After two more late races at the Finn European Championship, the 2007 World Champion Rafa Trujillo (ESP) goes into Sunday's medal race with a two point margin over the 2006 European Champion Ed Wright (GBR). Daniel Birgmark (SWE) who was leading going into Saturday, ended the day in third.
Mathematically nine boats can win after the medal race, but realistically it will be one of the top five or six, though all nine have a good chance of taking a medal, with just 15 points separating them.
Saturday started with thunderstorms, heavy wind and rain and a two hour postponement. Race five was important to get in as five races were needed to be able to hold a medal race.
Starting at the third attempt in 10 knots, the left side proved to be the best with a 15 degree shift coming through about half way up. The 2009 Junior European Champion Ioannis Mitakis (GRE) made the best of the shift to round the top mark ahead of Peer Moberg (NOR), Trujillo, Ed Wright (GBR), Marko Kolic (ITA) and Dan Slater (NZL).
Moberg said, “It was really exciting. I had a good start and the wind turned a bit to the left. I was in the middle left and come up to second and fought with the Greek guy [Mitakis] all the way to round the top mark second.”
“I was playing the shifts in the middle and suddenly I got the left shift and just kept on going. Some guys overstood the mark, so I just tacked under them”
Mitakis said, “In the first race I went left and rounded first. I am a bit slow downwind and Moberg passed me easily and then I got past him upwind and he did the same downwind.” Moberg went on to take the win followed by Mitakis, Slater and Wright.
The second race looked doubtful for a while as the wind dropped and several starts failed. Finally the fleet got away at 17.40. Wright and Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) went hard right while others played the shifts on the left. A late left shift cost Wright and Kljakovic Gaspic a lot of ground and the top group rounded close together with Kljakovic Gaspic leading Mitakis, Caleb Paine (USA), Wright, Tapio Nirkko (FIN) and Jonathan Lobert (FRA).
By the leeward gate, Andrew Mills (GBR) had taken the lead. He said, “I started in the middle of the line, went left, which looked good for a bit then everyone came in from the right. I rounded about 20th and had a nice run. I went down the left and had more pressure and rounded the bottom in first. I chose the other gate to Ivan and had good numbers out to the left so kept going.”
This time the left paid. “I went quite a long a long way and then tacked and the wind picked up and I crossed ahead. I am quite fast in that stuff. And the last run was quite good fun. I enjoyed it a lot, especially with that much of a lead. Ivan was going quite quick, but it was too much of a gap for him to catch up.”
Oscar flag for free pumping was raised for the last downwind as a rainstorm came through and the sailors enjoyed being able to stretch out and sail hard. During the day storms had been passing on all sides of the course, but until then the fleet had escaped.
Moberg didn't fair so well in the second race. He is using one of the new North NZ Dacron sails, developed by Slater. “I thought it would be windy so I changed sailed between races to my strong wind sail and it's a little flat and it was too choppy. But I am testing equipment right now so that's OK. The new Dacron sail is very good. I think it will last for a long time, so the costs for sailors will come down.”
He is very happy to make the top 10, “For me top 10 is everything so I can get some funding for next year.”
Mitakis has retained his Junior European title with a race to spare. “I am happy to win the Juniors again and I am looking forward to the Silver Cup [World Juniors] in San Francisco.” Sunday's final race will decide silver and bronze positions. Currently Luke Lawrence (USA) sits in 32nd place, 14 points ahead of Caleb Paine (USA).
Trujillo leads the fleet into the medal race. “I am really happy I make it to fifth. I was third, but was being careful downwind as I already had a yellow flag. The second race was really bad. I rounded 27th, but chose the right options and rounded the bottom mark 14th. I chose the right side, played the pressure to finish fifth again. I am really happy to still be in with a chance of the podium tomorrow.”
He summed up, “It will be tight, like it always is in the Finn class.” Wright wouldn't say much but had clearly enjoyed the wind. “It's about time we had some decent conditions.”
Among the legends in the dinghy park this week is John Bertrand (USA). Bertrand won the Gold Cup in 1978 and the Europeans in 1979, before taking the silver medal in the 1984 Olympics in Long Beach. This week he is coaching Luke Lawrence.
How does he feel about being back on the Finn scene after so long? “It's great. I've got back into the Olympic scene just by doing some coaching and working with some sailors for three of four years – mainly Laser sailors and so this is my first opportunity to really get back and see what's going on with the Finns. I am coaching Luke Lawrence, a young kid from the United States and it's exciting. I didn't realise how much I really missed it until I came back.”
“It's a very dynamic class. The sailors are just incredible. They are tall, they are fit, it looks like everyone is going really fast out there. So it's exciting for me to come back and see it.”
Bertrand sees a big difference in the class to when he was competing. “The biggest difference, like I said, is that everyone is fit now, everyone is tall, and it seems like the equipment with the new boats and new construction and new carbon masts seems to have brought some unity in terms of the overall speed in the fleet. Back in my day with the aluminium masts you had to go through 10 or 15 of them before you actually found one that you liked. It looks likes they are sailing the boats very aggressively and that probably starts in the Opti and goes through the Laser and then into the Finn. The overall competitiveness is a lot higher now.”
“Actually I was just have a discussion with somebody and the Finn needs to stay an Olympic class. It's very physical and it suits a heavier sailor. If you look at the competition, it's great competition, it's spread out – not one person is dominating and you have be be fit and tactically smart. I think it's one of the ultimate Olympic boats so it needs to stay.”
What are his best memories of the class? “I think it was coming to Europe and travelling around and meeting all the sailors from the different countries. Even today I have friendships based on that and now that I am coming back, a lot of the coaches here are those I sailed against, so that's kind of fun. “
“Here this week Mikael Brandt from Sweden is sailing, so we've had a good chance to catch up. One of the Estonian coaches, Ren, who I didn't race against, but he was in Tallinn when we were there for the two pre-Olympics. And of course Fabris [Minski] who was famous when I was sailing. He still continues to be famous and now we are here at his home club.”
Has Bertrand ever considered making a comeback and sailing at the Finn World Masters? “I am giving it more and more thought. As you can see I am still pretty small. I was small when I sailed the boat back in the late 70s and early 80s, but it seems like with the new equipment, it might make it possible. I am going to sail the Laser Masters Worlds this year so if that goes well, I might try the Finn as well.”
The medal race for the top ten and the final race for the rest is scheduled for 12.00 Sunday. It is going to be some fight to take the 2010 European Senior title and all the sailors are more than up for it. It is wide open and is going to be fascinating to watch.
Top 10 after six races
1 ESP 100 Rafael Trujillo 27
2 GBR 11 Edward Wright 29
3 SWE 11 Daniel Birgmark 31
4 CRO 524 Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic 31
5 FRA 112 Jonathan Lobert 32
6 FRA 115 Thomas Le Breton 39
7 NOR 1 Peer Moberg 41
8 CRO 25 Marin Misura 41
9 GBR 41 Giles Scott, 42
10 CRO 2 Mate Arapov 50