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29 December 2004, 07:22 pm
Part 4 - August And September
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2004 - ISAF Year In Review

August and September were the two months that the sporting eyes of the world turned to the ancient city of Athens for the 2004 Olympic Games. Many years of preparation from both athletes and organisers; millions of Euros of investment in infrastructure and sporting venues; the arrival of officials, volunteers and competitors; the huge media and security operation and Athens was ready.
What that meant for sailing was eleven events in nine classes. 400 athletes descended on the brand new Agios Kosmas Sailing Centre on the edge of the Saronic Gulf, along with support teams, families, spectators, officials and volunteers . A huge, purpose built marina would be the home to all for the duration of the Olympic Games in August and the Paralympic Games in September. Once measurement, practice races and the unforgettable opening ceremony had taken place, it was all down to the athletes themselves to prove their worthiness to receive an Olympic Medal.

Athens was selected as the host city for the 2004 Olympic Games on 5 September 1997 in Lausanne, Switzerland, the home of the International Olympic Committee. The city was then transformed into the world's busiest sporting and cultural venue. It didn't disappoint, dreams were made and broken between the 13 and 29 August and for sailing, the ISAF website, saw it's busiest period ever as live race data was launched onto the worldwide web, putting real-time results at the fingertips of the sailing world's enthusiastic supporters. Daily results as well as the latest news from each and every class was available free, to everyone.

The first classes to get underway in the Olympic Sailing Competition were the Finn, 470 and Yngling classes on the Saturday following the Opening Ceremony. For the host nation Greece, the women's double-handed dinghy event in the 470 was to be the stage for a glorious return for multiple World Champions, Sofia BEKATOROU and Emilia TSOULFA, who never really looked like winning anything other than the gold medal. When the team clinched victory with a race to spare, a delighted King Constantine, ISAF vice president and an Olympic gold medal winning sailor himself, greeted the girls on their heroic return to the shore. Emotional images were broadcast to the world as they secured the host nation's first gold medal for a female team.

In the Finn class it was a rocky start for medal favourite Ben AINSLIE, and a disqualification in an early race after a port/starboard incident piled the pressure on the single-handed sailor. When the going got tough, Ainslie showed what has made him a three time World Champion in this technical and physically demanding class by piling through on the only windy race day, and then not falling out of the top four until the final race en-route to his third Olympic medal, his second Gold, and first in the Finn Class. Veteran Mateusz KUSNIEREWICZ (POL), after a good start to the regatta but a falter in the middle, was delighted with his bronze medal behind a jubilant Raphael TRUJILLO (ESP).

It was another gold medal for Great Britain in the Women's Keelboat event, the Yngling. Making it's debut in the Olympic Games in Athens, this three-person boat designed by seasoned Scandinavian Jan LINGE provided some close and at times hair raising competition but eventually it was Sydney 2000 Europe gold medallist Shirley ROBERTSON, with her crew Sarah AYTON and Sarah WEBB who pulled through to claim a famous victory. This was Great Britains first gold medal of the Games, as they secured it with a race to spare, two days before Ainslie. An unfortunate OCS on the final day dropped the Danish team of Dorte JENSEN, Helle JESPERSEN and Christina BORREGAARD-OTZEN into third behind ex-470 double Olympic bronze medallist Ruslana TARAN with her crew of Svitlana MATEVUSHEVA and Ganna KALININA (UKR).

The 470 men's fleet was a tight affair at the top. Going into the final race it was looking like Great Britain would score their third gold medal in as many days as the fleet was headed by Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD, ahead of veteran 470 campaigners Paul FOERSTER and Kevin BURNHAM (USA). Whoever finished highest in the results of the final race would be painting Athens golden on the last day of racing, with the other having to settle for silver and the battle between the pair raged in a dying breeze whilst the rest of the fleet sailed into the sunset. In the end Forster and Burnham never looked like losing, and they claimed the USA's first and only gold medal of the sailing in true Olympic Style. Remeber Kazuto SEKI and Kenjiro TODOROKI (JPN), who first sailed towards the front of the fleet earlier this year? The team scored an historic bronze medal and became the first Japanese men to ever win a sailing medal on the final day of racing under the Athens sun.

In the Europe fleet firm favourite Siren SUNDBY (NOR) didn't have it all her own way, suffering a startline disqualification in race three. However, like Ainslie she dug deep and came up with the goods, winning the gold medal after a conservative final race that was delayed as the shifty Saronic breeze failed to cooperate. With a scoreline that included three bullets in races eight, nine and ten, she was crowned ultimate champion on a glorious day for Norway. The silver medal went to Lenka SMIDOVA (CZE), whilst Signe LIVBJERG (DEN), scored her nation's second medal of the sailing competition.

Robert SCHEIDT (BRA) confirmed his place as one of the world's greatest ever sailors in Athens. After losing the gold medal to Ainslie in an epic final race in Sydney, he reclaimed the Olympic title, adding a second gold medal in the class to the seven World Championship tiltles currently residing on his mantle piece. After a close battle for second and third, the silver medal went to Andreas GERITZER (AUT), who took advantage of being able to discard a 34 place finish. Bronze medal went to Vasilij ZBOGAR (SLO).

The Star class experienced some of the lightest sailing of all the Olympic fleets, and it was another Brazilian, Torben GRAEL, with his crew Marcelo FERREIRA, who in the eyes of many are becoming astounding Olympians, who took home the gold medal. In a fleet that saw results about as consistent as the breeze they were sailing in, they scored impressively and added to their Olympic accolades ahead of Ross MACDONALD and Mike WOLFS (CAN) in silver and 2003 World Champions Xavier ROHART and Pascal RAMBEAU (FRA) in bronze.

History was made in the Mistral fleet with Israel's first ever Olympic gold medal being won by Gal FRIDMAN ahead of local hero Nikos KAKLAMANAKIS (GRE). In winning the final race Great Britain's Nick DEMPSEY finished the podium off with the first ever windsurfing medal for his nation and added to the tally that was fast leading to GBR becoming the most successful in sailing at the Olympic Games for the second time. In the ladies fleet Faustine MERRET broke another record. She became the first French woman to ever win a sailing medal and left with the gold ahead of Yin JIAN (CHN) in silver, boding well for her 2008 campaign in Qingdau and Alessandra SENSINI (ITA) in bronze.

The 49er fleet sail more races than the other fleets, this style suiting the short sharp nature of the double-handed skiff and favourites going into the event Iker MARTINEZ and Xavier FERNANDEZ (ESP) did nothing to suggest they would drop their dominance of the fleet, despite an injury plagued couple of years. They popped in ahead of Rodion LUKA and George LEONCHUK (UKR) and Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR).

The Tornado fleet again suffered similar testing conditions as the Star class but as is often the case, the cream rose to the top and Roman HAGARA and Hans Peter STEINACHER (AUT) claimed their second consecutive gold medal in the class. They were followed by Charlie OGLETREE and John LOVELL (USA) in silver with Santiago LANGE and Carlos ESPINOLA (ARG) rounding out the medal positions and taking home the bronze medal.

In a tribute to the sport of sailing, the XXVIII Olympiad was officially opened by a sailor, with Nikolaos KAKLAMANAKIS (GRE) lighting the Olympic flame on Friday 13 August. Sixteen days later at the Closing Ceremony on Sunday 29 August the flame was extinguished by gold medallists Sofia BEKATOROU and Emilia TSOULFA (GRE). The first time in the history of the Olympic Games that sailing has been honoured in this way.

The Agios Kosmas Sailing Centre opened again for business after the close of the 2004 Olympic Sailing Competition on Friday 10 September to begin registration for the 2004 Paralympic Sailing Competition. 73 athletes from 19 nations competed in either the single-person keelboat or the three person keelboat events using the 2.4mR and Sonar respectively.

Coming into the final race of the three-person keelboat class, the Sonar, the Israeli trio of Dror COHEN, Arnon EFRATI and Benni VEXLER (ISR) (right: image © ISAF) had established a four-point lead in the overall rankings over the Dutch sailors, who had already secured at least the silver medal. As the Israelis, though, were carrying their race-two DSQ burden, their place on the podium was anything but certain. Eventually they secured their Paralympic gold medal ahead of Udo HESSELS, Marcel VAN DE VEEN, Mischa ROSSEN & Annette TEN DAM (NED) in silver and John ROSS-DUGGAN, Jean Paul CREIGNOU, Bradley JOHNSON & Roger CLEWORTH (USA) in bronze.

In the single-person keelboat, the 2.4metre, the dominating force of Heiko KROGER (GER) was in Athens to defend his Olympic title. It was not to be however and going into the final race the top three were all but decided. Gold eventually went to Damien SEGUIN (FRA) followed by Thomas BROWN (USA) in silver and Thierry SCHMITTER (NED) in bronze.

No ALT tag specifiedAs well as the Olympic Games, a host of important world championship, international, regiaonal and national regattas were also being held over the heat of the Northern Hemisphere summer. From the Etchells in Mooloolaba, which finished on 7 August, to the crowning of a new Mumm 30 World Champion on 24 September. It was a busy time in the world match racing circuit as well, Marie BJÖRLING and her Team Panorama from the Royal Gothenburg Yacht Club finished the ISAF Grade 1 Lysekil Womens Match as superior as she was fumbling in the beginning, with three victories on line against Claire LEROY (FRA) in Team Ideactor in the final on 9 August.

The America's Cup party winched itself into Marseille for Act one of the build-up to 2007 in Valencia and following a victory from BMW Oracle Racing on the Final Friday, a french storm overnight on the final weekend brought chaos to the multi-million dollar fleet and nearly scuppered the chances of Team New Zealand for the forthcoming Act two of the cup as NZL 82 was written off in the ensuing carnage.

On 2 September, ISAF published the list of eligible candidates to stand for the forthcoming elections to the offices of President and Vice-President, which was to take place at the General Assembly in Copenhagen in November. ISAF also announced the much awaited venue for the 2007 ISAF World Sailing Championship. Selected from five candidate cities it was decided that Cascais in Portugal was the ideal location.

The following World Champions were crowned in July and August 2004:

Mumm 30: Richard PERINI
H-Boat: Morten NIELSEN
29er: Tristan JAQUES and Alain SIGN
Tempest: Philippe BOITE
Byte: Calvin ZHI YANG LIM
505: Per LARSEN and Uffe ANDERSEN
Melges 24: Sébastien COL
Mistral Youth: David ROBERTSON
Contender: Andrea BONEZZI
Etchells: Peter MCNEILL

For all the news from August and September, please click here.

For all the news from the Olympic Games, please click here.

For all the news from the Paralympic Games, please click here.

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