing
finish in Hyères
© Peter Bentley
Siren SUNDBY (NOR) continues her 470 campaign in Medemblik. The 2004 Olympic gold medallist in the Europe has shown steady progress in the double-handed dinghy and entered the 470 ISAF World Sailing Rankings last month at number 65. Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadège DOUROUX won in Hyères to further enforce their position as ISAF World Sailing Rankings' number ones
Home hope, VAN DIJK will be
Currently there are only 13 entries in the Mistral women fleet, a situation obviously caused by the close proximity of the regatta to the World Championship. However, Flavia TARTAGLINI (ITA), third in the World Championship and CHAN Wai Kei (HKG) and CHAN Wai Man (HKG), both top ten finishers at the Worlds, have their names on the entry list.