Sailing from the same location as the men, close to the US Naval Base in Rota, the first three days of competition involved the all important measurement and preparations, which were concluded in the hot easterly Levante that the other fleets were enjoying on the Bay of Cadiz.
When racing got underway on 18 September in the moderate Levante, Sofia BEKATOROU and Emilia TSOULFA (GRE) suggested that they might desperately want to win a record breaking fourth World Championship title. Three first places on the first two days of racing and they were getting off to the best possible start in the regatta.
Ranked 35 in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, Lisa WESTERHOF and Margriet MATTHIJSE (NED) looked like surprise early challengers to the dominant Greek pair, with a solid and consistent first two days racing they were on equal points with the Russian pair of Vlada ILIENKO and Natalia GAPONOVICH, currently ranked seventh in the World.
As the conditions changed, so did the results, and racing was always as close as it could be going into the final stages of the regatta. After the six qualification races, surprising expressions, even on their own faces, saw British pair Christina BASSADONE and Katherine HOPSON into second place after a discard had been applied. Christina said about their strategy, "The most important thing here is to qualify the Country [Great Britain] for the Olympics, we're a bit annoyed with the OCS but otherwise it seems to be on track."
Lisa and Margriet had dropped slightly after a disappointing final day in the qualifiers, and just behind Christina and Katherine sat the ever consistent pair from Russia.
As the final series of five races dawned, it seemed clear that Sofia and Emilia wanted to sew the championship up in as little time as possible with a first and a fourth on the first day. This meant that in the penultimate day of racing, the repeat World Champions could be crowned.
But help their cause they did not on the second to last day of racing here at Rota. Going into racing, only three points separated second to fourth, and it was emerging that the Australian superstars Belinda STOWELL and Jenny ARMSTRONG, coached by Viktor KOVALENKO, pulled of a comeback to sit in third place, ahead of Ilienko and on equal points with Westerhof in second.
So Sofia and Emilia went out on the second to last day and scored an OCS, denting their chances and meaning that to wrap it up with a day to spare, they would have to pull a blinder in the second race. This was a feat they achieved with an eighth place finish and a fourth World title.
Behind them popped up Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX (FRA), taking advantage of some inconsistent results between them and the leaders to nip into the silver medal position.
Just like in the Men's Fleet, many lower overall ranked Ladies were present in the front of the Fleet at the last final race. Petitjean and Douroux were able to take advantage of this situation and although, they were able to retain Silver. Jenny ARMSTRONG and Belinda STOWELL were less lucky and saw the Bronze medal slip from their grasp to Vlada ILIENKO and Natalia GAPONOVICH from Russia.
Countries qualified in 2003 for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, subject to ISAF ratification are: Australia, Denmark, Great Britain, Hungary, Japan, New Zealand, Slovenia, Sweden. They join the six nations who qualified last year: Spain, France Germany, Israel, the Netherlands and Russia, along with Greece as host nations.
A further four nations will qualifier in 2004.
For full daily reports, click on the dated links below.
Races 1 and 2, 18 September 2003
Races 3 and 4, 19 September 2003
Races 5 and 6, 20 September 2003
final qualification (lay-day), 21 September 2003
Races 7 and 8, 22 September 2003
Races 9 and 10, 23 September 2003
Race 11 and Medal Ceremony, 24 September 2003
Nations Qualified for the 2004 Olympic Regatta