Finn Europeans, Helsinki - it's a sail-off for the gold medal
by Robert Deaves on 14 Jul 2011
Finn European Championship 2011.
Busy top mark in Race 9 of the Finn Europeans 2011 Robert Deaves/Finn Class http://www.finnclass.org
Race wins for Croatians Ivan Klajovic Gaspic (CRO) and Marin Misura (CRO) on the final full day of racing at the Finn European Championship at the Open Europeans Helsinki 2011 have set up a thrilling sail-off between Kljakovic Gaspic and Giles Scott (GBR) for the championship title in Thursday's medal race. Andrew Mills (GBR) and Thomas Le Breton (FRA) will sail-off for the bronze medal.
Wednesday in Helsinki brought light and shifty wins and cascades of large threatening clouds rolling down the course area, causing problems for the race officer as well as the sailors. When Race 9 finally got underway, most of the fleet went right, but it soon became clear that the left was going to pay late. Last year's Junior European Champion, Ioannis Mitakis (GRE) led round the top mark from the middle left just ahead of Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic, Eduard Skornyakov (RUS), Deniss Karpak (EST) and Gaszton Pal (HUN). Lots of the favourites were deep down the fleet.
Second overall, Giles Scott, rounded in eighth and the chase was on. Kljakovic Gaspic took the lead at the gate and looked to have it in the bag, favouring the left hand side on the second beat. However several boats went hard right and gained 30 or more places. Johan Tillander (SWE) passed the gate in 35th and the rounded the second top mark in second, just behind Kljakovic Gaspic. He almost passed the Croatian downwind, but Kljakovic Gaspic narrowly won his third race of the week. Mitakis held on for third, while Scott climbed to fourth.
Tillander said, 'I had to do something. I was so far back, and I saw the black cloud to the right and took a chance, but I am just glad I finished so well, but still two points outside medal race, unfortunately.'
After a long wait for the breeze to stabilise with more heavy cloud coming through, the skies finally cleared and Race 10 got underway in slightly more breeze and nice conditions. Pieter Jan Postma (NED) led at the top mark, but Marin Misura (CRO) pulled through downwind to sail away to a great race win, winning by nearly a minute. Both Kljakovic Gaspic and Scott were in the chasing pack and pulled through three or four boats each on the final downwind. Scott finished third to Kljakovic Gaspic's fifth.
The net result of the day was that Kljakovic Gaspic had extended his lead by just one point. It was all down to the medal race.
Scott said, 'I think I made four places on the last downwind, but so did Ivan. I think we have both been sailing pretty quick downwind this week, so if you go round the top mark together, you think you can make three or four boats, but then so can he.'
Misura's win was just enough for him to make the medal race, on equal points with Karpak in 11th, but qualifying on the merit of his last race win. He explained, 'Between races I changed my sails and then I was going very fast and I had a good start and rounded the first mark in third. The downwind was good for me and I passed the others, and I extended on the second upwind which was good.'
Third placed Andrew Mills (GBR) scored a 12th and 34th today so is out of contention for the top spot but has an 11 point lead over fourth placed Thomas Le Breton (FRA) and both are far enough ahead of the rest to have their own battle for the bronze medal.
Croatian sailors now lead both the seniors and the juniors, with Josip Olujic (CRO) taking the lead in the Junior European Championship for the first time this week. Olujic has built an 18 point lead over Egor Terpigorev (RUS), who is 29 points ahead of third placed Julian Massler (GER). Thursday's final race will finally decide who gets the medals.
Scott, 'It was quite a tricky day. The first race was very shifty, all over the place and insanely difficult to manage. I went right earlier and I wound up and was laying the top mark and if it had stayed I would have been winning by a mile, but, when it's like that you kind of know it's going to go back, so I put the track down and tried to get over everyone. But it wasn't enough as the guys from the left came in good.'
'In the second one it cleared up with better breeze and it was about managing risk, so again quite tricky. It did cross my mind at the top mark to sail Ivan down the fleet, so he had a big counter, as he was discarding a 17th, especially as Mills was so far back. I thought it might be worth having a go, which in hindsight may have been the right thing to do, but with the previous race being so unpredictable, I couldn't be sure that Mills wouldn't do what Tillander had done so I decided to try and do the best I could. I am really looking forward to the medal race. We are both 20 points clear so it's going to be good fun.'
Kljakovic Gaspic described his day, 'Race nine was definitively the trickiest race of the regatta. I had a good clear and start tacked immediately to the right as the wind was on a header, and I had a good position but those on the left had good pressure and angle and then we had some small pressure from right, but I decided to tack, but it was a desperate move as I didn't see anything going on on the right.
Then I just went across to the left and then the boats on the right also passed me. I was in deep trouble, but I realised it was just a matter of time for it come back on the left, so I was just patient and waiting, Then I saw a line from the left building and a few boats in the corner having quite good angle so I just went there and tacked with good pressure and a lift and the sailed low and freed off, almost reaching up the beat just to cross the fleet on a really strong gust. Then everyone got it so it was obvious it was going to hang on until the mark.'
'Then on the second beat, it was a little bit problematic and also a bit painful for a large part of the fleet because we saw big black cloud on the left and a line of breeze on the left, so everyone just went left, I tacked on the layline and it looked good, but suddenly wind changed and and we had no wind, and a few guys from the right who rounded the gate in the 30s and 40s were top five at the windward mark, so I was really surprised and lucky that I got small puff from the left and passed the Swedish guy and kept some distance to the finish. It was close but just enough to win. The race was really tough, but quite satisfying
'I am happy I have a medal, a minimum of silver, so that's an achievement already, but tomorrow I am just going to keep it tight to Giles and try to stay close to him and not get too much distance between us. If I have a chance to gain then I am going to take it, but I am going to try to stick to him. As we are on the inside course, it's going to be really shifty and really tricky, but for sure it's going to be fun and I am looking forward to this because I like medal races to be demanding and I like pressure. I really enjoy sailing under pressure and so I am really looking forward to tomorrow.'
The final race for the rest of the fleet is scheduled for 11.00 out on the sea course, with the medal race for the top 10 inside the harbour at 12.00. The forecast is for very little wind, so it could be a nerve wracking finish to a great championship.
Results after ten races:
1 CRO524 Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic 26
2 GBR41 Giles Scott 32
3 GBR85 Andrew Mills 51
4 FRA29 Thomas Le Breton 62
5 NED842 Pieter Jan Postma 73
6 SLO573 Vasilij Zbogar 83
7 GBR11 Ed Wright 87
8 ESP100 Rafael Trujillo Villar 92
9 SWE11 Daniel Birgmark 93
10 CRO25 Marin Misura 111