Country of the host city
A great natural amphitheatre, Sydney harbour was a tricky place to sail, though many of its patterns could be learnt. The difficult course proved to the one just inside the Heads, where the wind swirled and waves rebounded, and the outside course in the Tasman, which often featured a rolling swell under a weak breeze.
With sydney rich maritime heritage a marina of temporary pontoons was the perfect solution as Rushcutters Bay was taken over by a tented village right in the heartbeat of Australian yachting. The Australian Yachting Federation hired Ukrainian 470 coach Victor "Medal Maker" Kuvalenko and results were perfect. Reigning world champions Tom King and Mark Turnbull won the Men's fleet and Jenny Armstrong and Belinda Stowell the women's fleet. John Forbes, the 1992 Tornado bronze medallist teamed up with Darren Bundock to take silver this time, whilst Michael Blackburn improved from his 4th in 1996 and bronze in the Laser.
Blackburn can't have fancied his chances of gold because the Laser class had become totally dominated by Brazil's Robert Scheidt and Briton Ben Ainslie. Between 1995 and 2005, Scheidt had won a staggering eight world titles in the Laser. The only man to beat him in that period was Ainslie in 1998 and 1999. In Savannah, Scheidt finessed an impatient 19-year old Ainslie into a very clever premature start. In was the third attempt to get the race away and so the Black Flag was flying.
Ainslie hounded Scheidt yet again and the Brazilian took both of them across early. Scheidt could afford another discard to win the gold, Ainslie couldn't and won silver. Ainslie turned the tables in Sydney. No matter that the Soling was the designated match race class, these Laser sailors were at it like alley cats. The boathandling was breath taking. Ainslie tacked and tacked upon Scheidt's wind forcing him down the fleet. When Ainslie released his man, it was all about finishing positions. As Ainslie crossed the line, he looked back anxiously to count in the boats behind and it took several minutes before he was sure he'd won the gold. Ainslie was one of three gold for Britain, which was top nation.
Shirley Robertson, in her third visit to the Games in the Europe replaced anxiety with serenity and won gold. So did Iain Percy in the Finns with Ian Walker winning silver in the Star with Mark Covell whilst Ian Barker and Simon Hiscocks got another silver in the brand new twin-wire, high-performance skiff class, the 49er, a product of fertile Australian design family, the Bethwaites. Walker and Covell's medal was emotionally charged. Each had lost their previous sailing partners: Walker had won 470 silver in Savannah with John Merricks who'd been killed during a road accident during the 1997 Melges 24 world championships and Covell's Star helmsman, Glyn Charles, was one of six who perished in the 1998 Sydney-Hobart Race.