In a highly competitive fleet that includes among it's ranks, World Champions, Olympic medallists, Louis Vuitton Cup, America's Cup, Volvo Ocean Race and Whitbread winners, the start line of a star race here in Cadiz was never for the faint hearted.
166 sailors in 83 boats from 33 different nations competed with their peers, the world's best in a racing format that differed from previous Star Class World Championships; 3 races a day instead of one, and a qualifying phase in which the fleet was split into two groups each day before being seeded for the final three days of the championship and split into Gold and Silver.
Paul CAYARD (USA) said of the format of the racing early in the event. "I like the format. The days of sailing one race per day, that's old school. Sailing is a very time consuming sport to get ready for. It's not like tennis where you just walk out to the court. We have to amorise the set up time with two or three races per day - it's more fun for everybody."
This set up, in the early stages of the regatta at least, seemed to benefit the defending World Champions Iain Percy and Steve Mitchell (GBR), who apart from the opening race, put together a string of results that in any other fleet would have seen them walk away with the title. But they didn't count on their training partners fellow ex Finn sailor Xavier ROHART and Pascal RAMBEAU (FRA), who were never far behind.
In a bizarre twist of fate on the penultimate day of racing, the Levante steadily dropped all day and the Star class could only manage one light wind race in more of a sea breeze. Another bad race for Percy and Mitchell dropped them to third overall, and the ever consistent Rohart and Rambeau, in scoring a second place, were assured of the World Championship title.
Ranked number one in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, Freddie LOOF and Anders ELKSTROM (SWE) had some gear failure early in the week that forced them into a comeback on the last couple of days, a win in the penultimate race and a good enough last race pulled them up into silver medal position, with Percy and Mitchell taking the bronze.
All three of the medallists are great friends, and interestingly have all sailed the Finn class at the highest level in the sport, bringing even more depth and challenge for the more established sailors.
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Dutch sailors, Mark NEELEMAN, sailing with Alinghi Downwind trimmer Peter Van NIERKERK are ranked 35 in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings and considering their short time in the boat together this year, are showing superb form. A second at the Star European Championship this year was capped with a fantastic seventh place here. The pair are sure to be a force when Athens comes around next year.
There were seven further Olympic qualification slots available for this regatta, adding to the five who qualified at last year's championship in Long Beach. Seven more will qualify at next year's event, which will be the Star World Championship in Italy from 30 April - 8 May, and adding Greece as host nations to that list we will see 16 Stars in Athens.
So far the following nations qualified in 2002: Great Britain, USA, Bermuda, France, and Brazil. and they are joined by Austria, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia and Ukraine all subject to ratification by ISAF, as well as host nations Greece.
To view the day by day reports for the Star Class click on the links below
Races 1 and 2, 16 September 2003
Races 3 and 4, 17 September 2003
Races 5 and 6, 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 Athens 2004