In contrast to yesterday's strong easterly wind conditions, today dawned bright, sunny, and windless over all the race areas on the Bay of Cadiz. As predicted though, the sea breeze filled in and racing got underway for the scheduled classes.
Today was the first qualification day for the Yngling fleet, and the final day of qualification for the Europe class. Racing took place on both courses after a slight delay to wait for some breeze. When it did fill in, it began as a light gradient from the north-eastern quadrant.
The Ynglings, following two-days of measurement, were straight into their first championship race, as no one sailed in yesterday's practice race, preferring to save their kit from potential damage. A whole six knots were recorded at the start of race one, which got away first time, without incident.
In mentally demanding conditions, Dorte JENSEN (DEN)
came away from race one with a deserved victory from Russian sailor Anna BASALKINA
and her crew. Whilst Dorte is currently ranked third in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, and is expected to be a contender for the World Champion's title. Anna is a little further back in 14, and will be pleased with her first race result.
Dorte, who has a full time job as well as competing at the highest level of Olympic sailing, announced today that she would probably retire from the Yngling following Athens to concentrate on her career as well as match racing. Commenting on their performance, she noted, "the shifts and the pressure varied a lot, we got good starts and had a bit of luck being on the right side of shifts, it was hard sailing out there."
There are mixed pressures on the Danish number one, but she seems very philosophical about them. As well as the obvious World Championship there are also qualification issues at stake. "This is the first qualification regatta and there are three more in the spring. It's a long period in which to perform."
However, with only two Danish Ynglings in the frame, Dorte and the crew helmed by Trine PALLUDAN,
judging by current performance the odds are that Dorte will be in Athens.
In race two for the class, Jody SWANSON, crewed by ISAF council member Cory SERTL and Elizabeth KRATZIG (USA) took the gun from fellow US sailor Carol CRONIN. This result for Swanson means that after day one, she leads from Jensen, who placed fifth in race two. Jody noted on her performance, "some days are better than other days, we managed to have good starts and got a couple of good lanes in which to take the shifts."
The route to qualification for a national Olympic team is varied, and no two sailors highlight the two ends of the spectrum more than Jody SWANSON and Dorte JENSEN. Whilst the Danish system is a series of events, in the USA it's all down to one regatta. Jody commented. "With no pressure on us from a qualification perspective, we're using this as part of the learning process. US selection is one regatta in February, anyone can show up, and if they win, they go. So for Olympic qualification this [Championship] means nothing."
Jody was delighted with the opening place, made sweeter that higher ranked US crews place below her, including the world's number one, Betsy ALISON.
Meanwhile, defending World Champion Monica AZON (ESP) had a poor opener, with a 26 in the first race, but was back on form to take a further in race two, and now sits in fifteenth overall.
Today was the final day of qualification for the Europe class before the fleet is split into Gold and silver for the final three days of racing, which start on Tuesday. In the overall standings, all the race results excluding discards, including those in qualification, count towards the final result.
After the first race today (race 5) a discard came into place, which helped some, but others who managed to pull in two poor results after today's sailing. Sari MULTALA (FIN)
seems to prefer the breezier conditions and has had a day she will no doubt wish to analyse, then forget. After a first race position of 32, she was still leading by a slim, two-point margin from Siren SUNDBY (NOR), but a 52 in race six has dropped her to eighth overall.
Sundby has now taken the overall lead in the regatta with a consistent score in which she hasn't finished out of the top five. Nine points behind her is Sarah MACKY (NZL), who dropped a 29 place finish in the second race of the day, a score which she currently discards.
The two winners of race 6 in both groups, Petra NIEMANN (GER) and Blandine ROUILLE (FRA), are currently tenth and eleventh in the overall results. Niemann, who is confident of being selected to represent Germany at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens is looking to improve her overall position in the final races, "I would be happy with a top five result here"
, she commented on coming ashore.
Tomorrow, qualification continues for the Yngling class, and starts for the Mistral and Star fleets. The Europe class has a lay day before the finals start on Tuesday. Full results for the classes are available on the event website at the address below.