Andrew Mills (GBR) has won his first ever major Finn event after snatching victory at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres. Saturday was medal race day and after trailing team mate Giles Scott (GBR) all week, he was the best performer on the final day to take a well deserved win. Scott took the silver while Josh Junior (NZL) took bronze.
A mixed week of conditions ended with light wind and light rain, but the Finns got their two races in nevertheless. Giles Scott went into the day with a six point lead over Andrew Mills while Josh Junior trailed Pieter-Jan Postma by just one point. It was always going to be a day of two battles on the water. Scott and Mills were always going to be fighting for the top spot while the rest of the fleet could theoretically take bronze.
Andrew Mills took first blood in the opening race with a confidence boosting win from Giles Scott and Josh Junior. Third overall Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) started early and had to return while Junior led round the first lap from Scott and Mills. With just five knots of wind, Mills took the lead on the next upwind to lead to the finish from Scott, Junior and Jonathan Lobert (FRA). Postma was a distant ninth.
In winning the race, Mills took zero points and reduced the deficit on regatta leader Scott to just two points and set up a thrilling match race finale for the gold. A third for Junior gave him a seven point cushion in third place but the best he could get was now a bronze. However there were still another five boats capable of taking it out of his hands going in the final race.
As the final race started Mark Andrews (GBR) took the early lead from Mills and Lobert. Into the first downwind and Mills led Scott but they were back in sixth and seventh. They split tacks on the leg but Mills made the best of it to move up to third at the final top mark behind Andrews and Lobert. Scott was back in eighth with a second consecutive world cup win slipping from his grasp.
Mills held his cool and his position to cross in third, while there were lots of other changes on the final downwind. The win finally went to Thomas Le Breton (FRA) from Postma, while Scott crossed in tenth.
So Andrews Mills takes his first ever Sailing World Cup gold after a series of top finishes at other events. He has sailed under the shadow of his more successful British Finn counterparts for many years and this win is perhaps justification of his commitment and ability in a very competitive fleet.
Mills said, “The first race was light winds after 30 minutes postponement. Josh lead from the right and I moved in to the lead at the leeward gate and had easy choices on the second beat to stay ahead. That meant just me or Giles could win so we had a pre-start match but both got ok starts. Mine was a very good one, got punched quickly. Giles came back from the right ahead with a right hand shift but I led round windward mark. Downwind we split very slightly but I was happy I was on the right gybe. I then went right at the gate and split again. When we came back I had a decent lead and the race was over from there."
"It's great to win a big one and make some intentions clear for the new cycle. I'm really happy with how winter training has gone and looking forward to getting onto the next one."
Scott was perhaps unlucky not to go away with the win, but admits he didn't sail his best today. He said, “It was very shifty again but I messed up the last race getting on the wrong side of a 20 degree shift. But Mills sailed really well.”
There has been a lot written about the new scoring format that ISAF has trialled at Sailing World Cup regattas this year. We've had a lot of comments from sailors over the two weeks at Palma and now at Hyeres, and not many of them are that favourable. One of the more vocal has been Giles Scott. He encapsulated his feelings earlier in the week by saying, “I'm firmly on the side that these format changes are detrimental to the integrity of our sport, and that they do nothing but bring a level of chance into play.”
Over the week in Hyeres, some sailors have clearly benefited from the two part regatta and some have been penalised. One of those who benefited was Mark Andrews who clearly sailed below par in the first part of the regatta, finishing 28th in the opening series, but then turned it around in the second half to just make the cut for the medal race. If it had been a traditional series then he would have been unlikely to have made the medal race.
He said, “I think nobody really likes this system. ISAF seem to be determined to punish the best and most consistent sailor of the week. Not sure why the wheel needs to be reinvented and come up with the most difficult system to explain to sailors and fans alike. The scoring system also puts pressure on the race committee on the first few days to get the qualifying in. The conditions at the start of the week were borderline to race and I can see us having to race in worse conditions in the future just to get the races in. Although this system has benefited me this week I don't really want to sail in it again.”
What happens next will be interesting to watch.
Correction: Due to a results mix up we incorrectly reported the silver fleet finishing position yesterday. The correct results were that Lauri Vainsalu (EST) won the silver fleet from Alican Kaynar (TUR) and Oleksiy Borysov (UKR) after Peng Zhang (CHN) picked up his second black flag in the final race.
Full results: http://sof.ffvoile.net/results/finn.htm
Extensive galleries from the Finn class at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Finn-Class/110408332633