Day Seven of the Championship has ended and with it the first confirmed Gold medal of the ISAF World Championship in the form of New Europe World Champion, Siren SUNDBY (NOR). All this plus a complete day seven wrap up.
Starting her day with a 23 place finish in the lighter breezes, Sundby wasn't making the task of sewing the championship up with a day to spare particularly easy for herself, especially as the race was won by the current third placed sailor, and World number one Sari MULTALA (FIN). After she came ashore, Siren admitted that she went out with a half hope that with two good results, she could consolidate her lead and sew it up beyond doubt. "After the stress I created in the first race I really wanted to go out and win it, so I sailed better in the second"
When asked how her result at the Athens Regatta 2003 as well as this World Championship title, stood her for Athens, she praised her closest competitors. "It's a one year to go and I'll do everything it takes to be there. I can't promise I'll win because I have two very good sailors sitting beside me, but it'll be an exciting regatta"
There are still silver and bronze medals to be decided so tomorrow is the final day of racing for every athlete in the Europe class to forge their best possible result, and keep their Olympic qualification hopes alive. Sari MULTALA (FIN) has had a mixed regatta, and commented on her current third place. "After the bad day [races five and six], I had to put that behind me, it has helped that due to the variable conditions, most people have had a bad race and I have been able to come back, I am very pleased to be in third place with a chance at second.
Lenka SMIDOVA (CZE), currently in second place, went out today hoping to consolidate her second place and to take the pressure off tomorrow. "But I was OCS in the first race and so I've made it harder for myself tomorrow, with Sari only six or seven points behind, but that's the way it goes!"
With nine nations already qualified for the Olympic Games in Athens next year, there are eleven slots available from this World Championship. At this point and going into the final day, these eleven slots appear to be occupied down to Canada in 27 position, and include amongst others, Mexico, Belgium, Slovakia, and the host Nations of this World Championship - Spain.
Sebastian GODEFROID (BEL) © Annemiek Van Kinderen Photography
The first day of racing in the Finn Class saw a few upsets with several new sailors showing their faces at the front of the fleet and several sailors normally at the front, picking up some large scores.
With the boats setting out in a good breeze, by the time they arrived at the race area, the wind was light and racing was postponed while the race committee evaluated their options. Race one finally got underway at 13.30 in 8 to 12 knots easterly with small waves.
The first beat saw the fleet separate evenly across the course which was set as a trapezoid in the lighter winds. David BURROWS (IRL) rounded first followed by Joao SIGNORINI (BRA), Alejandro COLLA (ARG), Ben AINSLIE (GBR) and Jonas HOEGH CHRISTENSEN (DEN). Most of the fleet favoured the right side on the run with Sebastien GODEFROID (BEL) making large gains on the final upwind leg to move up to second place behind Joao Signorini.
After the three offwind legs to the finish, Signorini held onto his lead ahead of Godefroid with Ainslie moving up to third and Hoegh Christensen in fourth. Burrows finished in fifth. Meanwhile Mateusz KUSZNIEREWICZ (POL) was making a charge moving up 10 places on the final offwind to finish tenth.
After two general recalls, race two started under a black flag in an increased breeze of around 15 to 18 knots. Many of the favourites were buried on the first beat which saw Alejandro COLLA round the first mark in the lead followed by Gasper VINCEC (SLO) and Ali ENVER ADAKAN (TUR). Ainslie was down in the mid 20s while Kusznierewicz was in the 50s.
Sebastien GODEFROID, who had rounded the first mark in 10th place, found a good shift and more pressure on the right on the second beat moved from 7th up to first, a position he held until the finish. Burrows and HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN also found good shifts to finish second and third.
So, overnight Sebastien leads from David and Jonas. Defending champion, Ben AINSLIE, is perched just behind in fourth with a third and fifth today, having made a great comeback in the final race. Another sailor making a large gain on the final round was Mateusz KUSZNIEREWICZ, who ended up 17 after a disastrous first beat and lies 11th overall. Sebastian noted that after bad starts, in the challenging conditions and an 82-boat fleet "It's very difficult to come back unless your name is Ben AINSLIE."
Racing continues for the Finns tomorrow.
Pont (POL) once again dominated the Mistral men, taking two firsts in his final two group races sailed today. Mind you John Paul TOBIN (NZL) pushed him hard, leading Pont for most of race one, but at the finish line it was Pont victorious.
Nikos KAKLAMANAKIS (GRE) was blisteringly fast and fended off challenges from both Alex BARENJON (GER), and Julien BONTEMPS (FRA) to win his group,
The women went out at 1440hrs and were greetd by a solid 20 knots of breeze. Lee KORSITZ (ISR) again dominated the first race, finishing first with Allison SHREEVE (AUS) second and Olga MASLIVETS (UKR) third.
If anything the wind picked up a little for women´s race 2 of the day, but surprises were in hand. Lee KORSITZ had a shocker, slipping to an uncharacteristic 32 place finish! This left Allison SHREEVE with a comfortable win. second was the dreadlocked Sigi RONDELEZ (BEL) who after a discard is doing a great job in fifth place overall.
Third was Jeanne MAILHOS, and fourth, seventeen year old ISAF Youth Sailing World Champion Zofia KLEPACKA (POL), also recovering from a 32 place earlier in the first race.
Tomorrow is a lay-day for the Mistral before the men's fleet is split into Gold and Silver for the final three days of racing, and the women continue with races seven and eight of their series.
Iker MARTINEZ and Xabier FERNANDEZ are not going to be defending their 49er World Championship title that they won in Hawaii just over a year ago. The crew, Fernandez, was involved in a nasty collision at the recent Spanish National Championships, which resulted in a wire tearing through his bicep, and rendering him unable to compete in the World Championship which begins tomorrow here in Cadiz.
This means that there is guaranteed to be a new World Champion announced at the end of this regatta next Wednesday, 24 September. Among the 88 teams gathered, three-time World Champion Chris NICHOLSON and crew Gary BOYD rank as one of the favourites, having just won the Pre-Olympic Gold Medal a few weeks before at the Athens 2003 Regatta.
Aside from the Australians, two top-ranked British teams are fighting it out for selection for next year's Olympic Games. Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks finished second to the Spanish at last year's Worlds, and having also finished runner-up in the last two European Championships. Paul BROTHERTON and Mark ASQUITH on the other hand, have the confidence from having won Silver at the recent Pre-Olympics, so this is a match that is too close to call. Brotherton sounds confident enough. "We´re ready to win,"
But perhaps the team with the greatest challenge is the one from Argentina, the new pairing of Marcelo Rodriguez Pons and Alfredo Gregorio Moreno. Pons said: "We started 49er sailing three months ago, and this is our first regatta - it´s going to be very exciting."
Exciting is certainly the word, as the wind has been blowing very HARD during the lead-up to the regatta. This could be a test of survival and courage as much of good speed and tactics if the strong Levante breeze continues to blow OVER THE Bay of Cadiz for the next week.
The moderate ESE winds, with average speeds between 18-22kt, forecasted for today did not let the Tornado fleet down. The Practice Race started just after 16:00 local time in excellent conditions.
While some sailors decided to stay on shore and be rested for tomorrow's first day of racing others went out to do some more training. 25 boats started the Practice Race but most of them did just a beat and came in. Tomorrow is the big day. Top guys on the top mark were Mitch BOOTH and Herbert DERCKSEN (NED), Lars GUCK and Jonathan FARRAR (USA), Sven KARSENBARG and Mischa HEEMSKERK (NED), and Oskar JOHANSSON and John CURTIS.
Measurement was concluded today and the fleet of 72 boats is ready to start their 2003 World Championship. 20 out of the 26 countries that are attending the event will be fighting for an Olympic qualification. 7 slots are available here in Cadiz. Greece, Argentina, Australia, Austria, France and Sweden qualified already at the 2002 Martha's Vineyard's Worlds.
Xavier ROHART and Pascal RAMBEAU (FRA) © ISAF
After an unlucky 13 to open the series, it is defending World Champions Iain PERCY (GBR) and Steve MITCHELL who now lead the fleet. With the discard coming into play after today's race 5, the pair now count a very tidy scoreline of three first places and a second. A nice jump up from their overnight placing of fifth.
Iain, who jumped to the Star Class after his Gold Medal in Sydney, is sitting marginally ahead of the second placed Xavier ROHART (FRA) and Pascal RAMBLEAU, who themselves hold a scoreline of top 5 results. Xavier is another convert to the Star from the Finn, in which he placed fifth at the 2000 Olympic Regatta. At the end of today Xavier sits in second overall.
Overnight leader and new kids on the block, Francesco BRUNI (ITA) and Guido VIGNA had another excellent opener today, with a third in race 4, but proved a little too keen in race five and took an OCS. However, discarding this, they sit on equal points with Xavier and Pascal in third.
The Australian pairing of Colin BEASHEL and David GILES (AUS) are back on track after yesterday's dismasting, placing in the top five with a 1, 4. However, whilst they have managed to discard one DNC, they are still counting the second, and will need to put in an outstanding performance to be in with a chance of a top finish and secure a qualification slot for Australia. Placed 28 overall, they sit just behind team mates Iain MURRAY (AUS) and Andrew PALFREY.
The Star fleet will use their reserve day tomorrow to conclude the outstanding race in the qualification series, before the cut will split the fleet into a Gold fleet of 42 boats and Silver fleet of 41.
Bullets today also went to Mark NEELEMAN (NED) and Peter VAN NIEKERK who took the gun in race 4 and sit in fifth overall, Philippe PRESTI (FRA) and Jean-Philippe SALIOU who now sit in sixth overall, and Beashel/Giles.
Defending Olympic Gold Medallists Mark REYNOLDS (USA) and Magnus LILLEJADHL are the fifth placed USA crew, in 23. They have had a shocker of a day with two results outside the top twenty, a 24, 21. Good news for Paul CAYARD (USA) and Phil TRINTER who fresh from their silver place at the Athens Regatta 2003 are now the top placed USA boat.
After an OCS in yesterday's race 3, there was no margin for error in the approach made by America's Cup helmsman, Torben GRAEL (BRA) with crew Marcel FERREIRA. Posting a 17 and 5 they have moved steadily up the fleet and will most probably continue their usual strategy of starting low and moving up to finish on the podium.
Predicting the likely outcome of the Championship Iain PERCY (GBR) commented, "For sure, I would expect to see Torben GRAEL (BRA) and Freddy LOOF (SWE) up there."
On the concept of holding the Olympic class World Championships at the same time, "I am a big fan of this event. In my opinion we should drop the class World Championships and have a combined event every two years, just like many other sports. This event can only continue to get better and better."
And on the pressure of being the defending World Champion and overall leader at this early stage in the Championship, "I would rather be where we are than in twentieth. We will just keep on doing our thing!"
Tomorrow's race 6, the final race of the qualification series is scheduled to get underway at 1500 hours. With continuous racing through until the conclusion of racing for the Star fleet on Sunday 21 September, the heat is definitely on.