Abu Dhabi, UAE will welcome the world’s finest and fastest windsurfers from 26-30 November for the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final with Olympic medallists and world champions aplenty in the 20-boat Men’s and Women’s RS:X fleets.
It’s a who’s who in the Men’s and Women’s RS:X packs with multiple Olympians and medallists who have performed and proven themselves at the highest level of the sport.
Picon dominated the fleet at the Europeans, Olympic Test Event and Worlds and will be looking to add ISAF Sailing World Cup Final gold to her 2014 medal haul, “It’s going to be nice to discover a new country and it’s important because it’s the final of the ISAF Sailing World Cup.
“I have won everything this year so I hope to do well in Abu Dhabi. I’m training in Oman before Abu Dhabi because our worlds will be there next year and the conditions are similar so it will be nice for me to get some training in. I hope to do my best in Abu Dhabi and I hope it will be enough to win.”
The calibre of the Women’s RS:X fleet is exceptional. London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Marina Alabau (ESP) will join Picon in the pack as will silver medallist Tuuli Petaja (FIN) and bronze medallist Zofia Klepacka (POL).
Petaja knows how to find an extra gear in competitive fleets and after a disappointing World Championships, by her standards, she is looking forward to lining up against a strong bunch of racers, “The better the fleet is, the more fun it is to beat them,” exclaimed Petaja.
“Since the Santander Worlds I have been training at home in Finland. It’s starting to get a bit cold so I’m really looking forward to some great and warm sailing conditions in Abu Dhabi. It’s an interesting new concept and always a great excitement to see new racing venues. I’m looking forward to enjoying the exciting racing in good company and good conditions.”
Olga Maslivets (RUS) is one of the most experienced racers in the fleet and is a veteran of four Olympic Games. Maslivets spent some time away from the windsurfer after London 2012, focusing on a year in the mixed multihull, but now she’s back on the RS:X full time.
Maslivets finished second at ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao four weeks ago to secure her spot in Abu Dhabi and is eager to race against the elite level fleet, “I can’t wait to meet all the good guys. After a long break from RS:X racing I feel hungry to race in strong events.
“I believe that the Sailing World Cup Final is extremely exciting and a pinnacle of Olympic sailing as the level is super high. I wish to be on the podium,” smiled Maslivets, “but honestly, a top ten would be a great result for me this year.”
The Women’s RS:X fleet is full of top performers who will all be aiming to capture the inaugural ISAF Sailing World Cup Final title. Further competitors gunning for gold include 2010 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Blanca Manchon (ESP), World #1 Flavia Tartaglini (ITA), World #2 and Beijing 2008 bronze medallist Bryony Shaw (GBR) and World #3 Laura Linares (ITA). Five Chinese competitors, all with ISAF event medals to their name, will also be in the mix for the top spots.
The Men’s RS:X fleet features 20 of the world’s best racers who are all capable of taking Abu Dhabi gold.
Byron Kokkalanis (GRE) comes into Abu Dhabi with good form. The Greek sailor started the year by winning gold at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami in January and followed it up with silver in Mallorca. Top six finishes followed at the RS:X Europeans, Olympic Test Event and Santander 2014 ISAF Worlds before he took the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao title.
With a solid year under his belt, he’ll be looking to conclude 2014 the way he started it, by winning, “I think it’s going to be a great event. It’s the first time we are going to have a World Cup Final with the top 20 athletes. It’s going to be a really high level with all of the world’s top athletes there. I’m really looking forward to it.
“We’re going to have some fun and it’s going to be a great event.”
2014 Men’s RS:X World Champion Julien Bontemps will spearhead the French charge in Abu Dhabi with strong compatriots Thomas Goyard, Pierre le Coq and Louis Giard qualifying alongside. Bontemps has been a consistent performer over the years, amassing three world championship titles and silver at the Beijing 2008. However in recent times he has been pushed hard by his compatriots ensuring internal and external battles amongst the four French rivals.
Three of the world’s leading competitors Przemyslaw Miarczynski, Piotr Myszka and Pawel Tarnowski all head to Abu Dhabi with their sights on an all Polish podium. The experienced Miarczynski and Myszka combined with the youthful exuberance of 20-year-old Tarnowski make for a strong team all with a podium finish on their minds, “We have just finished our training camp in France and now we are ready to rock’n’roll in the Emirates,” smiled Tarnowski.
“My goal for the competition is to get the podium. It won’t come easy and might not even happen because there are 20 sailors all aiming for the same but I keep thinking positive. They [Miarczynski and Myszka] are very fast guys and we are feeling comfortable together at the top. We train together and I learn a lot from them.
“During the race I treat them as any other sailor, just bearing in mind not to handicap them too much but I hope we can repeat the success from the Eurosaf regatta in Medemblik where we collected all three medals for Poland.”
Tarnowski is a two-time RS:X Youth World champion and training alongside London 2012 Olympic silver medallist Miarczynski and 2010 World Champion Myszka has propelled the youngster forward at a rate of knots. Tarnowski is a rising star in the fleet and the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final will provide him the perfect platform to show what he’s made of, “It’s very exciting to race against the best guys from the RS:X, we’re obviously racing together on other events as well so there’s nothing new about it but the new format of the competition will make the game really tough and even more interesting. There will be no weak guys, just the top 20. There’s no time to make mistakes and no way to regain points.”
The fleet also features London 2012 silver medallist Nick Dempsey (GBR), Beijing 2008 bronze medallist Shahar Zubari (ISR), five time Olympian Max Oberemko (RUS) and fierce competitors Toni Wilhelm (GER) and Aichen Wang (CHN).
RS:X racing commences at 12:00 local time on Thursday 27 November with three races scheduled. The Medal Race on Sunday 30 November will bring the racing to a close.
Text & photos by ISAF