Australian, Italian and British teams all lie within 10 points of each other at the top of the Volvo Trophy standings 19/7/06

As well as the gold medals for individual excellence, a national battle is also underway this week at the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship in Weymouth, Great Britain. The Volvo Trophy will be awarded to the best performing nation and with mere days until the closing ceremony, it is shaping up to be one of the closest run contests in recent years, with Australia just holding the advantage.

The Australian, Italian and British teams all lie within 10 points of each other at the top of the Volvo Trophy standings, with Israel, Poland and Trophy defenders France just a few points back. With just two days of racing remaining in Weymouth, there is still plenty of time for some of the other leading nations to enter the fray as well.

Last time Australia won the Volvo Trophy was back in 2003 in Madeira, Portugal. Their Team Leader in Weymouth, ‘Bunny’ Warren is aiming for a repeat victory this year. “For many people the Volvo Trophy is more important than medals in the individual fleets,’ he explained. He also points up the Trophy’s importance in a championship where participation, development and a strong team spirit is vitally important. “It is a great motivator for the whole team as, although some sailors may not be in the running for the medals, they can still contribute to the team’s score.”

The Volvo Trophy, inaugurated 15 years ago in Largs, Scotland, Great Britain in 1991, rates each nation’s performance on a race by race basis, to come up with an overall series score at the end. This means the standings can alter rapidly from one race to another.

Amongst the four leading nations separate scoring trends emerge. Australia’s points total is principally made up of scores from the dinghy, with particularly strong performances in all of the two person events. Conversely Italy and Israel have been buoyed up by very strong performances in the two windsurfer events. Great Britain has been picking up scores across the fleets with their Hobie 16 team providing big points scores in every race so far.

Race scores in the Volvo Trophy only count when all seven fleets have completed that race. The two RS:X fleets have already sailed races six and seven but these scores will only count towards the Volvo Trophy standings once the other fleets have caught up with them. In these windsurfer races Italy, Israel and fifth place Poland have put the pressure on the Aussies with a string of top place finishes. Both Italy and Poland are counting two bullets and two second places from these races whilst Israel has four third place finishes. If a couple of their team mates can put in strong performances elsewhere the Aussies will be seriously under threat.

With Poland’s strong scoring in the RS:X fleets, it looks as if they could well join the battle for honours at the top of the Volvo Trophy standings. Currently in sixth place in the standings are France, winners of the Volvo Trophy on eight previous occasions, including 2005 and 2004 and only a fool would discount their chances of climbing the rankings before the end of this championship. Behind them is a nine point gap back to Spain, who lead a European trio just ahead of Germany and the Netherlands. Singapore are the top Asian nation in tenth place.

In 12th, Brazil are the highest of the South American nations, with a ten point advantage over Argentina, and just ahead of two-time Volvo Trophy winners New Zealand. The USA lie in 14th place, with 2007 Youth Worlds hosts Canada eight points behind them. Just outside of the top 20, Korea and Hong Kong are battling for the second best Asian nation slot.

With only two days to go, the action is hotting up in a classic battle for this year’s Volvo Trophy.

Racing continues through to 20 July 2006.