The game will be wide open in both the Laser and Laser Radial at the Santander 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championship with large numbers gunning for World Championship glory and a Rio 2016 Olympic place.
Seventy two 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.
Tom Burton, Laser Standard medal race - 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres - © Franck Socha
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 number one Stipanovic, world number two Nick Thompson (GBR) and world number three Pavlos Kontides (CYP) coming in with good form and aiming to take gold.
2014 Delta Llyod Regatta Day 3 - Marit Bouwmeester, Laser Radial - Thom Touw
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, Paige Railey (USA) defended her Miami title, Marit Bouwmeester (NED) dominated the Mallorca field and Evi Van Acker (BEL) stormed to Hyeres gold.
Dongshuang Zhang (CHN) SILVER - 2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup - Melbourne - Jeff Crow- Sport
the Library ©
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.
2014 Aquece Rio - Anne Marie Rindom, Laser Radial Winner - ISAF ©
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 number six Tuula Tenkanen (FIN).
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. Event website