On the third day for Finns at the Open Europeans Helsinki 2011, the defending European Champion Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) has moved into the overall lead after a first and a second in Monday's two light wind races. Andrew Mills (GBR) had two top 10 results but drops to second while Pieter Jan Postma (NED) also drops one place to third.
The Finns are racing in the largest single fleet in Helsinki with no grouping, and it is also the only class on the most demanding race course out on the open sea course, some five or six miles from the venue. Just getting there and back is major operation.
The early morning view from the regatta centre did not look promising with a very light and patchy wind out on the waters off Helsinki. However the PRO sent the fleet out, and, after a few attempts at a start waited for a further hour before the wind was consistent enough to try again.
Race 4 finally started with a black flag up. Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic capitalised on a big left hand shift after starting at the pin and led round the top mark alongside Eduard Skornyakov (RUS) and Ioannis Mitakis (GRE). Next were Johan Wilk (SWE) and Adam Svard (SWE), who were both unfortunately black flagged at the start.
Marin Misura (CRO) came through on the downwind and easily held onto second place for the remainder of the race. Skornyakov had climbed to third by the second windward mark, but the final downwind would be decisive.
The majority of the fleet favoured the right side, looking downwind, but with current setting left to right, sailed a big arc which allowed Thomas Le Breton (FRA) and Florian Raudaschl (AUT) to climb around 15 places each to cross second and third behind Kljakovic Gaspic and Misura.
Le Breton said, 'I was about 15th round the top mark and ended up third. I had a good run on the left, with more pressure and some small current at the end and I just crossed in front of everyone, so that was nice.' After rounding the first mark deep in the 40s Raudaschl had banged every corner going and pulled through another 15 places on the final downwind to make a massive recovery. 'I was hitting the corners every time, just sailing free of the fleet, and also had a bit of luck.'
Svard, 21, who has been sailing Finns for four years said, 'I was fifth round the first mark and that was fun. I started at the pin and went a long way left before tacking as I thought there was more wind on that side. That was my best race ever. This is my first international championship. Unfortunately I was black flagged, but I am having fun.'
The race committee nearly called it a day then as the wind all but disappeared and it wasn't looking good. But after a long wait, and a big shift, the wind finally returned from the south-west. Race 5 was sailed in 5-6 knots and after a couple of false starts, got away with a pin end bias.
Daniel Birgmark (SWE) led at the top mark from Mills and Kljakovic Gaspic. Positions didn't change much until the final run, though the top four were well clear of the pack. Near the end of the downwind, fourth placed Rafal Szukiel (POL) attacked Mills while Kljakovic Gaspic had made a serious dent in Birgmark's comfortable lead.
Mills had spent all of the race in third, but just lost out to Szukiel on the approach to the finish. Birgmark meanwhile was luckier and a gybe back to the left gave him just enough pressure to cross the line first and win the race. Misura crossed in fifth to round out a great day for him.
Birgmark, who moves up to seventh overall, said, 'The pin end was favoured and I had a good start a few boats up, got the first few shifts right and I had really good speed. But on the last downwind, Ivan had really good speed and was super fast and it was hard to stay ahead but in the end I managed it just. I also had a good start in the first race but I didn't take advantage of the situation and didn't have such good speed. I finished 10th, but I am quite happy with my day in these tricky conditions.'
So, after five races now sailed, Kljakovic Gaspic takes the lead by three points from yesterday's leader Mills. After a fifth and a 21, Pieter Jan Postma (NED) drops to third overall. In the Junior European Championship, Josip, Olujic (CRO) has narrowed the gap to 10 points behind Egor Terpigorev (RUS). These two sit in 30th and 31st place overall. Milosz Wojewski (POL) climbed to 3rd Junior, another 18 points back, after Julian Massler (GER) picked up a black flag today.
Kljakovic Gaspic summed up his day, 'You know how it goes in light winds, so it was tricky, and always difficult. But I had really good starts in both races and had quite good speed. It was risky at times, to make calls and decide where to go and what to do so I am pretty happy with what I did today.'
'In the first race there was quite a big shift on the left right after the start. We tacked almost immediately and sailed about three quarters of the beat, then a little bit of control on the left. I was just keeping the fleet behind me. Marin gained a bit on the final downwind but that was just because I had some lulls at the beginning, but later on I was just keeping clear and maintaining control over the fleet so I didn't think too much about losing a few metres. I was just looking for the top spot. In these conditions it is hard to gain something downwind.'
'In the second race, the downwind was just about the pressure. Some guys were pushing too far to the right, but in the end it looked really good but they made a lot of extra miles, I think that killed them. The left side looking down the run was much better – it was just a straight line to the finish. On the last run I caught up Daniel, but he gybed over towards the left and got a little puff and extended the lead again, but that didn't matter too much to me'
'I thought the race management was good today. It was very tricky. The first race was not easy for sure, for Peter, but he pulled it off quite OK. I didn't think we would have a second race, but some wind came in and it was good in the end.'
After losing the overall lead Mills was still upbeat about his day, 'Light winds today so very tricky with differences in pressure over the course. The wind wasn't too shifty, though I got lucky in the first race with a big left hander out of the start. It was again fairly stable in the second race but with a bit of a big left wind at the end. So a couple of top tens in this is a good day for me.
On the last run Rafal rounded the final top mark about five or six boatlenghs behind me and he must have had a bit more pressure or perhaps better boatspeed. I think he is pretty quick in that kind of stuff, so I was happy that the rest of the fleet was such a long way behind, though crossing fourth was a bit annoying.'
Mills now has good results in both the light and the heavy, 'It's easier to do well in the breeze, so hopefully we will have more tomorrow. The forecast looks good anyway.'
Racing for the Finns continues on Tuesday, with more wind, and rain on the forecast. Full fleet racing is scheduled until Wednesday, with the medal race for the top 10 and the final race for the rest on Thursday 14 July. Results after five races:
1 CRO524 Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic 8
2 GBR85 Andrew Mills 11
3 NED842 Pieter Jan Postma 13
4 GBR41 Giles Scott 20
5 FRA29 Thomas Le Breton 25
6 CRO25 Marin Misura 30
7 SWE11 Daniel Birgmark 32
8 FRA112 Jonathan Lobert 32
9 EST2 Deniss Karpak 34
10 GBR11 Ed Wright 35
Open Europeans Helsinki website