One hundred and eight men and 70 women will do battle in the RS:X when racing at the Santander 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships commences on 13 September 2014.
The world’s finest windsurfers from 49 nations in the men’s and 32 in the women’s fleet will be on show and as well as world titles being awarded, 50% of the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition places will be won based on results in Santander. The stakes are high with the sailors aiming for one of 18 Men’s RS:X and 13 Women’s RS:X Rio 2016 spots.
In the build-up to the Santander 2014 ISAF Worlds the French and Polish teams have consistently mixed it up at the top of the pack in both the Men’s and Women’s divisions.
Female racers Charline Picon (FRA), Zofia Klepacka (POL) and Maja Dziarnowska (POL) have been regular podium finishers whilst the same can be said about Piotr Myszka (POL), Przemyslaw Miarczynski (POL), Pierre le Coq (FRA) and Julien Bontemps (FRA) in the Men’s fleet.
Le Coq has been impressive in 2014 with ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca gold and Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta 2014 silver to his name but everything has been in preparation for the ISAF Worlds, “The first objective of the season is now coming up in Santander,” said Le Coq immediately after racing in Rio, “This [Rio] was a really nice warm up for Santander.
“It would be a dream to win there but I know a lot of guys are really fast and if I can get on the podium I would be really happy. The objective is not to win, it’s to get more experience but if I can get in the top five or on the podium I would be very happy. I came ninth at the World Championship last year and I want to progress.”
The French team features six strong competitors including 2012 World Champion Julien Bontemps and Le Coq knows there will be tough competition internally and externally, “It’s always a problem because there is one guy who can go the Olympics. There is a really good spirit in the French team and I don’t think we’re looking at each other, that’s not a good idea. I’m really focused on my race and after that I’m fighting with the best and sometimes the French guys are at the top as well so it’s always a good fight.”
Poland will have five competitors in the Men’s RS:X fleet. Myszka took gold at the 2011 RS:X Worlds and has finished on the podium at six successive regattas during his Santander build-up. Miarczynski won bronze at London 2012 and is one of the steadiest RS:X racers on the planet with a string of good results stemming from 2006. Both sailors will be joined by younger compatriots Pawel Tarnowski, Marcin Urbanowicz and Piotr Nowacki.
Dorian van Rijsselberge (NED) has slowly eased his way back into RS:X competition since his London 2012 gold medal exploits. The Dutchman took gold at the Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta 2014 in August in a highly competitive field and he will be bidding to pick up his second world title in Santander, “I just want to try racing at the front and try to get the most out of it and if that’s a world championship title then that would be really nice but just got to try.
“This year everybody has come together and the top 15 is super tight. Anybody can get bullets and the level has gone up, that’s for sure,” said the Dutchman.
Further contenders for the RS:X honours will come in the shape of 2013 World Champion Nick Dempsey (GBR), Byron Kokkalanis (GRE), World #1 Ricardo Santos (BRA) and Israeli sailors Nimrod Mashich and Shahar Zubari.
Women’s RS:X racing in 2014 has been highly competitive with tight racing at ISAF Sailing World Cup regattas and the European Championship.
France’s Charline Picon comes into Santander packed full of confidence with one thing on her mind, “For Santander the qualification for the country is not my first goal. My first goal is to win. I haven’t won the world title. I’ve finished third two times and now I want to push hard and finish as the World Champion.
“I can win, I’ve had a very good season. I won in Palma [ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca], I won the Europeans so I feel good.”
Picon also blitzed the competition at the Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta to set a marker of where she is at ahead of Santander but recognises the strength of her competition, “There is a lot of girls pushing hard like Byrony [Shaw (GBR)] and the Netherlands sailor Lilian [de Geus] and Marina [Alabau (ESP)] is coming back but we are friends and on the water we race hard but with fairplay.”
Polish sailors Klepacka and Dziarnowska have both warmed up to Santander exceptionally well. Klepacka won gold at the 2007 world championship and also has two silvers under her belt. The less experienced and younger Dziarnowska has put in several good performances throughout 2014 and will be looking to breakthrough in Santander.
Further podium contenders also come in the shape of Italian sailors World #1 Flavia Tartaglini and World #3 Laura Linares, London 2012 silver medallist Tuuli Petaja (FIN), Spain’s Blanca Manchon and a strong Chinese contingent.
RS:X racing commences on Saturday 13 September with three races scheduled in the men’s and women’s fleets. Two further races on Sunday 14 will bring the qualification series to a close before gold and silver fleet racing gets going on Monday 15 September with three races scheduled.
Tuesday 16 is a reserve day for the fleets before they get into the end zone. Two races per day on Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 will conclude the fleet racing with the Medal Races on Friday 19 September to decide the podium places.
Text and photos by ISAF