It was a big news day at the 47th Trofeo Princesa Sofia IBEROSTAR with the Rio 2016 continental qualifiers concluding as well as big drama in the final opening series race. Josh Junior (NZL) now only has to finish the medal race to win his first event in Europe, while Turkey and Seychelles have won the continental places for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
After regatta leader Giles Scott (GBR) dropped out of the tenth race with a broken rudder fitting, he can no longer win overall, his first defeat in three years. He is now in a four way fight for the other medals. Tapio Nirkko (FIN) is up to second while Jake Lilley (AUS) moves up to third, but both Scott and fifth placed Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) can also win medals.
It was certainly a day of two halves with a lighter race held in the morning before the fleet was sent ashore for two hours. Then the wind reestablished and was sent out again at 16.00 for the tenth race in 15-18 knots. And it rained, almost non-stop, all day.
In the first race of the day Nirkko rounded the top mark in the lead for the second time this week followed by Postma and Phillip Kasueske (GER). Nirkko held the lead at the gate and split marks with Postma, who was in the lead at the top from Lilley and Scott. It all changed again on the final downwind with Scott moving ahead for his second win in a row from Nirkko and Lilley.
Behind them the European battle was in full swing. Overnight leader Alican Kaynar (TUR) was the highest placed at the first mark with both Egor Terpigorev (RUS) and Ondrej Teply (CZE) some way back. Kaynar made the best of the downwind to move into the top 10, but on the second lap the Russian and Czech gained some places to close on the Turk, but not enough. Kaynar finished 14th to take a 10 point lead over Terpigorev into the final race.
With the wind first dying and then clocking, the last race took a while to happen, with the fleet sent ashore to wait out the changing wind and the heavy rain. It was a very wet and cold day in sunny Spain, with the sailors finding shelter wherever they could.
When it finally got underway, the tenth race was fitting conclusion to a tough week with the strongest wind of the week. Martin Robitaille (CAN) led at the top mark and rounded the gate level with Max Salminen (SWE). Scott rounded in fourth, but then pulled out with a broken rudder fitting. Jorge Zarif (BRA) led at the final top mark to lead down to win his only race this week with Lilley climbing to second and Robitaille holding on for third.
Scott explained what happened. “It was a long day and the weather has been pretty terrible. We got one race in a northerly and pretty shifty and I managed to do that pretty well and just came through on the last run to come away with a win. When we got back out there again the wind was strong and pretty consistent and looking like it was going to be a really good race.”
“Josh went on the aggressive in the pre-start and we had one recall. I kind of felt I did a good job with him and in both starts I managed to come off the line ahead and had the option to tack off. In the second start that's what I did and sailed clear and by the gate Josh was about tenth and I was in second or third and as I rounded up my rudder pin snapped. It is a bit annoying but these things happen and it's better it happens now than in a few months time.”
“The bit that broke was a three month old fitting and is something that I check regularly and it didn't have any wear and it just decided today it was going to break, so I'll need to work on the boat tonight to be able to sail tomorrow. The event is lost and I suppose that's the way it is but it's always a frustrating way to lose a regatta. We'll go away and look at it to make sure it doesn't happen again. It's certainly something you'd kick yourself even more if it happened again.”
Kaynar did just enough in the race to secure the final European spot in Rio. He said, “When we started today I had two very close opponents, the Czech and the Russian, and in the first race I tried to concentrate on my race to make a good result to put a few more points between us, and I managed that. I finished in front of them. Then in the second race I just had the Russian close to me and I stayed close to him to guarantee my place and everything went well. It was a nice day but a difficult day but everything went well.”
He was delighted to be heading to his second Olympic Games. “Over the last four years my wife and my parents have given me a lot of support. It was really tough to win this last spot. They believed in me, along with my club, my federation and my sponsors, so I am very happy to achieve this.”
On the competition, “It was a very tough week. More than 30 people were trying to qualify their country. And also all the time we had windy conditions, from many directions, so it was very challenging. I have improved in the last years and my goal in Rio is to make the medal race. This will be the goal and of course it's still preparation for the next Olympics to go for the medal.”
Going into Saturday's medal race, Junior just has to finish to win his first event in Europe.
“It's been a pretty tricky, cold day but I went into today having all really good scores and Giles had one really big race that he was dropping. So I tried to have a good first race and I did that. Giles won it but I ended up fifth.”
“So then in the last race, which I guess was the deciding race in the regatta, I tried to take Giles out, but it was too windy and he was too good so that didn't really happen. We both got a pretty average start and he sailed through and I was in tenth. Then his rudder fell off which was really unfortunate for him, but lucky for me as it means I win the regatta and he has to count his 45th. So I am really happy to come away with a win, my first ever win in Europe.”
Allan Julie (SEY) made absolutely sure of the African continental selection for Rio with a ninth straight victory of Karim Esseghir (TUN). Rio 2016 will be his fifth Olympics after four times sailing the Laser.
The medal race on Sunday is scheduled to start at 13.00
Results after 10 races
1 NZL 24 Josh Junior 41
2 FIN 218 Tapio Nirkko 60
3 AUS 41 Jake Lilley 66
4 GBR 41 Giles Scott 70
5 NED 842 Pieter-Jan Postma 71
6 GRE 77 Ioannis Mitakis 84
7 FRA 112 Jonathan Lobert 87
8 HUN 40 Zsombor Berecz 96
9 SWE 33 Max Salminen 102
10 BRA 109 Jorge Zarif 105