On yesterday's penultimate day of the Pre-Olympic Test Event, Great Britain has won three medals - two gold and one silver - and are guaranteed one more medal, although the colour is yet to be decided.
Gold went to 2000 Olympic gold medallists Ben Ainslie and Shirley Robertson in the Finn and Yngling classes, and silver went to Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield in the 470 class.
Not far behind is the USA, who has claimed two silver medals, Germany two bronze medals, and each of Spain, Brazil, Italy, Greece Denmark, France, Sweden and Poland have a medal apiece of varying colours.
Single-handed Dinghy Men - Finn
With two races still to sail on yesterday's final day the pressure was on in the Finn class. Great Britain's Ben AINSLIE had a fourteen-point lead going into the final day and just had to stay out of trouble and sail safe in order to win a medal. Ainslie, who won the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in the Laser class before swapping to the larger Finn dinghy, was undefeated in these waters last year at the 2002 Olympic Test Event and had every intention of making sure that the title remained. A second and a fourth place secured him the regatta by twenty-one points from the 1996 Olympic gold medallist Mateusz KUSZNIEREWICZ (POL) with Rafael TRUJILLO (ESP) finishing third.
Ainslie commented, "I am obviously really pleased with my result here and it is a great advantage to remain unbeaten in these waters. However, there is never any air of complacency and you always have to keep pushing forwards to make the next step and stay in front of the field."
Keelboat Women - Yngling
A gold medal also went to fellow Olympic gold medallist Shirley ROBERTSON (GBR) and her crew of Sarah WEBB and Sarah AYTON. The points were close in the women's Yngling class and the medals came down to the final race which Robertson and her team went into placed in bronze medal position. The team kept their composure and took a risk on the final upwind leg, which paid off and gave them the race lead, which they kept to the finish. A win in the final race was enough to secure them the gold medal from Hannah SWETT, Joan TOUCHETTE and Melissa PURDY (USA), who had been leading the regatta from the second day.
Webb said, "We are really delighted with our result here and I am especially pleased as it is my first event win in the Yngling sailing with Shirley and Sarah. There are a number of positive things that we can take from this regatta to Cadiz with the main one being that we are now going a lot quicker, especially in conditions that we were not confident in before like in the lighter winds."
The USA's Yngling team made an impressive showing to earn their second silver medal in as many years. Posting bullets in three races put skipper Hannah Swett in medal-contention from early on in the regatta. Midway through the series Swett, Touchette and Purdy added a gold dot to their sails, indicative of their first-place position in the overall standings. "We're happy with our finish,"
summed up Swett at the press conference. "We were here last year, and we hope to come back next year."
The defending world champion Monica AZON (ESP) with crew of G PISONERA and M SANCHEZ did not fair so well, posting only one bullet in the 11 race series and finishing 9 in the 13 boat fleet.
Interestingly the top four finishing boats had a clear margin over the remainder of the fleet with a 20 point deficit between the fourth and fifth placed boats. Those boats placed 5 through to 9 shared a points difference of only 6 points, very close.
Double-handed Dinghy Men - 470
With one race to sail on the final day, the overnight leaders having managed to attain a significant margin over the rest of the fleet, Johan MOLUND and Martin ANDERSSON (SWE) placed third to secure the gold.
Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD (GBR) were in silver medal position going into the final race and just had to try and sail their own race as best they could in order to hold onto a medal. Making sure that the Italian pairing of Gabrio ZANDONA and Andrea TRANI were behind them, they crossed the line in seventh place, which was enough to secure them the silver, and the Italians bronze.
Glanfield summed up his thoughts on the importance of the regatta to their campaign, "this event has always been very important in our programme this year. Having done it the last time round in the Olympic cycle we know that it is the same as the Olympics - the venue is the same, as well as the way the regatta is run and many of the people here. In Sydney we were fourth at the pre-Olympics and then fourth at the Games, so we are hoping this is a good omen for what is to come."
The world ranking leaders, Andreas KOSMATOPOLOUS and Kostas TRIGONIS, did not find sailing on their home waters suited them this week, with some disappointing postings. However, always a crew to bounce back when it counts, we will see what Cadiz has in store.
Double-handed Dinghy Women - 470
However, Greek pride was maintained with the ever consistent Sofia BEKATOROU and Emilia TSOULFA (GRE), who despite a rather rattled start with an OCS in race 3, which had them down in the pegging, were soon back on form to post a series of excellent results in the 11 race series, including 8 in the top 5. With such results, it was not surprising, they took a significant margin over the second placed WARD sisters of Denmark, Susanne and Michaela.
Susanne and Michaela have taken rather a break from the 470 circuit, only returning to top level competition in the preceding 12 months. However, they are no strangers to the Olympics, having both represented Denmark at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, with Susanne also competing in 1992 in Barcelona, but with a different crew. Ranked 33 in the World and with Denmark not yet qualified for Athens, this pair will be hoping to repeat their form in Cadiz.
Taking the bronze medal on the podium was France's Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX, who despite an opening OCS sailed a consistent series to finish just 5 points behind the silver medallists.
Elsewhere, with two OCS on their scorline the regatta was not so kind to the current world ranking leaders, Natalia VIA DUFRESNE and Sandra AZON who finished seventh overall. However, with Spain already qualified for Athens 2004 and no doubt ready to benefit from the Spanish waters in September, Cadiz may prove kinder territory to this pairing.
Keelboat Men - Star
With only one point in it between the gold and silver medal positions, yesterday's final two races were tough, but it was clearly Olympic experience that counted on the day with double Olympic medallist Torben GRAEL and Marcelo FERREIRA (BRA) claiming the gold, ahead of Paul CAYARD and Phil TRINTER (USA).
Cayard and Trinter went into the final day of racing in fourth place overall facing a fleet that included Olympic veterans Torben Grael and Marcelo Ferreira (BRA), Peter BROMBY and Lee WHITE (BER), Ross MACDONALD and Kai BJORN (CAN), and Colin BEASHEL and David GILES (AUS). Yesterday, posting a 2-7 in the final two races of the series netted Cayard and Trinter 49 points for the regatta, just one point behind winners Grael and Ferreira. Cayard, an alternate on the USA's 1984 Olympic Team-Sailing, brought down the house at the post-race press conference with his comment that, " while many people mark their "midlife crisis" by purchasing motorcycles and Ferrari's, he's using his to try and go to the Olympics!"
Paul will be hosting the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards 2003 in Barcelona, Spain on 12 November 2003, but prior to that will be back on the startline in Cadiz.
Third place went to Marc PICKEL and Tony KOLB (GER).
Despite a set back earlier in the week when they suffered a broken mast, Olympic gold medallist in the Finn Class, Iain PERCY and crew Steve MITCHELL (GBR) and reigning World Champions in the Star left Athens on a high after scoring two first places on the final day, giving them additional confidence going into their European championships early next month in Cascais, Portugal, immediately prior to Cadiz.
Double-handed Dinghy Open - 49er
With both Chris NICHOLSON and Gary BOYD (AUS) and Paul BROTHERTON and Mark ASQUITH (GBR) guaranteed medals in the 49er fleet, although the colour is yet to be decided, today's final race will be a scorcher.
There have been many different leaders at the end of the day, showing the depth of talent and difficulty in mastering this highly competitive and spectacular fleet.
With twenty-two boats on the start line, there has been all to play for.
In third place are the defending World Champions Iker MARTINEZ and Xavier FERNANDEZ (ESP) and we will see if they can pull of a top result to remain in the medal standings.
Today will the final day of racing in Athens for the 49er, Laser, Europe, Mistral and Tornado class and the ISAF website will bring you the latest reports.