Silver and Bronze medal positions, as well as seven further Olympic Qualification slots were on the cards in today's Star class finale at the ISAF World Championship. But, unfortunately this morning, the breeze wasn't playing the game.
It wasn't until nearly 14:30 local time that the Gold fleet got underway in a north-westerly breeze of about six knots. With the I flag flying and a port biased line, most of the fleet elected to start at the favoured end, with a small spread along the remainder of the line, and some rockstars clearly wanting to go right.
The potential was there for a closely fought battle between friends and rivals Freddie LOOF/ Anders ELKSTROM (SWE) and Iain PERCY/ Steve MITCHELL (GBR), for the glory of a silver medal. Xavier ROHART and Pascal RAMBEAU (FRA) were of course assured of the World Champion title with a race to spare yesterday, and took time to rest today.
It became apparent that the two boats had an entirely different strategy than the expected duel with about one minute to go to the start, when they were both at opposite ends of the line. Percy decided to start at the favoured port end with the bunch, whilst Loof was at the starboard end.
Loof, along with six or seven other boats, including former World Champion, Brazilian Torben GRAEL, immediately tacked off the line after the start and headed on a long port tack to the right hand side of the course.
Percy explained this "live and let live" strategy. "There was a situation where Freddie had this DNF, but we would have had to sail him a long way down the fleet to have benefited, so we decided to just go the other way and see how it went, and then at the first cross, if we were ahead all the better."
With the fleet split to both corners of the first beat, Percy looked buried in the pack on the left hand side, whilst Loof bailed out early from hitting the right, and headed more towards the middle of the course.
The distance between the furthest left boat and the furthest right was so huge up the first beat, that in the hazy sunshine it was near impossible to see one side from the other. As it was, the fleet rounded the windward mark tightly bunched, the leaders having come from the left hand side of the middle of the beat, and it was the unlikely sight of Georgy SHAIDUKO and Juri FIRSOV (RUS) who held a slim lead over Roberto MUNOZ and Pablo ELORZA (ESP). Loof rounded in ninth place whilst Percy was back in sixteenth.
The dominant left hand shift held for the run and the committee decided to move the second windward mark more offshore as a result. The fleet stuck closer to the middle on the next upwind leg and the Russian pair, extending their lead, never looked back.
With a more square final run, many of the mid fleet boats decided to gamble by gybing early. Percy and Mitchell were the first to do this, followed by a host of others, but it was to no avail for the British pair as Loof built on his advantage and finished seventh in the race, enough to fend off all competition and claim the silver medal. Percy finished 22, his Bronze Medal assured.
Freddy commented, "My aim going into this World Championship was to qualify Sweden for the 2004 Olympic Regatta. So my priority was to be in the top twelve, and I held back to sail safe throughout the regatta and then push at the end. I could then take the risks and afford to push Percy."
When asked at the post race press conference how they would celebrate, Steve MITCHELL advised "I will have a glass of milk and go to bed early!", before Iain jumped in with "What do you think!"
It was a fantastic finish to the event for the two Spanish boats of Munoz and Elzora, and Gonzalo ARAUJO and Gabriel de LLANO, who finished second and third, respectively, to the cheers of the local spectator fleet.
As well as the medals, the event held the important task of selecting the nations who will join Bermuda, Great Britain, France, Brazil, USA and Greece at the Olympic Games in Athens next year. Subject to ISAF ratification, these nations will be - Sweden, Ireland, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Switzerland and Austria.
Action from the Stars © Event Media
Windsurfer Men - Mistral
With Pont having taken the Gold Medal with a race to spare yesterday, the fight was on for Silver and Bronze.
After a postponed start due to lack of breeze, it filled in, increasing as the race progressed.
The men Gold fleet were the first off, and it was Nick DEMPSEY (GBR) who was first to the windward mark, a position he held to the end. Behind him the battle was on between Nikos KAKLAMANAKIS (GRE) and Gal FRIDMAN (ISR), both previous World Champions, for the Silver and Bronze.
However, neither of these two were up at the front of the pack, and had to fight their way through the fleet, pumping all the way.
Going into the final race the Silver and Bronze medal could have gone amongst a number of sailors aside from Nikos and Gal, but that opportunity could only come to fruition if Nikos and Gal posted results down in the mid-teens, and they were too smart for that. Fighting to the end the three sailors, Joao RODRIGUES (POR), Julien BONTEMPS (FRA) and Nick DEMPSEY (GBR), who were still in with a chance put in some excellent performances, particularly Nick who took his first bullet of the series, but it was too little too late.
Very disappointingly for Joao, he had the bronze medal in his grasp, as he was ahead of Gal, but lost his lead later in the race.
A seventh place today was sufficient to give Nikos a Silver, with Gal two places behind him in ninth to claim the bronze.
As defending World Champion, Gal was aiming all out to retain the title, and had an excellent opening series. However, a DSQ in race 4, put him virtually out of contention, especially when followed by a couple of double-figure places, after which he knew the best he could hope for was Silver or Bronze. A similar situation for Nikos, who took an OCS and a 21 to count, but he also redeemed himself to claw back up, and aside from those two results, was consistent to place in the top five in all other races, except the last.
In respect of qualification for the 2004 Olympic Regatta, the top 12 finishing sailors represented nations that had already qualified from the 2002 Mistral World Championships. Therefore, subject to ISAF ratification qualification from the 2003 ISAF World Championship goes the following fifteen nations:
Cyprus, China, Australia, Japan, Germany, Indonesia, Canada, Hong Kong, Thailand, Italy, USA, Slovak Republic, Turkey, Russia, Venezuela.
Nations qualified from the 2002 Mistral World Championships are:
Israel, Brazil, France, Great Britain, Argentina, Portugal, New Zealand, Poland, Ukraine, Spain, Hungary, Netherlands.
A further 7 nations will qualify from the results of the 2004 Mistral World Championships.
Mistral Medal Winners © Aline SiepmannWindsurfer Women - Mistral
Lee KORSITZ (ISR) has won the 2003 World Mistral Championship, and in doing so has not only qualified Israel for the 2004 Olympic Games, but has also made history.
She has become the first woman from Israel to ever win a World Championship in any sport. Lee is totally overcome with her victory and it certainly hasn't sunk in.
However, it was close, as Lee was being chased hard throughout the race by Barbara, with the Gold only ever going to be decided between these two.
Lee knew she needed to either finish in the top 6 to automatically claim Gold, or she could finish lower down, but she then needed a significant margin between her and Barbara to taste victory. But that victory was almost Barbara's. At the first windward, Lee was 23, with Barbara 35, a place Lee still held at the leeward mark, but Barbara had made up four places to 31. Had the race finished at this point, the Gold medal would have been Barbara's. With both sailors' pushing hard, they both managed to improve their positions over the remainder of the race, with Lee passing seven more sailors to finish in 17, and Barbara moving through to be in 27 place. Only a point separated them at the finish.
Barbara commented afterwards, "It was a bad race. I blew it." A past World Champion and multi-Olympic medallist, Barbara is the oldest sailor in the fleet at 36, but has many years in her yet. As she commented earlier in the week, "There isn't anything else I enjoy doing more." Here also to celebrate Barbara's success was her two year old daughter.
Whilst these two were battling for the Gold and Silver, Faustine MERRET (FRA) put in an excellent result of four to just snatch the Bronze from Jessica CRISP (AUS), who took the bullet in today's race.
Lee, who has only started competing on the international circuit in the past eighteen months had a dream coming into this Championship, "My dream was to hear my national anthem. Before I left my mother packed a flag in my bag, and I had forgotten about it until today. I didn't know I was going to be World Champion. I was really nervous as the race was postponed."
However, her training partner and Bronze medallist in the men's event, Gal FRIDMAN (ISR) commented, "I knew she could do it."
The pair will arrive back in Israel at approximately 1700 hours local time, and have already heard of the mass welcome which will be awaiting them.
In addition to the 10 nations qualified from the 2002 World Champions, subject to ISAF ratification, the following 12 nations will also be in Athens next year, Israel, Australia, Belgium, Norway, Ukraine, USA, Japan, Bulgaria, Canada, Latvia, Brazil, Argentina.
Of some of the past Champions. Take Alessandra SENSINI (ITA) who one would normally expect to see at the top. Exhausted from her victory at the recent Athens Regatta 2003, she was really not every fully prepared for this Championship, with no time to recover between the two. She obviously knew this going into the Worlds, and having already qualified Italy last year, and with selection for Athens 2004 virtually assured, she did not have the pressure on her and knew her performance would not rank amongst one of her best.
Mistral Medal Winners © Aline SiepmannMultihull Open - Tornado
The Tornado fleet waited patiently on shore, on what was supposed to be their lay day, for the 'Poniente' westerly breezes to fill in. At 3:04pm, with WNW wind of 7-8 kt, race five got underway with a clear start.
The French duo of Olivier BACKES and Laurent VOIRON lead the race from start to finish, proving to be the best sailors in the light conditions in race five. Leigh MCMILLAN and Mark Bulkley finished second followed by the Dutch pair of Sven KARSENBARG and Mischa HEEMSKERK. The Australian multiple World Champions Darren BUNDOCK and John FORBES had a difficult race, finishing fifteenth.
The amount of spectators' boats today was quite amazing and the support boats did a good job in keeping them away from the course that is taking the sailors approximately 60 minutes to sail.
Race 6 also had a nice clear start. The Australians led comfortably, returning to form after a difficult first race of the day, followed by the Austrian pair of Roman HAGARA andHans-Peter STEINACHER. British pair McMillan and Bulkeley, who are sailing with consistently good results, rounded off a good day by finishing third and now head the fleet.
Tornado © Event Media
Single-handed Dinghy - Men
Today, the defending champion had his best day of the championship so far. Making hard work of the first six races in the series, today Ben AINSLIE (GBR) was back to the form that has won him two European Championships, one Finn Gold Cup and the Athens test event. Leading the first race from the start he won by more than a minute, and he then placed second in race eight, behind local hero Rafael TRUJILLO (ESP) after a drama played just yards from the finish line.
However the first problem was the wind _ or rather the lack of it. A change in the weather saw the day dawn with flat calm, cloud filled skies and a misty haze over the Bay of Cadiz. All racing was postponed and it was not until 13:00 that the AP came down and the fleet was sent out to sea.
The racing finally started at 14.40 in a patchy 5-6 knot north-westerly. Offshore initially looked like the favoured side, but half way up the first beat more pressure appeared to the right and those who poked that way, lifted up to the mark. Ben AINSLIE (GBR) takes up the story. 'I started just down from the committee boat where there was a bit space, got lifted out of the start and then tacked over to the right where the majority of the fleet were going.' Ben's excellent start put him in clear air and he crossed the whole fleet when going right to lead into the windward mark by about 10 boatlengths from Kristian ADERMAN (SWE) Peter FOX (NZL), Emilios PAPATHANASSIOU (GRE) and Karlo KURET (CRO).
The gap that Ben had made allowed him to escape downwind, while the following pack slowed each other down. Many of the other favourites were buried in the 20s and 30s. On the second beat, most of the fleet went hard right again, playing the shifts on the inshore side of the course. Ben extended his lead here while Gasper VINCEC (SLO) and Andrew Simpson (GBR) moved up to third and fourth respectively behind Ben and Emilios.
The breeze had increased slightly for the eighth race to around 10 to 12 knots, and the race officer started it very promptly after the previous race. Again the committee boat end was biased with most sailors looking for a clear route through to the previously favoured right hand side. Everyone was too keen though, but after one general recall, the fleet got cleanly away. Mateusz KUSZNIEREWICZ (POL) started right by the committee boat and tacked off to the right. Sebastien GODEFROID (BEL) followed him slightly to windward, while Ainslie and Simpson started slightly down from the committee boat end and headed off slightly left before tacking and trying to get back to the right.
Finally finding his form and definitely the man of the day, Ben Ainslie's first and second moves him into the overall lead. Andrew Simpson's consistency moved him up to second overall, while his win, combined with a 19th, moves Rafael Trujillo up to 3rd.
One of the pre-regatta favourites and twice world champion Mateusz Kusznierewicz has moved up to ninth overall after a seventh and third today. Speaking before today's races about his below average performance so far he said, 'I have had good starts, clear air out of the starts and good speed, but just haven't been able to get the shifts right. I don't know why, maybe it's just one of those regattas. However we are only half way through and there is still a long way to go.' With only 20 points between him and fourth overall, if he continues to find some form - and the right shift - he could yet pose a threat to the leaders
Double-handed Dinghy - 470
In the 470 Men, two races were sailed today in approx. 5-6 kts. of wind in the morning, increasing to a 6-8 kts. NE wind in the afternoon, as a conclusion of the six qualifying races. The Race Committee at course Beta, the course of the 470 Women, managed to conclude the qualifiers yesterday already, being a little more lucky with local winds at the Bay of Cadiz, the Arena of the ISAF World Sailing Championships.
In all groups A-B-C the results were exciting Eugeny BRASLAVETS / Igor MATVIENKO (UKR) had a great day by sailing a 2nd and 1st position in their Group. The Spanish Men also seemed to be in the mood to perform best results on home waters. Gustavo MARTINEZ DORESTO / Dimas WOO finished 1st and 2nd in today's races which places them in a 2nd overall position, 7 points behind the Italian leaders after 1 discard. Marc PATINO / Juan MORENO OMAR finished 2nd in race 5, however they finished 12th in race 6, which now has been calculated as a discard. They currently take the 6th overall rank,
Remarkable are the results of the Japanese sailors at this 470 Worlds event. Ath the Mens's Fleet, 62th ISAF World Ranked Taisei SANBU / Motoharu TAKAMURA is currently ranked 8th after a quite interesting serie of 5-2-14-2-3 and an unfortunate 23 that was discarded.
Nick ROGERS / Joe GLANFIELD from Great Brittain are well known for their excellent performance in the 470 Class. For their doing, they had a bad start in the event, but they now progress and climb to a 13th overall position by today's results of 1 and 3 in their Group.
Winners of the Open Europeans in Brest, July this year, USA's Paul FOERSTER / Kevin BURNHAM seem to lose grip on their promising start as they fall to a 16th overall position.
Many eyes are focused on Simon COOKE / Peter NICHOLAS. The Title defenders from New Zealand seem to have a start up problem and climb slowly from a 34th rank yesterday, to a 24th overall position through a 7th position in race 6 today.
With these further events now decided, the table for best performing nation, the prize the IOC President's Cup, looks like this.
President of the IOC Cup - Current Standings for Completed Events