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4 July 2012, 09:39 am
Retracing Roots - Athens 2004 Olympic Sailing Competition
Athens 2004 Poster
Athens 2004 Poster

Athens 2004 Olympic Sailing Competition
Athens, Greece

Sailing was scheduled to take place at the inaugural Olympic Games at Athens 1896 but was cancelled due to bad weather. Fast forward 108 years and Athens played host to the Olympic Games for the second time with 11 events on show.
There were Men's and four Women's events with the 49er, Finn and Tornado Open and compared to Sydney 2000's Olympic the only difference was the introduction of a Women's keelboat, the Yngling, in favour of the Soling.

All the events were held at the Agios Kosmas Olympic Sailing Centre, located at Hellinkio, 34km from the Olympic Village and approximately 14km south of the centre of Athens.

During Athens 2004 all 11 classes managed to sail 11 scheduled races, with the exception of the 49er that sailed 16 out of 16. In three classes the results were decided with a race to spare: the Women's 470 with Sofia Bekatorou and Aimilia Tsoulfa (GRE), the Yngling with Shirley Robertson, Sarah Webb and Sarah Ayton (GBR) and the Star with Torben Grael and Marcelo Ferreira (BRA).

It was a second gold for British Yngling helm Robertson as it was for Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher in the Tornado, the catamaran having reinvented itself with twin-trapezes, reconfigured mainsail and jib and the addition of a spinnaker.

Though match racing had been dropped from the Games, Americans Kevin Burnham and Paul Foerster were engaged in one by Britons Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield for the 470 Men's gold, the result going the Americans' way.

Despite the best laid plans for making the venue accessible to the public through a walkway, breakwater and specially created medal ceremony amphitheatre, the Greek authorities had a late change of mind and one of sailing's best ever facilities become a secure encampment.

Full results available here.

Ainslie Dominates Finn

Having outgrown the Laser, Ben Ainslie (GBR) moved into the Finn, jumped straight to the top of the class and was clear favourite for another gold. His first two races were weak with conservative starts and some missed shifts. Then he tangled with Guillaume Florent whom he crossed on port tack believing the Frenchman had waved him through.

Ainslie was DSQ and was 19th after two races, his two discards effectively used. He responded with a breath taking display of sailing. His starts were courageous and inch perfect, he was in sync with the shifts and Ainslie picked-off competitors at will. It was a bravura display that gave him his second Olympic sailing gold medal.

Greek Ecstasy

Greek celebrations were ecstatic when Sofia Bekatorou and Aimilia Tsoulfa won Women's 470 gold, backed up by the 1996 gold medallist Nikolaos Kaklamanakis winning the silver in the Mistral behind Israel's Gal Friedman, who won the bronze in 1996.

And their success certainly didn't go unnoticed…

Sailing Lights Up The 2004 Olympics…

The Olympic Flame, lit in Ancient Olympia and having travelled the world, visiting for the first time all five continents, was carried around the Athens 2004 Olympic Stadium by famous Greek athletes from basketball, athletics, weightlifting, artistic gymnastics and football.

But the honour of lighting the Olympic Cauldron was given to Olympic sailor Nikos Kaklamanakis who had won gold in the Mistral at Atlanta 1996 and silver at Sydney 2000.

…Sailing Dims The Lights On The 2004 Olympics

Women's 470 gold medallists Sofia Bekatorou and Emilia Tsoulfa accompanied ten-year-old Fotini Papaleonidopoulou in blowing out the Olympic Flame. The cauldron descended and Fotini took a spark, headed to the centre of the stadium and gently blew out the flame.

The Future

The Olympic Games headed to Beijing, China in 2008 and it was very much a landmark event for sailing as the Medal Race format that features the top ten competitors in a final-double point's race made its debut.
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