by Craig Heydon
Open European Championships 2011 last day was tense for the Australian duo of Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen.
49er crew Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen after winning Gold in Finland
The pair went into the last day of racing for the 49er class with a slender two point lead over Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign of Great Britain.
Outteridge and Jensen finished fifth in the final fleet race, one place behind the Brits, giving them a one point lead heading into the double-point, 10 boat medal race.
The 2009 World Champions finished third in the medal race after fighting their way back due to restarting the race as they thought they had crossed the line early.
Luckily Fletcher and Sign were forced to do the same thing and eventually finished ninth, giving the Australians a 13 point victory.
Belcher and Page at the 2011 470 European Championships - Photo Victor Kovalenko
'So the final day was a stressful one,' said Outteridge. 'We had one race in very difficult conditions as the top mark was just below an island which caused 40 degree shifts and big pressure difference in only five to 10 knots of breeze.
'We stuck very closely to the British guys, it was like we had a piece of elastic between us as they would constantly move ahead of us but we managed to catch up to them several times over the three lap race and finished half a length behind them, giving us a one point lead going into the medal race. This set up a great medal race as it was a who beat who situation, a first for us in a long time.
'The wind built to around eight to 10 knots for the medal race and we decided to stick close to the British,' said Outteridge. 'We couldn't find a gap near them on the line so we moved up the line to ensure we had a clear start. Turns out we were early again, just like in Weymouth, so we returned but luckily for us Fletcher and Sign also had to return which left them in last and us just ahead of them.
'We spent the rest of the race covering them closely and managed to pick some good shifts on the second lap to move up the fleet eventually finishing third,' he said.
Outteridge and Jensen’s Gold medal was their third straight top two finish in Europe this year following a Silver medal at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Holland in May and Gold at the round in Weymouth, England, last month.
'We are stoked to win this event especially because it was such a light wind regatta and in a venue we had never been to before,' said Outteridge. 'We are now on a ferry back to Europe then on to the UK to return the boats to Weymouth and then we are on a plane back to Australia for a short rest before returning to Weymouth at the end of July.'
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page continue to lead the way in the 470 class with one fleet race and the final medal race left to contest.
The reigning World Champions and world number one crew finished the day with a ninth, a third and a race win, giving them an 18 point lead over Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell of Great Britain.
'We’re pretty tired after three races today but managed to come away with a nine, three and a one,' said Belcher. 'After several attempts to start the first race, the shifts were too large and we had to wait until the first fleet completed their race. With a pretty bad forecast for tomorrow the committee decided to get one race ahead of schedule just in case.
'At this stage of the regatta we’re pretty happy with where we’re at and enjoying the racing,' he said.
Fellow Australians Sam Kivell and Will Ryan are 20th after Wednesday’s three races, finishing the day with a 23rd, 19th and a 21st.
In the 470 silver fleet Alexander and Patrick Conway are eighth following a 22nd, 14th and a fifth, ahead of Max Taylor and Tim Hannah in 16th.
In the 49er fleet Will and Sam Phillips finished the week 16th, with Steven Thomas and Nick Brownie ending up 20th.
Outteridge and Jensen on the final day of the 49er European Championships - Photo Fried Elliott www.friedbits.com
Australian Sailing Website