More than 80 sailors from 19 countries are in Hawaii this week to take part in the 2002 49er world championship

More than 80 sailors from 19 countries are in Hawaii this week to take part in the 2002 49er world championship (which is one of several qualifying events for the 2004 Olympics in Athens). Kaneohe Yacht Club is playing host for the event, with racing taking place in Kaneohe Bay, which is an excellent race area with steady trade winds and flat water, providing ideal conditions for the sailors. The first qualifying races begin today and continue through to 19 June. At this. point the fleet will be divided into Silver and Gold fleets, with the top team in the Gold fleet winning the Gold Medal and title of 49er world champion. Among the Olympic hopefuls to watch this coming week are 2000 Olympic Bronze medallists, Jonathan and Charlie McKee (USA); Silver medallist and RYA team GBR sailor Simon Hiscocks, sailing with Chris Draper, and Spain’s Santiago Lopez-Vazquez and Javier de la Plaza who finished fourth in Sydney and are currently ranked number four in the world. Nine of the ISAF’s top 10 World Ranking 49er teams are competing in Hawaii, including top-ranked Rodion Luca and Georgiy Leonchuk (Ukraine), World number 2, Pawel Kacprowski and Pawel Kuzmicki (Poland), and number 3-ranked Iker Martinez and Xabier Fernandez (Spain).

There will be a strong push from all of the RYA team GBR 49er sailors to medal at this world championship. Paul Brotherton, sailing with relatively new crew Mark Asquith, is currently lying fourth in the ISAF World Rankings, Draper and Hiscocks are currently eighth in the World Rankings and Alister Richardson and Peter Greenhalgh are currently placed 10th in the world, all the teams will be hoping to improve on their World Ranking and their results from the world championship last year. Relative newcomers to the 49er fleet, Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes, will be looking to make their mark in this highly competitive class as will Andy Rice and Harvey Hillary. The 40-plus sailing teams here for the 2002 worlds come from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United States. Just getting here was a major undertaking for the sailors who had to coordinate visas, shipping, travel and lodging arrangements.