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25 July 2004, 04:12 pm
Baird Retains His Crown
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Ed BAIRD And His World Champion Crew© ISAF

ISAF Match Racing World Championship
Ekaterinberg

The first question was 'Is there any wind?' and the second question was 'What will the format be?' Definite answers would be hard to find on the final day of competition in Russia yesterday.
At the skippers briefing at 8.30, the first answer was simple, 'At the moment there is no wind', and the second answer was 'Well it depends'.

After much discussion that started on Wednesday, the Organising Authority and the ISAF Technical Delegate decided that priority would be given to completing the second round robin before commencing with the knockout stages. Immediately the mathematicians were working out how much time would be required to finish the final 7 flights.

If there was wind it was still possible to finish the rounds by 3pm on the final day yesterday and still have time for a knockout. After the previous day's lack of wind it seemed like a miracle when a light northerly wind built so racing could start at 10am, and by 13.30 flight 15 was under way. Everything was looking good.

With a win in flight 9 on Thursday Ed BAIRD (USA) was guaranteed his place in the Semi-Finals and with his win in flight 11 was guaranteed a place in the final if the semi-finals were not sailed. Victory over Bjorn HANSEN (SWE) in flight 13 gave Baird the top slot in the round robin stage. Karol JABLONSKI confirmed second place in the round robin with a win over Baird in flight 15.

The last three flights were the fight for third and fourth. Stefan LINDBERG PRESTI (FRA) and Eugeniy NEUGODNIKOV (RUS) were all in the running and the last three flights saw Lindberg having to win against Richard and then face a showdown with the in-form Neugodnikov to fight for one of the remaining places in the top 4.

Presti also had to win against Richard to confirm his place and then a match against Neugodnikov would tip the balance either way for third and fourth.

So with ifs and buts a plenty the game was afoot. Lindberg started well against Richard and slowly built a lead that he held to the finish, a key victory that meant he had to beat Neugodnikov to stay alive in the competition. It wasn't to be though as Neugodnikov took control of their match early on and sailed into the final four.

Lindberg was out of the top four and Neugodnikov was in, a situation that also helped Presti's position in the top four as even if he lost his final two matches, he would remain ahead of Lindberg in a tie-break situation.

Presti was on a roll with four wins in his previous 5 matches. He won the start against Richard and lead all the way to the finish. This left a last match decider between the Frenchman and the Russian, with Presti on 13 wins and Neugodnikov on 12 it was going to be a close and competitive match.

Clouds were building over the lake and surrounding area and a few spots of rain during flight 16 were an indication of the thunderstorms that were approaching. The last flight got away with Presti leading Neugodnikov and rounding mark one ahead. As Presti approached mark two, the first squall hit bringing wind, rain and a 30 degree shift.

Unable to make a course change Presti just held his lead to beat Neugodnikov in the round. The inclement weather continued and the first bolt of lightning made the decision to postpone ashore an easy one and the boats were sailed or towed back to the dock to wait for the weather to stabilize.

The wind changed from North to West to South then to East as the thunderstorms passed over and finally the wind vanished. Now it was sit and wait time. With a prize giving and closing ceremony scheduled for 7pm and a total lack of wind the knockout final didn't look promising and at 6pm the wait for Baird was over as he was announced World Champion.

The closing ceremony and medal presentation was a sumptuous affair with the teams led into the arena in front of the cheering crowd. A troupe of dancers on stage entertained everyone whilst boys and girls in colourful costumes rollerbladed around in front of them.

Ed congratulated the Organisers for running a successful event and thanked his crew, Jon ZISKIND, Brad WEBB and Andy HORTON. The ISAF flag was then lowered and the event was officially closed. The gala dinner brought yet more entertainment with singing, dancing and gymnastic displays and mixed in with a measure or two some fine vodka guaranteed a dusty head but some great memories.

Final Results

1. Ed BAIRD (USA)
2. Karol JABLONSKI (POL)
3. Philippe PRESTI (FRA)
4. Eugeniy NEUGODNIKOV (RUS)
5. Staffan LINDBERG (FIN)
6. Bjorn HANSEN (SWE)
7. Maxim TARANOV (RUS)
8. Ian WILLIAMS (GBR)
9. Paolo CIAN (ITA)
10. Mathieu RICHARD (FRA)
11. Andrew ARBUZOV (RUS)
12. Johnie BERNTSSON (SWE)
Craig Mitchell (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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