With the wind blowing leading up to the 2003 ISAF World Championships, the word in the boat park was that this would be the Championship for Przemek MIARCZYNSKI (POL).
Whilst happy in all conditions, he is a stronger wind specialist, and was cherishing the thought of the title which he knew could be his.
One of the most physical of all the Olympic disciplines, windsurfing combines intense concentration, tactical thinking and pure athleticism. Races are short, sharp and mistakes are punished.
For the sailors, the camaraderie ashore is replaced by their desire to win afloat, and with the world's best in this 118 board fleet, including many Olympic and World Champions, aside from Przemek, it was open as to who else would be in the top three.
Despite a few light days, the wind blew solidly for the Mistral series, knocking some of the lighter guys, such as the world's number Maxim OBEREMKO (UKR) out of any hope of contention.
For Gal FRIDMAN (ISR), the sporting hero of Israel in 1996, when he won the country's first ever medal in sailing at the Olympics, when he took a bronze, the pressure was on as defending World Champion.
The opening day saw a 20 knot easterly, with the fleet split into two groups, based on their ranking. Two thirty minute races were the order of the day, which saw Przemek excel in the demanding conditions to take the gun in both races.
Race day two saw things looking good for Nikos KAKLAMANAKIS (GRE), as he placed a second and then what seemed like a victory, but a pushy start saw him OCS, dropping him to 31 overall. Przemek, better known as Pont, continued to show his dominance by winning his third race in a row, but with an 8 in race four, and an improving performance by the 1995 Mistral World Champion Joao RODRIGUEZ (POR), he and Joao tied for first.
Pont continued his winning streak going into the final day of qualification, taking another two firsts, despite an attempt by Jon Paul TOBIN (NZL) to win race 5, but the gun was Pont's.
With a lay day to recuperate, Friday saw them take to the water in the 20-25 knot Levante, and it was again Pont who dominated to take another two bullets, and a scoreline of 7 first places out of the 8 races, to lead over the second placed Joao by 22 points.
© David Bell
The penultimate day of racing saw the wind weaken considerably, but Pont dug deep to keep his performance up and take a bullet and a 6, just keeping his form in race 10, before the wind virtually disappeared. And with it the World Championship title. An Olympic windsurfer for many years, Pont has never won a major event, so for him this title meant everything and as he said "this is the greatest moment of my life."
The final day saw Pont on the sidelines watching from a support boat, whilst his friends fought it out on the water. With a postponed start waiting for the wind to fill in, the Silver and Bronze medals could go to any number of sailors aside from Nikos and Gal, but only if they finished low in the fleet. With a OCS to Nikos and a DSQ to Gal, along with another low posting apiece, they had to be careful to have any hope of a medal. But experience played through and despite a last minute attack from Joao, which saw Gal's bronze medal in his hands, Gal clawed his way back. Crossing the line within two places of each other, they jumped into the water to congratulate each other.
The 2003 ISAF World Championship offered fifteen Olympic Qualification slots, which go to Cyprus, China, Australia, Japan, Germany, Indonesia, Canada, Hong Kong, Thailand, Italy, USA, Slovak Republic, Turkey, Russia and Venezuela.
To view the day by day reports for the Mistral Men class:
Races 1 and 2, 15 September 2003
Races 3 and 4, 16 September 2003
Races 5 and 6, 17 September 2003
Mistral Lay Day, 18 September 2003
Races 7 and 8, 19 September 2003
Races 9 and 10, 20 September 2003
Race 11 and Medal Ceremony, 21 September
Nations Qualified for the 2004 Olympic Regatta