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12 July 2007, 04:49 pm
Day 10: Poland And Brazil Win Windsurfing Gold
World Champion Ricardo SANTOS
World Champion Ricardo SANTOS

ISAF Sailing World Championships 2007
Cascais, Portugal

In the first of today's two windsurfing Medal Races at the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Cascais, Zofia KLEPACKA (POL) stormed through the pack to win the 2007 Women's RS:X World Championship title in style. Ricardo SANTOS (BRA) won the Men's RS:X World Championship title after an incredible finish to the day's second Medal Race.
After an action-packed first beat, KLEPACKA stormed back through the fleet to win the World title with a Medal Race bullet. Barbara KENDALL (NZL) had at one stage been in a gold medal winning position, but eventually finished in eighth, just holding on to the silver medal. Jessica CRISP (AUS) won her battle with world #1 Marina ALABAU (ESP) to take the bronze.

If the women's race was exciting, the Men's RS:X Medal Race was something else. World #1 and eventual World Championship silver medallist Przemyslaw MIARCZYNSKI (POL) called it 'the most incredible race in my life'. It ended with SANTOS crossing the line in seventh place to take his first World Championship title, with MIARCZYNSKI getting silver and Nick DEMPSEY (GBR) the bronze.

Youth Versus Experience

The Women's RS:X Medal Race was billed as a battle between youth and experience, with KLEPACKA, just 21 years old, lining up against triple Olympic medallist KENDALL, aged 39, in a battle for the World title. Initially the pendulum swung in favour of experience as KLEPACKA came under early pressure and dropped to the back of the fleet after falling off her board on the first beat, whilst at the front of the race KENDALL lead round the first mark and was in position to win her fifth windsurfing World Championship. But from there KLEPACKA took control, reading the shifty breeze perfectly and flying on the downwinds to sail right through the fleet and lead into the slalom finish. She made no mistake on the technical final section, taking race victory ahead of CRISP.

'I'm so happy - I don't believe it. I'm very young and I win a World Championships,' exclaimed KLEPACKA afterwards.

Although young, her World Championship win comes as no great surprise. She demonstrated her massive potential by winning four consecutive ISAF Youth World titles on the Mistral board from 2001-2004. KLEPACKA has been quick to make the step up to senior success, finishing fourth at last year's Worlds on Lake Garda and consistently placing amongst the top five this season. Cascais has provided the perfect fit for her and she has excelled in the shifty, moderate to strong breeze.

From being in the race lead and a gold medal winning position, KENDALL found some of the big holes on the course and fell back down the standings, eventually crossing the line in eighth, just enough to hold on to the silver medal.

'The conditions are very, very shifty and very radical out there so anything can happen in a race like this. So you have to be a little bit lucky and a little bit fast and I missed out on the luck,' she said after the race.

Both KENDALL and CRISP represent the experienced-end of the Women's RS:X fleet and it will be interesting to see how the battle for Beijing pans out between them and the up and coming youngest like KLEPACKA. But for today, youth reigns in Cascais.

No Athens Repeat

Going into the men's race SANTOS held an eight point lead, but he also carried with him the memories of Athens two years ago when he led going into the final race but saw the gold, silver and then bronze medals slip through his grasp.

The start was delayed as the race committee waited for the wind to stabilize, but when racing did get underway the regular shifts and puffs caused numerous place changes. Initially SANTOS looked to be in control, but by the gate he had dropped four places behind MIARCZYNSKI, a result which would see him lose the gold medal.

As the shifts came through the positions continued to dance around and a big puff at the end brought the entire fleet together for the final slalom section of the course. Ivan PASTOR (ESP) crossed the line first, whilst MIARCZYNSKI came across fourth, followed by DEMPSEY, Joao RODRIGUES (POR) and then SANTOS in seventh place, crucially within three places of MIARCZYNSKI and securing the World title for Brazil.

After the race SANTOS revealed that he had had trouble sleeping last night as he relived the memory of Athens. But it was an experience that he used to advantage today. 'In Athens I was always looking at the other guys, trying to keep in front of them,' SANTOS revealed. 'It didn't happen and I made really bad decisions.' Today he was fully focussed on sailing his own race, concentrating on the wind and not the scoreboard.

It is an approach that has worked for him all week long. During the past seven days he has amassed four bullets and finished in the top five in every single race. After the race he explained the strategy that he has used to piece together the Cascais puzzle, 'Since the first day of the regatta I was always watching the wind, looking for the gusts, trying to be inside the gusts. I made very good decisions - when to start planing, when to use the daggerboard - and I think that's the most important thing here in all the races, even in the Medal Race.'

Medal Race Line Ups

The final two races for the 49er and 470 gold fleets decided their Medal Race line ups. The 470s were again racing out on course areas 4 and 5, whilst the 49ers where in the shiftier breeze closer to the shore.

In the Men's 470 fleet the first race was won by home favourites Alvaro MARINHO and Miguel NUNES (POR) with fleet leaders Nathan WILMOT and Malcolm PAGE (AUS) in fourth. Crucially for the Aussie pair Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD (GBR) scored a 33 after their spinnaker ripped on the first downwind leg, effectively ending their medal chances.

This left Sven COSTER and Kalle COSTER (NED) as their closest rivals for gold and the Aussie pair ruthlessly exploited their better drop, electing to sail the Dutch brothers down the fleet. The strategy almost backfired as the COSTERs escaped their watch, but the Dutch boys sailed into a hole on the right of course and WILMOT and PAGE were able to get ahead and sat on top of them for the remainder of the race. Consequently they are in an almost unbeatable position going into tomorrow's Medal Race, 18 points ahead. A second place for MARINHO and NUNES in race 9 lifted them into the bronze medal position.

In the women's fleet, double World Champions Marcelien DE KONING and Lobke BERKHOUT (NED) were in awesome form again, winning both races ahead of Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX (FRA). After a 4 in the opening race of the series, the Dutch duo have posted only first and second places, but PETITJEAN and DOUROUX have also been in fine form and are only 11 points behind going into tomorrow's Medal Race. Japan's Ai KONDO and Naoko KAMATA currently lead a close three-way fight for third.

Although PETITJEAN and DOUROUX are the only team that can beat the Dutch leaders, BERKHOUT said they won't be employing an Aussie-style tactics to drag them down the fleet, 'We'll do our own thing for the start and, of course, we'll look where the French are because that's the only opponent we still have for the gold medal, but we won't start off with a match race. We'll just do our own thing, we're good at that and we'll see where we end up.'

49ers

It was a mixed day for overnight leaders in the 49er Stevie MORRISON and Ben RHODES (GBR), who posted a bullet and a 23rd to end the day with an 11-point lead. Nico DELLE - KARTH and Nikolaus LEOPOLD (AUT) remain their closest challengers. Pietro SIBELLO and Gianfranco SIBELLO (ITA) were the standout performers today with 6,1 scores giving them an outside shot at the gold medal.

Looking ahead to tomorrow's Medal Race MORRISON was taking nothing for granted, 'I don't think anything's very certain. We've had our fair share of luck but have tried to keep ourselves out of trouble. We haven't actually got any success yet so to speak, so we need to keep focussed.'

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