Photos: Martinez Studio

First Rio 2016 qualification

Santander 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships set sail later this week

Monday September 8th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: Spain

Racing gets underway on Friday at the Santander 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships in northern Spain. Typically in terms of numbers this is the biggest regatta in terms of competitor numbers in the four year Olympic cycle. However this regatta is particularly important as it is the first and most significant country qualification regatta for Rio 2016 with 50% of places awarded based on results in the Spanish city.


New Zealand's 49er and 49erFX teams will head to the Santander 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships aiming to defend their title and continue their run of podium finishes.

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) are on an unbeaten run of six consecutive 49er regatta victories, stemming from June 2013 while Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) have finished on the podium at ten of 11 49erFX events they've competed at. Both crews struck gold at the 2013 worlds in Marseille, France and will be looking to hold onto their title at Santander 2014.

The 49er fleet at Santander 2014 will see 88 teams compete from 33 nations whilst the 49erFX pack features 62 teams from 29 nations. As well as world championship titles on the line, ten Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition places in both fleets will be won based on results in Santander.

After taking silver at London 2012 Burling and Tuke have been the pair to beat in the 49er. In world class fields the Kiwis have dominated and will be aiming to continue that run in Santander, "It's the big one of the year for us so all of our focus has been on that,” said Tuke. "We don't go to events to come second or further back so we're going to give it our best shot.”

The Kiwis have had an exceptional 2014, winning ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca and Hyeres, the 49er Open Europeans and the Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta 2014. Confidence is high within the camp and Burling also has his eyes on the prize, "We're quite enjoying having that New Zealand 1 on the sail at the moment and the goal is definitely to go and try and defend that title. As a bonus to qualify the country for the games, that's obviously the second goal but hopefully between us and our training partners being first and second at the last worlds we'll be able to get that done.”

Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) were the last team to beat the Kiwis and it came on the grandest of stages, the London 2012 Olympic Games. Post-Olympics the Australians focused on other projects but with a good season behind them they're aiming to put a stop to the Kiwis dominance, "They've been on a bit of streak since the Olympics by winning all of the events,” said Outteridge. "We really haven't been putting a lot of time into our 49er sailing but this year Santander will be our third or fourth major event. We did Hyeres, Europeans and Rio so we should have our racing skills back and we're looking forward to taking them on.”

As a pair Outteridge and Jensen have gold medals from the 2009, 2011 and 2012 world championships, with Outteridge also a 2008 victor with Ben Austin. Having finished fifth at the 2013 worlds the Australians head to Santander well prepared with a solid plan, "With those events a lot of it is about qualifying well so when you get the final series at the end of the week you're in a good position so we're hoping we can get through qualifying unscathed and have some really good racing in the finals.

"Everything this year has been building up to the worlds to ensure we qualify our spot for Australia. It's been a while since we've had an ISAF Worlds so it will be nice to try and win another one,” concluded Outteridge.

The 49er fleet has some seasoned campaigners with further competition for top places coming from Nico Delle Karth and Nikolaus Resch (AUT), Jonas Warrer and Anders Thomsen (DEN), Manu Dyen and Stephane Christidis (FRA), Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign (GBR), Ryan Seaton and Matthew McGovern (IRL), Marcus Hansen and Josh Porebski (NZL), Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel (GER) and Carl Sylvan and Otto Hamel (SWE).


New Zealand's Maloney and Meech claimed the inaugural 49erFX world title in 2013 and will be aiming to defend their title in Santander. A fleet of 62-boats will take to the water in Santander and Meech is focused on the task ahead, "Coming off from a win at the world's last year we're hoping to try and win. We'll do our best there but I've heard it's a tricky venue as well so we'll see how it goes. We would love to qualify New Zealand and obviously that is the aim of the event but our personal aim is to medal.”

Maloney and Meech have been at the front of the pack in all but one event they've competed at since they won the 2012 ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne. Only an 11th at the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca tarnishes their record but with the fleet gaining experience Meech knows the task of defending their world title won't be an easy one, "This year both Ida [Marie Nielsen] and Marie [Thusgaard Olsen (DEN)] and Martine [Grael] and Kahena [Kunze (BRA)] have really kept up their performances at the top. I think that quite a few of the other teams have become quite competitive as well. There will probably be a mixture of the British, the Danish, the Dutch and a few German teams and hopefully you'll see the Kiwis up there as well.”

Brazil's Grael and Kunze have been the form team of 2014 with ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca and Hyeres, Garda and Trentino Olympic Week and Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta 2014 gold to their name. The Brazilians have found an edge over their rivals and with the Brazilian Rio 2016 49erFX spot guaranteed they can focus solely on victory, "The Worlds are our biggest goal of the year,” said Grael. "We don't have the pressure to do so well like the other teams but we will do what we always do, do our best and have fun there. Every championship is a pleasure to sail, race, win and be with the other girls.

"I think the New Zealand girls are doing pretty well but there are so many doing well but it depends on the conditions. I think the Danish girls are good so we'll see what it'll be like there.”

Denmark's Nielsen and Olsen defeated the Kiwis and the Brazilians at the 2014 European Championship in Helsinki, Finland and will head to Santander full of confidence.

Several other 49erFX teams continue to find their feet in the boat and will be looking to peak in Santander. Strong competition for podium places will also come from World #3 Sarah Steyaert and Julie Bossard (FRA), World #5 Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz (NED), World #6 Tamara Echegoyen and Berta Betanzos (ESP) and the Australian, British, German and Swedish squads.

The 49er and 49erFX fleets will kick start their competition on 15 September with the start of the qualification series. That will conclude on 16 September with five races for both fleets scheduled over the opening two days. The final series will commence on 17 September with 18 September the scheduled reserve day. Two further days of final series on 18 and 19 September will conclude fleet racing with the podium places to be decided in the Medal Races on 21 September.

Nacra 17

However with the stakes high and tension mounting there will be plenty of competitors aiming to peak and upset the form book in the Spanish city. The Nacra 17 fleet will feature 75 boats from 31 nations whilst the Finn pack sees 76 sailors from 32 nations.

As well as world titles being awarded 50% of Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition places will be won based on results in Santander. The top ten nations in the Nacra 17 and top 12 in the Finn will take the first Olympic spots.

Throughout 2014 the Nacra 17 fleet has seen a small handful of crews dominate proceedings. Billy Besson and Marie Riou (FRA), Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri (ITA) and Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis (AUS) have shared ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta podiums throughout the 2013-14 series and will be serious contenders in Santander.

Bundock and Curtis started their series off exceptionally well by taking gold at ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne. Bronze medals followed in Mallorca and Hyeres and they are in a good spot. "We want to try and win there or at least be in the top three and on the podium,” said Bundock, "but to win it would be very nice. It's a nation qualifying event for the Olympics but it's also a qualification event for our funding next year. We need to do well there.”

The Australians have jostled with the French and Italian teams all year and Bundock realises the threat they pose, "Billy's always very consistent. He's always quick and he's always sailing well and he's doing everything right at the moment. All year it's been Billy and the Italians [Bissaro and Sicouri] who have been the most consistent ones so we're just plodding along.

"The Italians won in Miami, Hyeres and at the Garda event and they won Kiel as well so they've had a pretty good year. Vittorio and Billy have dominated this season.”

Besson and Riou took the inaugural Nacra 17 world title in 2013 and will be aiming to defend that title in Santander. When asked at the Rio test event, which he won, if he thinks he can win the worlds again Besson exclaimed with a smile, "Yes, why not? We don't know the spot because we've not been but after Rio we will go for ten days training.

"It's really important for the Federation to get the qualification spot for the Olympic Games so every racer wants to be at the top to get that spot.”

The Italians have finished on the podium at every regatta they've competed at in 2014. They took gold at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami and Mallorca, Garda and Trentino Olympic Week and Kieler-Woche. Silver medals at World Cup Mallorca and at the European Championships handed them the World #1 spot and they will be challenging for the world title come race day.

Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond (GBR) were runners up to Besson and Riou at the 2013 worlds and will be aiming to go one better in Santander, "We wouldn't say no if that was given to us as an opportunity,” said Saxton on the subject of moving a step up the podium. "One thing for sure is that there will probably be a load of boats. It will probably be the best racing we have done yet and there will probably be a mix of conditions. That's what we're getting ready for because you never know whether it's going to be a windy rainy week or a light wind sea breeze week. We'll just try and sail consistently.”

The Nacra 17 fleet features several strong sailors who are all aiming to peak in Santander. Australia, Spain, France, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the USA have great depth within their national squads with experience in abundance. The likes of Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank (AUT), Luke Ramsay and Nikola Girke (CAN), Sofia Bekatorou and Konstantinos Trigkonis (GRE), Gemma Jonas and Jason Saunders (NZL) and Matias Buhler and Nathalie Brugger (SUI) will also be fighting for the top spots.


In the 76-boat Finn fleet it will be hard to bet against Great Britain's Giles Scott who is on a run of six straight Finn regatta victories.

The manner of Scott's execution and victory has been astounding with those six victories coming in a convincing manner. At the 2014 Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta 2014, Scott sealed gold with a day to spare. He blitzed the field at the European Championship in La Rochelle, France in May but knows the real test will come at the Santander 2014 ISAF Worlds. After the Finn Europeans Scott said, "I am very happy with how things are going at the moment and where I am at, and now I'm looking ahead to the bigger events later in the season.”

The biggest event of the season is just days away and Scott knows what it takes to win. His last World Championship appearance came at the Perth 2011 ISAF Worlds where he struck gold and he'll no doubt want to add a second world title and continue his unbeaten in Santander.

The Finn fleet features a number of experienced and strong competitors who will want to put Scott's run to an abrupt end in Santander.

Pieter Jan Postma (NED) has always mixed it up at the head of the fleet and has picked up silver and bronze medals at previous Finn world championship regattas. A World, European and World Cup gold medal has always eluded Postma but his breakthrough came at ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres in April 2014 where he took his first major title.

After racing in Hyeres Postma said, "Up to today during major events something went wrong in the end. I set myself straight. This now feels like a break, I can win. I have put so much energy into it over the past decade. This growth has been in recent years. If you look at the Olympics, which of course was a huge thing, on sailing quality I deserved a medal but I failed to rise above.

"Now I have to overcome it, so it feels very special."

With a mental block overcome the flamboyant Dutchman will be gunning for Finn gold at his ninth consecutive Finn world championship.

Unlike his competitors, 2013 Finn World Champion Jorge Zarif (BRA) does not have the pressure to qualify his nation for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. As host nation Brazil automatically receives one spot in the Finn and whilst Zarif has the hunger for victory he will be using Santander to look to master his technical attributes, "We are preparing our material, mast, rigs and everything for the Olympic Games in two years,” said Zarif. "If we have close conditions and something like Rio then we can have a good result there. If it's really strong and very different then it might be hard for us because we are doing different things and I hope it will work.”

London 2012 Olympic silver medallist and 2006 and 2009 Finn World Champion Jonas Hogh-Christensen (DEN) will use Santander 2014 as his comeback regatta. The Dane channelled his efforts away from sailing and into the music industry following London 2012 success and Santander came at the right time for the Dane, "This World Championship fits nicely into my schedule,” said the Dane to, "It's really important to get the national spot in our house so I hope I can help Mads Bendix and Danish sailing qualify but it's super cool to get on the water again.”

The 26-year-old Bendix finished mid-fleet at ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca and Hyeres and will no doubt benefit from Hogh-Christensen's guidance in Santander. As for Hogh Christensen his future plans are far from concrete, "As it stands right now, the Olympics does not fit into my planning but it's certainly not because I do not have the desire. I do not have the form right now but I can promise that I will work in the gym and then see what I can bring.”

Sailors from 32 nations will be aiming for one of 12 Rio 2016 Olympic spots. Further competition will come from Greg Douglas (CAN), Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO), Deniss Karpak (EST), France's Thomas le Breton and Jonathan Lobert, Ed Wright (GBR), Josh Junior (NZL), Vasilij Zbogar (SLO), Bjorn Allansson (SWE) and Caleb Paine (USA).

The Nacra 17 and Finn fleets will kick start their competition on 15 September with the start of the qualification series. That will conclude on 16 September with five races for the Nacra 17 and four for the Finn scheduled over the opening two days.


ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (NZL) and Mat Belcher (AUS), with crew Will Ryan, will be out to defend their 470 world titles.

The Kiwi and Australian sailors have been the stand out 470 racers in recent years with success after success wherever they compete. Whilst it's hard to bet against the defending champions there are several dangerous and skilful sailors in the 85 boat men's fleet and 65 strong women's division.

Aleh and Powrie are the pair to beat in the Women's 470 and have raised the bar in the fleet. The pair took their first world championship title in 2013 and will be aiming to be at the front of the pack once again in Santander, "The aim for Santander is to qualify the nation in the class and it's a world champs so of course we want to be up there and if we're not up there then we're going to be pretty annoyed,” said Aleh. "We'll take it as it comes. Hopefully we'll be competitive and there's a good bunch of girls right at the top so we'll have to see what happens.”

Throughout 2014 the Women's 470 has seen Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (GBR), Anne Haeger and Briana Provancha (USA), Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar (AUT), Camille Lecointre and Helene Defrance (FRA) and Fernanda Oliveira and Ana Luiza Barbachan (BRA) consistently mix it up at the top.

With such a strong group at the head of the fleet Powrie realises it won't be straight forward to defend the title, "We're all pretty close at the moment. We've got all the top boats going so it can be anybody's and whoever sails the best will be up there. We'll approach it like any other regatta we do. We'll have to make sure we qualify the country and that will be in the back of your mind but I guess as defending champions we'll just see how we go.”

America's Haeger and Provancha have come on leaps and bounds over the last 18 months and have become serious contenders for major honours. At the Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta 2014 the pair held the lead going into the final day but dropped out of the medal places altogether with a disappointing Medal Race result. Nonetheless experience was gained and Haeger is up for the Santander challenge, "It is the first Olympic qualifier so that's the number one goal for us but we also really want to come away with a strong finish and learn as much as we can. We're still kind of climbing the learning ladder and chipping away at the boat. It can be a pain but it's our pain and we're looking forward to Santander.”

The Americans have pushed the likes of Aleh and Powrie and Olympic silver medallists Mills and Clark yet remain coy on their chances in Santander, "We would love to be up on the podium but we don't know if that's on the cards quite yet,” added Haeger. "We still have a lot to learn but it would be a dream come true if we were able to podium there. Gold would be awesome so I guess we'll see.

"There are a lot of girls up there who are all on a similar playing field and whoever can get that edge in Santander will be on top.”

Belcher and Ryan have been a class above the rest in the Men's 470, epitomising consistency, good team ethic and focused minds. Their unbeaten run came to an end at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami in January and whilst their rivals have had their ups and downs the Aussies have remained on the podium in a highly competitive fleet, "There are so many people who can have a shot but it's whether they can continue to do that event after event. We've shown that it's the hardest thing.

"The guys that have been in front of us this year they've had some good events but then they've been at the back. I'm sure they appreciate how hard it is to perform at every single regatta but they're all improving heaps and we just have to keep working hard ourselves.”

Belcher has been on top of the world championship podium for the last four years, taking three titles with Malcolm Page and one with Ryan and he's content with his build-up to Santander 2014, "The Worlds is the Worlds; it's always the main event. We're in pretty good shape and quite happy with how we're sailing.

"For me trying to win five in a row, that's pretty cool and I never thought I would ever be in that position. I'm not sure if it's been done before but it's a pretty cool opportunity and we'll be sailing hard. There's so much competition but we've got to keep pushing ourselves, keep focusing on ourselves and keep trying to get better and better.”

The Men's 470 fleet has an abundance of exceptional talent with seasoned athletic sailors all capable of performing on the big stage. Croatia's Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic were the last duo to pick up a world title before Belcher asserted himself and they will be in the mix once again.

Following a disappointing 2013 worlds, where they placed 19th, the Croatians have worked hard throughout the year in preparation. Following two silvers at ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao and Melbourne their hard work paid off at ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca as they took gold in a fleet resembling the strength of the one that will be seen in Santander.

ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami gold medallists Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion (FRA) and European Champions Luke Patience and Elliot Willis (GBR) also come in with confidence. The competition will be tight in the Men's 470 with further contenders coming in the form of Joonas and Niklas Lindgren (FIN), Pierre Leboucher and Nicolas Le Berre (FRA), Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergstrom (SWE), Stu McNay and Dave Hughes (USA) and a strong Spanish contingent.

470 racing commences on Sunday 14 September with two races on the agenda. Two further races on Monday 15 September will bring conclude the qualification series.

Gold and silver fleet racing will begin on Tuesday 16 September with Wednesday 17 a scheduled reserve day. Racing on Thursday 18 and Friday 19 will conclude the final series with the Medal Races on Saturday 20 September bringing 470 racing to a close.

Laser and Laser Radial

72 nations featuring 150 sailors will compete in the Laser fleet whilst 58 nations will sail in the 120-boat Laser Radial fleet. Both fleets will kick start racing in Santander on Friday 12 September.

Santander 2014 acts as the first qualification regatta for the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition. Twenty three Laser and 19 Laser Radial nation spots are there for the taking which will make for tight and fierce competition on the Bay of Biscay.

Brazil's Robert Scheidt heads to Santander as the defending champion having taken his ninth Laser world title at the 2013 class World Championship in Al Mussanah, Oman. Since returning to the Laser in March 2013 Scheidt has picked up where he left off, racing at the front of the pack.

Throughout the 2013-2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup series Scheidt has continually been at the top of the leaderboard with silver in Miami, a ninth in Mallorca and a fourth in Hyeres to his name. With a tenth Laser world title in sight the Brazilian is excited to head onto the Santander race track, "It's going to be a huge regatta and I've never sailed there but I've heard it's very challenging with different courses with different conditions so I'm really looking forward to it.

"We know it's not going to be easy. The Laser is a very tough and demanding boat and there are a lot of good guys at the moment pushing very hard. I think I'll have my chances so I'll go there and play the game.”

For the Brazilian sailors across the ten Olympic fleets the pressure to qualify for Rio 2016 is off with the host nation automatically receiving one spot in each event. For the Brazilian Laser sailors, Scheidt, Bruno Fontes and Alex Veeren it is a weight off their shoulders with all efforts and focus channelled towards top finishes, "We don't have to make a good result at the worlds but at the end of the day when you go to a regatta you always go to try and win regardless of the qualification system. A lot of the good guys already know that they're going to take a spot and do the best they can,” concluded Scheidt.

Australia's Tom Burton heads into Santander as the man in form and the one to beat. Burton has amassed three consecutive race victories in highly competitive fields. He took ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca and Hyeres gold before winning on Rio 2016 Olympic waters at the first test event, Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta 2014 in August.

After a ninth at the last World Championship Burton has his eyes on the prize in the Spanish city, "Going into Oman the goal was to win the Worlds and I was pretty disappointed with how I went and the result there. Santander, definitely, I want to win the worlds. A few years back I was thinking, 'yeah win the worlds that would be pretty good', I was young and time is moving on so it's now time to start winning.”

Burton has five World Championship appearances under his belt, building up knowledge and experience and he knows that in the competitive field anyone, on their day, can strike gold, "Robert will always be tough to beat at the worlds. For myself the worlds is a step up and only happens once a year so it's tough to get the experience of that atmosphere but Robert's been there so many times, won it so many times it's probably a little bit more chilled for him.

"Tonci's [Stipanovic (CRO)] been the most on form this season and I think he's got his Olympic trials there so he's putting in a bit more effort into it. The usual guys will be up there. Tonci, Robert, Rutger [Van Schaardenburg (NED)] and the Kiwis but it depends who's on form throughout the week. Anyone in the top 20 in the world could be really having a good week and be at the front.”

All of the world's top 25 sailors in the Laser will sail in Santander with World #1 Stipanovic, World #2 Nick Thompson (GBR) and World #3 Pavlos Kontides (CYP) coming in with good form and aiming to take gold.

Competition in the 120 boat Laser Radial fleet will be fierce with any sailor who brings their A-game capable of taking gold.

Throughout the 2013-2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup series there were separate winners' at all five regattas. Dongshuang Zhang (CHN) took gold on her home waters in Qingdao, Tatiana Drozdovskaya (BLR) claimed the Melbourne honours, Marit Bouwmeester (NED) dominated the Mallorca field and Evi Van Acker (BEL) stormed to Hyeres gold.

All will be in contention in Santander but several other contenders will be full to the brim with confidence and optimism ahead of racing.

Denmark's Anne-Marie Rindom has consistently been at the front of the pack in the Laser Radial over the last 12 months yet lacked a major title. Her breakthrough came at the Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta 2014, the Rio 2016 Test Event, where she took gold in a world class field.

With Rio gold behind her Rindom is full of positivity going into Santander, "It's good to win before the World's next month,” said the Dane after racing in Rio, "It's a good signal that you can sail at the Olympic venue.

"Top ten in Santander will be really good because then we will have funding for next year and that's the most important thing. Also it is important to get a national place for the Olympics, that will be really good but I'm also going for a medal now I know I can do it. I am looking forward to it.”

At the Rio Test Event the Radial fleet were pushed to the max with big waves and plenty of breeze on the race courses outside of Guanabara Bay. The conditions were not too dissimilar to those expected on the race courses in Santander with the Bay of Biscay famous for big swell.

Ireland's Annalise Murphy thrived in the big conditions in Rio and goes into the ISAF Worlds eager, "I was in Santander training just before I came here [Rio Test Event] and it's a really nice place to sail. Again there's really big waves so maybe being here will help a little bit.

"I want to go and have a good event and qualify the country for the Olympics and try and race well. I'm looking forward to it, it's a big world championship and it's my goal of the year and I can't wait.

"If I can sail well and race well I want to try and be at the top of the fleet and kind of see how it goes. I've been pretty up and down this year but I'm going to try and do the simple stuff right and hopefully the results will come. It's going to be a really good event and really competitive.”

Croatia's Tina Mihelic won gold at the 2013 Laser Radial World Championship in Rizhao, China and will aim to defend her title in Santander. Further contenders for the podium positions will be 2014 European Champion Svenja Weger (GER), Alison Young (GBR) and World #6 Tuula Tenkanen (FIN).

Sadly after sustaining a biking injury while riding close to her home, US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider athlete Paige Railey will be unable to compete. The 2012 Olympian, Laser Radial world champion and ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year is expected to make a full recovery.

“Unfortunately, Paige is not medically cleared to race by her doctors,” said Charlie McKee, High Performance Director of the US Sailing Team Sperry Top Sider. “However, her training and racing program is expected to resume in about a month. Paige is a world-class athlete and a leader on our team, and we’ll miss her presence at the Worlds.”

“I’m disappointed not to be able to compete at the Worlds this year,” said Railey. “It is frustrating, as I have been training hard for the event, but this is the best decision for my Rio 2016 Olympic effort. I look forward to getting back out on the water in a few weeks.”

The Laser and Laser Radial fleets will be the first to commence racing in Santander and will take to the water on Friday 12 September for two races. The Qualification Series will conclude on 13 September with four races deciding the gold, silver and bronze fleets.

Final series racing will start on 14 September with 15 September a reserve day. Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17 will see the Medal Race places decided before the finale on Thursday 18 September where the medallists will be decided.


108 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.

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