This year's ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship has already been described as one of, if not the best championship for a number of years. It cannot be denied that it has also been one of the closest fought in many of the classes.
Going into today's racing there were already three Gold medals decided, and today, after the final race of the regatta, three more were fought over in conditions that started as boisterous as yesterday, but became lighter as the morning progressed.
Racing all week has been as fiercely competitive on the water as expected of a group of sailors of this calibre, but there has been a sense of friendly rivalry between nations on the shore, where everyone relaxes and chills out together. Many friendships have been forged at this regatta that will last sailors for the rest of their careers.
All in all, it has been a regatta for the Southern hemisphere sailors, who have proved dominant across the wind range, and been well deserved in taking the Nation's Cup, which will be presented at this evening's Closing Ceremony in Funchal. But onto the racing - here follows a class-by-class round up of the 2003 ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship, Madeira.
Boys Double-handed - 420
From early on in the Championship, Nathan OUTTERIDGE and Ayden MENZIES (AUS), showed the fleet their intentions on the long first day of the regatta with three first places. Setting out with what they intended to try and do for the rest of the championship. The French pair of Loic Le BACQUER and Yannick PEDUZZI did push them hard throughout the mid section of the regatta but when the pressure was on, the Aussies couldn't be beaten - Literally! Four straight wins in the final throws of the Championship gave them the title with two races to spare, and although looking very lethargic and relaxed on the final day today, they still went out and scored a final victory.
Second placed Le Bacquer and Peduzzi sailed consistently as well, but could not quite get the edge needed to win more races in the difficult conditions experienced over the week. Third place overall went to Lucas CALABRESE and Damien SAPONARA (ARG), who despite a shocking first day to the regatta, pulled something special off midway through the week with three firsts in a row.
Girls Double-handed - 420
Again it was Australia one, France two in the girls 420 fleet, and the Aussies won it with a race to spare, although once again, Elise RECHICHI and Raychele MARTIN went out for the final race "just to make sure". They have now gone one better than their silver medal in Canada to take Gold here in Madeira. Camille LECOINTRE and Gwendolyn LEMAITRE (FRA) pushed them hard on the final day and did as much as they could by winning the final race, and closing the gap to within 2 points of the winning team. But it was never going to be enough and the French Team can walk away from the event safe in the knowledge of two hard fought Silver medals in these two classes.
Making a last ditch effort to get into the final podium positions, the British pair of Alison MARTIN and Bethan CARDEN finished on a high with a third place overall to leapfrog team Singapore into third place.
When asked about the Championship, Elise said that,"It was such a great privilege to come to such a fantastically well organised Championship on such a beautiful island. The racing was fair and close, which is great for the spectators, and for when you are competing."
Raychele went on to add, "I'd like to thank all the sponsors and the people of Madeira for hosting such a good event, I had a great time."
Boys Single-Handed - Laser
This discipline was a much closer event, with a result that wasn't decided until the very final race. AS the fleet came back into shore it was clear Ricky IRONMONGER (AUS) had won when he un-ceremoniously capsized before even reaching the slipway.
Towards the middle of the week it was impossible to make an educated guess as to who would come out on top of the standings. It was between the Aussie, Norbert WILANDT (POL), Tonci STIPANOVIC (CRO) and Luke JUDGE (NZL). Most sailors in the fleet won a race over the duration of the Championship and it was only towards the end that Ironmonger came into his own. Winning races nine and ten, probably the windiest ones of the regatta, set him up well, and a second place in the final race was enough to give him his first World Championship Gold medal, and Australia's third this year.
Third place eventually went to Stipanovic, after his seventh in the final race was enough to give him a two-point advantage over Judge in fourth.
Girls Single-handed - Laser Radial
Paige RAILEY (USA) and Krystal WEIR (AUS) had a phenomenal battle all week. Paige had a slow start to the regatta with an OCS on day one, but following that minor mishap put in a string of top ten results to gradually catch Krystal. Both had equal points and an equal number of firsts and seconds in their results to set up for the final race. Whoever did better in the last race would win the Gold Medal, providing they both finished in the top ten. As it was, with a focussed last race performance it was the American who came out on top, by a single point. "I Can't wait to tell everybody about it, in fact, I've been ringing everyone since I came ashore, I'm really excited."
Paige explained at the post race press conference.
Paige has gone two better than her last result of a bronze medal in the Byte in Canada last year.
Krystal, finishing almost as close as you can get to Paige has, by winning the silver medal, added vital points to the overall aim of the Australian Team, the Nations Cup.
We cannot publish the final results for the Laser as yet, as the battle for bronze is ongoing. ISAF APP funded Gea BARBIC (CRO) lies on equal points with Sarah STEAYERT (FRA) for third place and that result is currently subject to a protest.
Sailboard Boys - Mistral
For Mariano BENITEZ (ARG), one leg of one race of this entire Championship will stick out in his mind. In the last race, at the last windward leg, he led Wing Ho YU (HKG). Not by a great margin, but he led. As the two set off on the last leg of the Championship, YU gybed off early and Benitez watched as he picked up a little more pressure to overtake and at the finish line take the gun, and the World Championship title.
All the way throughout the week the two had battled, each leading at some point in the regatta and going into the last day, Benitez was one point ahead. The only way Yu could win the Championship was to win the last race, leaving them tied on 25 points each. A tie, which the young lad from Hong Kong broke on countback. Despite a string of Bronze medal successes, this is the first Youth World Gold Medal Hong Kong has won since Ho Chi HO in 1999.
Sailboard Girls - Mistral
Zofia KLEPACKA had already won the Championship in the Girls discipline before today had even started and the battle was on today for second place between Flavia TARTAGLINI (ITA) and the resurgent Blanca MANCHON (ESP). Despite a second in the final race behind Zofia. Blanca could not improve her bronze medal and must be aware that at one stage of the regatta, even that could have looked doubtful.
So to the Nations Cup. With three Gold medals and a silver in the overall results, Australia are the worthy winners of this year's Nation's Cup.
With it they are only the third nation in the history of the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship to walk away with three Gold medals. The first time was France in 1992, and the second being Great Britain in 1995, when Sydney Olympic Gold medallist Ben Ainslie took Gold in the Laser.
Australia have done one better than both France and Great Britain by claiming a silver medal to add to their luggage for the journey home, sure to be an emotional one as 2003 in Madeira represents the best ever overall performance by a nation at the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship.
Second are the ever present French Team, having consistently won medals at this event since it's conception. France are still one of the best Youth Nations in the sport, and have yet again proved that to themselves and to the world.
Last year's winners, New Zealand, have let the trophy go to their big rivals in the southern hemisphere, but another successful Championship for them.
Overall the event has been said by many to be one of the best Championships in the event history, and the event website has some fantastic pictures of all aspects of the Championship, as well as the full and updated results. For more information click on the link at the bottom of this page.