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10 July 2007, 05:47 pm
World Champion Tom SLINGSBY
World Champion Tom SLINGSBY

ISAF Sailing World Championships 2007
Cascais, Portugal

Tom SLINGSBY (AUS) has won the 2007 Laser World Championship title on day eight of racing at the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Cascais, Portugal. Tatiana DROZDOVSKAYA (BLR) won gold after an incredible finish to the Laser Radial Medal Race.
In a 12-14 knot breeze on a windward-leeward course SLINGSBY won gold after recovering from a poor start to finish sixth in the Medal Race. Deniss KARPAK (EST) was in the silver medal position until he was called for penalty turns. A brilliant final run lifted Andrew MURDOCH (NZL) up to second place in the Medal Race and gave him the silver medal, with Estonia's KARPAK completing the podium.

The wind built up to around 20-22 knots during the Laser Radial Medal Race. In an incredible finish, Sari MULTALA (FIN) was in a gold medal winning position until she underestimated the layline to the final mark and was forced into a double tack. This brought Tatiana DROZDOVSKAYA (BLR) up into contention and the two had a drag race to the finish line to decide the World title. They crossed the line fractions apart but with DROZDOVSKAYA ahead, giving her the World title with MULTALA winning the silver medal. Petra NIEMANN (GER), who led going into the Medal Race, took the bronze.

Conservative Approach

In reflecting on his World Championship success, SLINGSBY pointed to two key factors which have become a recurring theme throughout the Championships. First of all the very shifty, tricky wind and then the way to counter it, a more conservative approach aiming at consistent scoring.

'It's just crazy conditions out there,' said the new Laser World Champion. 'You couldn't afford to be too risky, if you went too far to one side you put it all on the line - you were first or last. I think I played a bit more percent game than a lot of the sailors and I didn't end up with too many high scores - I think I was just a bit more consistent.'

SLINGSBY came to Cascais as one of the favourites to take the title. Although he is just 22, over the past three seasons he has regularly won at the top regattas in Europe and Australia and was the World Championship silver medallist in 2006 (injury prevented him from competing in 2005). On top of that, he won the Europeans shortly before arriving in Cascais and he is renowned for his speed in heavy weather conditions, something we have seen plenty of this week.

Despite a nightmare start to the regatta, with a 21 in the opening race, SLINGSBY cruised through the rest of the opening series to lead going into the gold fleet. There his conservative approach really paid dividends, with two solid if unspectacular scores on Sunday giving him a 12-point lead going into the Medal Race. In the final race of last year's Laser Worlds in Korea, Michael BLACKBURN (AUS) match raced him out of the gold medal spot and in the press conference after the Medal Race today, SLINGSBY revealed that the memories of Korea had been playing on his mind, 'To come so close last year and lead for seven days and lose on the eighth day, this year it was definitely going through my head today.'

But this time round it was SLINGSBY who was in the driving seat, and despite a poor start he recovered to sail to the crucial sixth place that guaranteed him the World title. 'It's just such a relief to finally get one and hopefully I can get more in the future as well,' he concluded.

To The Wire

DROZDOVSKAYA's win in the Laser Radial is another surprise in the Olympic Class becoming more and more reliable at producing them. Before today she had never even finished in the top ten in a World Championship. Like the other medallists, MULTALA and NIEMANN, she formerly sailed the Europe, competing in both the Sydney and Athens Olympics, before making the switch to the Radial. At home in Belarus she sails on Minsk Lake - hardly similar conditions to Cascais, although she did reveal that Sunday's conditions in the lighter and shifting breeze on race area 3, which caused a massive shake up the top ten, did bare some comparison.

However these were not the conditions that greeted the Radial fleet today. After they sailed out to the start area, the wind was definitely shifty, but strong around 20 knots and gusting much higher, resulting in several capsizes on the course.

NIEMANN lead going into the race but tacked too close to the first mark and had to take a penalty, relegating her to the back of the fleet. Although she fought back from there, she could not recover the deficit back to the leaders. In contrast Katarzyna SZOTYNSKA (POL) nailed the start and led right around the course. However she went into the Medal Race in ninth overall and was never really in the medal hunt.

The Medal Race

After a poor start DROZDOVSKAYA was stuck at the back of the fleet, but managed to make up ground on every upwind, with the big gusts causing carnage on the course around her. She gambled by going left on the final work and made a big gain on MULTALA, who was then second in the race and in a gold medal winning position. In the building breeze MULTALA then underestimated the layline to the final mark and was forced into a double tack. 'I maybe could have made the mark but I thought it was better to tack,' she revealed afterwards. DROZDOVSKAYA sailed past and then the two were neck-a-neck on the final downwind.

With NIEMANN way back down the fleet, it was a run for gold. 'It was very hard because we were going together,' revealed DROZDOVSKAYA afterwards, literally shaking as she still seemed to be recovering from the shock of winning. 'I was very afraid of capsizing because it was very windy. I was looking at Sari and it was close, close, close.'

DROZDOVSKAYA and MULTALA appeared to cross the finish line together with an almost imperceptible gap to the naked eye - MULTALA afterwards said 30 centrimetres. NIEMANN came across in seventh and the title had been decided. DROZDOVSKAYA herself did not even realize she had won until told by fellow competitor Tania ELIAS CALLES (MEX).

Perfectly Poised

The Finn fleet had another excellent day of racing with a solid 20 knot breeze giving them two races in the gold fleet to decide the Medal Race line up. It was a day of up and down scoring amongst the top names, with overnight leader Emilios PAPATHANASIOU (GRE) choosing the wrong side of the course in the second race of the day to end up posting a 35. Pieter-Jan POSTMA (NED) now leads after two single-digit scores today, but it's incredibly close going into the Medal Race. Just five points separate POSTMA from defending World Champion Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN) in seventh place. Looking ahead to tomorrow HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN summed it up best: 'Anyone can win the gold. It will make great TV.'

The camera crews will also be waiting with baited breath for the Yngling Medal Race, with the much-hyped British showdown between Athens gold medal winning team mates turned rivals Sarah AYTON (GBR) and Shirley ROBERTSON (GBR) perfectly poised. AYTON and her crew Sarah WEBB and Pippa WILSON lead ROBERTSON, Lucy MACGREGOR and Annie LUSH by just one point, with the Dutch and American teams close enough to prevent a match race at the back of the pack.

Ricardo SANTOS (BRA) was on fantastic form in the first gold fleet races in the RS:X. A 1,2 score for the day gives him the overall lead ahead of world #1 Przemyslaw MIARCZYNSKI (POL). Zofia KLEPACKA (POL) held on to her lead in the women's fleet, whilst Barbara KENDALL (NZL) had a great day to move from sixth to second overall.

Stevie MORRISON and Ben RHODES (GBR) are seven points ahead after eight races in the 49er. Overnight leaders and breeze specialists Nathan WILMOT and Malcolm PAGE (AUS) and Marcelien DE KONING and Lobke BERKHOUT (NED) both posted a bullet apiece in today's windy 470 race to hold onto their top spots.

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