Some of the world's top sailors have signed up for next week's Melges world championship and many are already out on the race course practising

With less than a week to go to the 2002 Melges 24 World Championship in Travemunde, Germany, the top Melges teams from around the world are already out on the water practising in the Lubeck Bay race area.

Reigning world champion Flavio Favini is unable to defend his title due to America’s Cup commitments leaving the field wide open for a new Champion. Heading the list of contenders is Harry Melges, helming for Jeff Ecklund, who finished runner up to Flavio at the 2001 worlds in Key West.

To help ensure victory, Harry and Jeff have brought in Andy Burdick and Tony Kolb to complete their crew. As well as working with Harry at Melges Performance Sailboats Andy is amongst the best and most experienced Melges crews in the world, while Tony is one of Germany’s top sailors and was a member of the victorious Illbruck team in the recent Volvo Ocean Race.

Britain’s Jamie Lea, helming for Richard Thompson will be determined to see Harry doesn’t get it all his own way. Jamie won the 2001 Melges 24 World Ranking Series, leads the 2002 European Ranking, came fourth at the 2001 worlds, and has been one of the most consistent performers on the international circuit for the last two years. Jamie and Richard will sailing with their regular crew of Jim Schwerdt and Nigel Young. Another British sailor in the running is Stuart Rix, helming for Quentin Strauss. Stuart recently pipped Jamie to the post for the UK national championship and is currently second overall in the 2002 European ranking.

As always there is a strong French contingent taking part including several potential winners. Philippe Legros, Oliver Ponthieu and Paul Maxime are all currently in the top ten of the European Ranking while Sebastian Col makes a welcome return to the helm of a Melges 24 for this regatta.

The Scandinavians are putting forward a strong field including 2000 World Corinthian and 2002 Finnish national champion Kenneth Thelen. Fellow Finn Antti Niiniranta and Sweden’s Claes Rojning are currently fourth and ninth respectively in the European Ranking and will also be hoping for a good showing in Travemunde.

The German home fleet is also represented by some big names including reigning German national champion Guenter Tzeschlock and the legendary Alba Batzill, while from Italy the guys to watch out for will be Mario Zilliani and Egidio Babbi.

Racing runs from Monday 29 July to Friday 2 August with a 10-race series planned. With a full social programme and excellent sponsor support from Volvo Cars, North Sails, Musto, Konig Ludwig beer and the German Melges 24 Class Association, the class is set for another fantastic championship.