The Open Europeans Helsinki 2011 concluded today with the last titles awarded in the 470 class.
Spain claimed three European titles in the Women Match racing, the Star and the Women 470. Team Echegoyen was the first to step on the 1952 Olympic Games podium after defeating defending champion Ekaterina Skudina and team from Russia.
In the Star class, Fernando Echevarri and Fernando Rodriguez Rivero added a second win for Spain after gradually gaining ground on their closest rivals from Greece, Emilios Papathanasiou and Alexandros Dragoutsis.
Finally the third European title for Spain was taken by young Spanish duo of Tara Pacheco/Berta Betanzos (ESP) who have sailed to a very high level this year concluding with a 470 European title in the women 470 fleet.
In the strong Laser fleets, the European title went to Evi van Acker from Belgium with Olympic medallist Lijia Xu (CHN) winning the event. In the Men, Croatia was present with a strong team as this regatta is their first Olympic qualifier. Tonci Stipanovic takes an early lead on his countrteam members and opponents as well as the 470 Men Championship title.
Giles Scott (GBR) stole the European Finn title from defending champion Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) on the medal race while Josip Olujic (CRO) takes the Junior title.
The Australians will not add their names on the 49er and 470 trophies despite winning both events. Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen won the 49er event but title went to second place, British Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign. Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page controlled the fleet from the start of the event to win the 470 men event. Croatian climbed on the podium for the fourth time in Helsinki but this time for the title with Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic crowned 2011 European champions at the close of the event. 470 European Championships
A good breeze greeted sailors as they arrived at the venue on the final day of the 2011 470 European Championships, which increased to about 14-15 knots for the start of the 470 Medal Races. The addition of very wet rain did nothing to dampen the killer instincts and desire to win of the teams out on the race tracks.
Titles being contested were for the Open 470 European Championships with all team eligible for the podium places and the 470 European Championships restricted to teams from European nations only.
Australia had sealed victory at the Open 470 European Championships after Thursday's race 12, so their result in the Medal Race was purely personal, as in effect they had nothing to prove. For the other teams in the Medal Race it was all about securing the 470 European Championship podium places.
With medals already secured in the Laser Radial, Laser and Finn, the Croatian focus was today turned on the 470 medal contenders Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic to continue their sailing fortunes. Fantela/Marenic did what they needed to do, covered their opponents and crossed the finish line in sixth place to win the Gold – and a resounding cheer from their supporters. Igor commented, 'This is one of the best results we have. It was a really hard regatta a hard event, but we sailed very constant and that was the key. Today was really, really hard a very shifty medal race and we had to pay attention to the British and Israelis and luckily in the end it all worked well for us.' Fantela continued that being being awarded their medals and listening to the Croatian national anthem was 'a perfect feeling.'
The European Championships accolade adds to their already impressive pedigree, which includes two times winning the 470 Worlds in 2009 and 2010 and gold at the 2009 European Championships.
The Silver Medal went to Luke Patience/Stuart Bithell (GBR) who crossed the line in a photo finish just behind Nic Asher/Elliott Willis, but just ahead of Spain's Onan Barreiros Rodriguez/Aaron Sarmiento Padilla.
An eighth place for Gideon Kliger/Eran Sela (ISR) was all they needed to claim the Bronze Medal.
Croatia also took second in the Open European Championships, behind the winning Australians reflecting their respective positions on the ISAF Sailing World Rankings.
An eighth place finish in today's Medal Race was more than enough for Tara Pacheco/Berta Betanzos (ESP) to become the 2011 470 Women's European Champions. Responding to how she was feeling after the race, she said, 'my heart is pumping more slowly now.'
'The wind was too shifty and I was a bit afraid in middle of first upwind, so I preferred to stay with the Brazilian and if we were the last two boats, I didn't care.' On their plans for celebration, Betanzos said she would be 'enjoying a chocolate muffin!' According to Pacheco this has been Betanzos' planned reward if they won Gold. Betanzos continued, 'We are really happy. We are doing a good job, so we have to continue like this so we can continue in the best for our objectives and the Olympics.'
The 2011 470 Women European Championships title follows on from some stunning results the Spanish secured at junior level, including the 2009 470 Junior World Championships.
Denmark's Henriette Koch/Lene Somer won the Silver Medal, which marks a career best performance and provides a superb platform as they move forwards on their Olympic campaign. Open Europens 2011 Website