Off to a good start

Shirley Robertson & co win training race prior to tomorrow's Yngling Women's World Championship

Sunday May 9th 2004, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected
The Opening Ceremony of the Yngling Women's World Championship in Santander, Spain was held today in the presence of regional government and city council authorities, Sailing Federation and the crews.

Prior to this the crews had taken to the water for a training race prior to tomorrow's start gun prior of the first race.

There were great conditions on the Bay of Santander with a northeast wind of 10-13 knots, competitors sailing a windward-leeward of 4.5 nm. Although it was non-points scoring it is an indicator to what may unfold over the course of this week.

Following on from their success in Hyeres, the practice race won by the British team of Shirley Robertson and her crew Sarah Ayton and Sarah Webb, who led the race from the start gun. Following them was Sally Barkow/Carrie Hawe and Debbie Capozzi and the Spanish team of Monica Azon, Graciela Pisonero and Marina Sánchez.

Obviously some competitors will be working to qualify their nation to get a berth in Athens for the Olympics. In the Yngling class 16 berths are now allowed (this was bumped up by one in March this year) of which four are still up for grabs following this world championship. Nations still to get a berth that are represented at the Worlds include Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Poland.

Ian Walker, coach for Shirley Robertson's team gives his viewpoint:

After an exceptional performance in Hyeres which saw Shirley, Sarah and Sarah win the 11 race regatta with two races to spare we are now all in Santander, North Spain for the Yngling World Championships.

This is our first visit here and it is a very complicated venue. The racing is in the bottom of the Bay of Biscay and five metre swells are not uncommon. There are lots of headlands and steep hills on the coastline and the tides are strong and complicated by a big harbour entrance just off the racecourse.

It actually feels strange for us to have not sailed in the venue before and to therefore be so under prepared. Venue training is normally a key component of our preparation for any top event. It is a deliberate ploy by us to not train here this winter, as we know that this venue has few similarities with Athens. Early selection has enabled us to focus our attentions on the battles that lie ahead and not necessarily this World Championship here.

Having said all that we will be looking for a top result to follow on from Hyeres. The girls confidence is high and morale was boosted by them leading round every race of the practice race before deciding to retire at the finish - winning the practice race is often seen by racing sailors as bad luck!

We will simply have to keep our eyes and minds open and learn about the local conditions faster than everyone else. With all the top Yngling sailors in the World here and many of those racing for Olympic selection the stakes are high.

Racing starts on Monday 10 May and there are two races a day scheduled with the last one being on Saturday 15 May. Thursday is a scheduled lay day.

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