"The organizing committee and the people of Cascais have done a fantastic job in hosting the 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships," said ISAF President Goran PETERSSON. "Cascais has provided a magnificent arena for our sport and the Championships will be remembered as one of the highlights of the ISAF Centenary year. Congratulations to all the medallists and those sailors who have qualified their nation for the Olympic Games. We look forward to returning to Portugal this November for the ISAF Annual Conference in Estoril."
Out on the water Cascais delivered on all of its promises. Racing over five different course areas varied from light to full-on survival conditions, although the variability of the wind rather than its strength provided the biggest challenge. On the courses further offshore there were several days when the Nortada was gusting well over 30 knots making for some hair-raising moments, particularly on the outer loop courses. These were conditions where a calculated gamble could pay big dividends - such as the Dutch COSTER brothers streaking through the 470 fleet after daring to hoist their spinnaker in big breeze - but they could also put pay to a race in a matter of seconds as the numerous broken masts and ripped spinnakers testify.
However well you coped with the speed of the wind, it was ultimately how you read and played the shifts that was the key factor in success. The current and the nearby cliffs made racing on some of the courses especially challenging, but the race committees did a fantastic job to ensure competition was fair. Undoubtedly there was more than a trace of luck involved some of the time, but those who sailed with their head out of the boat were rewarded with consistent scores that saw them come out on top at the end of the Championships.
Newly crowned Laser World Champion Tom SLINGSBY (AUS) summed up the winning formula. '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 of a percent game.'
Tellingly, the very top performers in Cascais - highlighted by Marcelien DE KONING and Lobke BERKHOUT (NED) in the Women's 470 and Robert SCHEIDT and Bruno PRADA (BRA) in the Star - were those who had spent a lot of time at the venue training and becoming accustomed to the shifty breeze.
The focus out on the water inevitably came down to the final Medal Races, with some unbelievably close races the perfect present for the television producers responsible for broadcasting the action from Cascais live around the world. Whilst the windsurfers (silver medallist Przemyslaw MIARCZYNSKI (POL) called the Men's RS:X Medal Race 'the most incredible race in my life') and the Finn Medal Races gave it a close running, none was more exciting than the battle for gold in the Laser Radial. In a breezing building to over 20 knots, the destination of the gold medal chopped and changed around the course, eventually coming down to a drag race on the final run between Sari MULTALA (FIN) and Tatiana DROZDOVSKAYA (BLR). 'Close, close, close,' was DROZDOVSKAYA's description of an incredible finish, with the Belarusian beating MULTALA to the line and the World title by less than a metre
DROZDOVSKAYA's win was the major upset of the Championships, with the Laser Radial fleet again demonstrating its propensity for throwing up surprises. Otherwise the gold medallists all came from the list of pre-event favourites, going from the youngest, 21 year old Zofia KLEPACKA (POL) in the Women's RS:X, up to the eldest, SCHEIDT and PRADA, aged 34 and 35 respectively.
It also proved to be a Championships for erasing the memory of past demons. SLINGSBY, Ricardo SANTOS (BRA) in the Men's RS:X and Rafa TRUJILLO (ESP) in the Finn all won the World Championship title for the first time after suffering the agony of last-day defeat in previous years. In the Men's 470, Nathan WILMOT and Malcolm PAGE (AUS) won their third World title in four years to help ease the pain of last year's controversial Medal Race in China, where they lost the gold medal after picking up a penalty on the final run.
In the battle for Medals Great Britain were supreme, winning more medals than any other nation and finishing top of the Medal Table. Stevie MORRISON and Ben RHODES (GBR) won gold in the 49er, but the best example of the British success came in the Yngling. Sarah AYTON (GBR) won her battle with Shirley ROBERTSON (GBR) to take gold and Britain placed two teams on the podium and three in the top ten.
AYTON pointed to this level of competition within the team when explaining the British success on the medal table, 'It makes the biggest difference having someone on your heels the whole time. It just makes you train that little bit harder and I think that's why Team GBR are the best sailing nation in the world,' she said.
A total of 17 different nations won medals in Cascais, spread across four continents. As in Cadiz four years ago it was again the Europeans who dominated, winning 24 of 33 medals up for grabs and seven of the 11 World Championship titles.
However the Europeans cannot afford to rest on their laurels, especially with Qingdao beckoning. Stephen PARK, Skandia Team GBR Olympic Manager, was well aware of the increasing challenge to win medals, commenting, 'There's no doubt that it's getting more and more competitive and there's no doubt a number of the other teams have really raised their game over this Olympic cycle,' he said. Already nations from every continent have qualified for the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition, and whilst the Europeans shone in Cascais, a new challenge awaits…
Thank you to the Clube Naval Cascais, Turismo de Portugal and Estoril, Portugal Vela 2007 S. A. and Federacao Portuguesa de Vela for such a superb event. Thanks also to those who supported the Championships, especially the Camara Municipal de Cascais and the Cascais Marina.
Congratulations Cascais on a magnificent 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships.