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26 July 2003, 12:05 am
Spain and Brazil Triumph in Difficult Conditions
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420 World Championship
Hayling Island SailingClub

Appalling weather conditions forced the final day of sailing in the International 420 World Championships to be abandoned today.
Having viewed the race area, the Principal Race Officer made a quick decision that the lack of visibility and strong winds presented a potential danger, and with winds gusting over 50 knots by late morning his caution was soon justified.

For those looking forward to a final race shootout in the Ladies Championship, the abandonment of the final race was an inevitable disappointment. After a strong performance yesterday, British pair Charlotte Savage and Maia Walsh had given themselves a chance of the title with only four points separating them from the leaders Isabel Ficker and Laura Zanni of Brazil. The competition has been characterised by the rivalry between these two teams who have increasingly pulled away from the fleet, taking eight wins between them from the eleven races. Despite the lack of a final race, however, this has been an exciting world class event with plenty of races sailed to constitute a series. No one will begrudge Ficker and Zanni their gold; the Brazilian pair have been truly outstanding this week with fantastic boat speed in the stronger winds, and although the British may have liked a last chance, the run of five 1sts and a 2nd which gave the winners their title is a performance worthy of the new World Champions.

At the Junior European Championships which start in two weeks' time, Savage and Walsh will have an opportunity to reclaim some glory by retaining the title which they won last year, and after this week's excellent performance, they must go on to Athens as favourites. Dorothea Gebert and Natascha Lorenz (Germany) take bronze from their compatriots Silke Hahlbrock and Marion Rommel by only one point after a very consistent performance which was representative of their team's strength in this championship. Five German boats finished in the top fifteen, a performance matched only by the British entry who also showed considerable depth and consistency.

In the Men's Championship, France was the leading team, placing 2nd to 4th and walking away with two of the medals. Jose Antonio Medina Ruiz and Onan Barreiros Rodriguez of Spain held the French from the title, becoming World Champions by a comfortable nine points. The two races which would have been sailed today had the ability to affect the medals, but an outstanding performance would have been required to knock Spain from the top spot. Unlike the ladies' event, it has been general consistency which marked the men's victors out from the crowd. Their highest placing was a single 2nd and it was a run of top ten results won by careful tactics and consistently thoughtful racing which won Ruiz and Rodriguez gold. This experienced pair are surely worth watching for the future. The French team have always looked dangerous in this championship, and their strength was displayed by Nicolas Duron and Sebastian Durand, who pulled out an excellent performance on Thursday to take silver from countrymen Morgan Lagraniere and Nor Delpech. The missing final day will be regretted by those just outside the medals. Only twelve points separated Lagraniere and Delpech in 3rd from Fitzjohn-Sykes and Frazer in 7th, and two races could have changed the places on the podium.

It is rare, however, that a major sailing championships passes off without weather complications delaying or preventing racing, and the 420 World Championships has been a great success with plenty of exciting sailing in largely perfect conditions. With ten results for the men and eleven for the ladies, a great spread of races revealed the depth of talent which now exists in this 420 fleet. The skill and sailing ability which was displayed by the top contenders was consistently outstanding and the increasing international popularity of the 420 is reflected of the world class standard of the sailors who competed at this event.
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