After their three days of compulsory measurement at the venue in Rota, to the south east of Puerto Sherry, the fleet started racing their qualification series towards the latter part of the week here in Cadiz.
The first couple of days were sailed in the moderate, if shifty easterly breeze, a breeze in which the Italian pair of Andreas TRANI and Gabrio ZANDONA, currently ranked 15 in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, seemed to revel. Seperated into three groups, the Italians scored well on the first few days and went into the final round as overall leaders by some way. They only faltered on the final day of qualification, scoring a 20 position on the proposed lay-day.
Gustavo MARTINEZ-DORESTE and Dimas WOOD (ESP), ranked eighth in the World, finished the group stages well, to sit seven points behind the leaders, ready to pounce on their every mistake going into the final five races.
Chasing hard behind Zandona and Trani were the ever-present sailors from the Southern hemisphere. World Ranked number two, Nathan WILMOT and Malcolm PAGE (AUS) had a rollercoaster ride of a qualification series, in the difficult conditions and dropped some results in the teens and ended the first six races down in ninth position. It would require a mental battle and some epic sailing in the final five races to pull them up from there.
But pull themselves up they did. The tail end of the Levante disappeared in the first two days of the final races for the men, to be replaced by a strong, westerly wind. Bolstered by the sea breeze, the wind bought huge Atlantic swells into the bay of Cadiz, and turned the results round.
Leaders going into the final series, Zandona and Trani, faltered a little in the first days of the Poniente, scoring seventh and eighth positions. But so did their Spanish counterparts and after the first day of the finals, they sat nine points ahead of the Martinez-Doreste and Wood.
The Wilmot and Page show started from then on in, winning the second race of the day by over two minutes, they obviously wanted to win. Badly. Adding to this score over the next day of racing, in an epic penultimate day, they went into the final day of racing in third place, only five points behind the leaders.
The final day was a tense affair, the Levante tried consistently to build over the predominant sea breeze, and when it finally did, racing was tense and nervous. A general recall, following by a black flag start, and the battle was on for World Championship and Olympic Qualification.
As it was, in the closely fought battle behind Eugeniy BRASLAVETS and Igor MATVIYENKO (UKR), eventual winners of the final race, the Italian pair, Zandona and Trani, finished in the top ten, and with Wilmot and Page finishing five points in front of the Spanish duo, the took a hard fought second place and silver medal.
As far as Olympic qualification goes, there were thirteen spots to be decided here, and as well as the ten decided at last year's World Championship, and the 6 at the 2004 qualifier, there will be 30 nations on the start line in Athens next year, including Greece as host nations.
Countries qualified in 2003, subject to ISAF ratification are: Brazil, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Korea, the Netherlands, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Sweden and Ukraine.
They join: Argentina, Australia, Spain, Great Britain, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal and USA, as well as Greece, in Athens 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