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Santander, Spain The Spanish city of Santander is gearing up to host a festival of Olympic class sailing with the finale of Sailing's World Cup to draw the 2017 Series to a close. Some of the world's leading sailors and exciting youthful prospects will compete across the ten Olympic events and Open Foiling Kiteboarding from 4-11 June as sailors aim to be crowed 2017 World Cup Series Champions.
More than 250 sailors from 43 nations will compete in Santander and for Marit Bouwmeester (NED) the venue will bring back some special memories.
Bouwmeester claimed her second Laser Radial (Women's One Person Dinghy) World title at the 2014 Sailing World Championships, held in Santander. This gave the Dutch racer a solid framework to build on as she went on to win gold at Rio 2016.
She ended 2016 by claiming the World Cup Series Final title and with a history of success in Santander she will be a firm favourite at the 2017 Final.
Bouwmeester's long-term rival, Evi van Acker (BEL), will be on the startline in Santander. Van Acker took silver at the American leg of the 2017 series and followed up with gold in France at the end of April. Of all the racers in the 25-boat fleet, van Acker comes in with the best form.
Joining Bouwmeester and van Acker in the pack will be Danish Rio 2016 bronze medallist Anne-Marie Rindom.
Rindom has not competed since the 2016 World Cup Final where she finished second but a glance at her Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/annemarierindom/) gives an indication that she will come in fit and prepared.
Sailors such as Miami gold medallist Vasileia Karachaliou (GRE) Emma Plasschaert (BEL), Tatiana Drozdovskaya (BLR), Mathilde de Kerangat (FRA) and 2016 Youth Worlds Champion Dolores Moreira (URU) will also be strong contenders.
The Laser (Men's One Person Dinghy) will be equally competitive with a string of Olympic, World Championship and World Cup honours amongst the fleets sailors.
Cyprus' first ever Olympic medallist, Pavlos Kontides took the 2016 World Cup Final title and continued his exceptional form into 2017, winning the French leg and finishing second in the USA.
Sandwiched in-between these results was a victory at Split Olympic Week, a 50-point regatta, and he will be the man to beat in Santander.
Joining Kontides in the 25-boat fleet will be American victor, Jean Baptiste Bernaz (FRA), Rio 2016 silver medallist Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) and World #1 Philipp Buhl (GER).
The Rio 2016 gold and silver Women's Skiff, 49erFX, medallists will lock horns for the first time since the Olympic Games in Santander. Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) won the Medal Race at Rio 2016 by two seconds over New Zealand's Alex Maloney and Molly Meech.
Grael and Kunze won gold at the World Cup events in USA and France earlier this year so will be brimming full of confidence heading into Santander. Meanwhile, Maloney and Meech will make their first appearance since Rio 2016.
49er Rio 2016 gold medal medallists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) and silver medallist Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) will miss out on the World Cup Final as they're leading teams in the America's Cup. Bronze medallists Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel (GER) will be in the 20-boat fleet and joining them will be World Cup USA winners Dylan Fletcher Scott and Stu Bithell (GBR) as well as France winners Diego Botin and Iago Lopez (ESP).
The last time Nicolas Heiner (NED) competed in Santander was at the 2014 Worlds where he won his first World title in the Laser. First forward three years and the Dutchman is back, but this time in Men's Heavyweight Dinghy, the Finn.
Heiner has added significant muscle since his Laser days so he can better cope with the demands of the physical Finn. He has emerged as a true contender and recently finished second at the World Cup in France. He will be looking to draw upon his experience in Santander in 2014 as he aims for his first Finn title.
France winner Alican Kaynar (TUR) will race in Santander as will World #4 Anders Pedersen (NOR), World #5 Ben Cornish (GBR) and World #7 Ed Wright (GBR).
A competitive field of Foiling Formula Kiteboarders will compete in Santander. Oliver Bridge (GBR) has won the last three World Cup Finals and will no doubt want to make it four straight. However, Nicolas Parlier (FRA) will come into Santander off the back of victory at the World Cup event in France.
Leading Kiteboarders Florian Gruber (GER) and Maxime Nocher (MON) will also be in the pack of riders.
Racing at the 2017 World Cup Final in Santander, Spain will commence on Tuesday 6 June at 12:00 local time.
Live Medal Races on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 June will bring the 2017 series to a close.
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