At the Open Europeans Helsinki 2011, the Finn class opened its European Championship on Sunday with three spectacular races in almost perfect sailing conditions. Defending Champion Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) won the opening race, but then Andrew Mills (GBR) won the next two to lead overnight from Pieter Jan Postma (NED) in second and Giles Scott (GBR) in third.
The Finns are racing on the most offshore course, and with racing cancelled on Saturday because of not enough wind five miles out, the goal today was to try and catch up some of the lost races. When the fleet arrived there was barely four knots of breeze, but it soon picked up and the fleet was rewarded with 12-16 knots of very consistent wind, some great wave patterns and some close, exciting racing, with Oscar up for free pumping for the whole day.
Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) opened his defence of the title he has won for that past two years in the best way with a win. He rounded the top mark just behind Pieter Jan Postma (NED) and just ahead of Rafa Trujillo (ESP). Kljakovic Gaspic had a nice lead coming into the second top mark, but almost lost it downwind with Deniss Karpak (EST) going wide to the right and closing right up to finish a close second. Postma crossed in third.
In the second race, World Champion Ed Wright (GBR) rounded first, with Trujillo again doing well to round in second. However it was Andrew Mills (GBR), who rounded in fifth, who took the lead at the bottom of the downwind and then led to the finish, to win by less than a boatlength from Giles Scott (GBR) and Postma.
The final race of the day was much the same with a few larger waves starting to build making for some fantastic sailing. Mills was having a great day, leading at the top mark and extending on every leg to take his second race win of the day. Trujillo again rounded second with Wright in third. Both dropped back with Postma coming through strongly to end an excellent day with a second, while Scott kept his chances alive with a third.
So after three races, Andrew Mills heads up the 71 boat fleet with Pieter Jan Postma in second and Giles Scott in third overall. In the Juniors, Egor Terpigorev (RUS) has a 10 point lead over Josip Olujic (CRO), with Julian Massler (GER) further back in third.
Mills summed up his fantastic day, 'It was a great day's racing today with 12-16 knots of breeze, and a nice consistent wind, so it was probably a good idea that we didn't race yesterday as we had some really good racing today. Because of the consistent wind it was really important to get a good start and not have any boats mucking you up, so you could just put the bow down and go fast. Both sides were coming in at times, so just going fast and getting some clear air was the key today.'
'On the first run I had a bit of a gap behind me and I looked downwind and noticed that it was definitely a gybe set, and the five or six behind me sailed on starboard for a bit, which let me get a bit further ahead.'
'I don't think the sides matter it was just speed. There were some weird waves, you could easily stop dead and and the pressure was quite gusty as well so if you didn't sail well, and fell into a hole it was very easy to go slowly. The waves were going quite quickly, but once you're on them you could keep surfing and you were gone.'
Postma added, 'It was quite windy, and we had nice racing, in nice conditions, with a lot of pumping, so it was pretty tough. It was fierce and I had a good day with a 3, 3, 2 so I am quite happy and looking forward to tomorrow.'
The defending champion, Kljakovic Gaspic, who is in sixth overall after the first day, said, 'The first two races I was happy with, but the third was not so good for me, but in the end I am pretty much satisfied. It's just the beginning so let's wait for a few more days. So far so good, I am quite happy, but the 17th place is a little bit of a headache at the moment, but I believe it's not going to be a problem for the rest if the regatta. The race committee is making good decisions so far.'
It was also a good day for Deniss Karpak. In each race he made a dramatic comeback on the final downwind, and in the third race he moved from 35th at the first mark to ninth at the finish. 'In the first race I only went about 50 metres to the right of the fleet and maybe got a bit more pressure, but the waves were nice. Bambi was 200 metres ahead at the top mark and I closed to within 10 metres of him at the finish, moving from seventh to second. In the last race I moved from 35 at the first mark to ninth at the fiiah so I am pretty happy with that. My goal for the week is to be top 10. After making a mess in Croatia last year I want to do well here.'
Racing continues Monday with full fleet racing scheduled until Wednesday, with the medal race for the top 10 and the final race for the rest on Thursday 14 July. Results after three races:
1 GBR 85 Andrew MILLS 7
2 NED842 Pieterjan POSTMA 8
3 GBR 41 Giles SCOTT 14
4 EST 2 Deniss KARPAK 18
5 FRA112 Jonathan LOBERT 21
6 CRO 524 Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC 22
7 FRA 29 Thomas LE BRETON 22
8 GBR 11 Ed WRIGHT 25
9 ESP 100 Rafael TRUJILLO VILLAR 26
10 SLO 573 Vasilij ZBOGAR 34
Follow the racing as it happens at the event blog here
This will be updated each day with the @Finn_Class Twitter feed from on the water, photos, blog entries and video links on the day's action.
Open Europeans Helsinki website