An eighth place finish in the medal race at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta was enough for Giles Scott (GBR) to break the longest standing record in Finn sailing history. Ben Ainslie (GBR), undefeated in the Finn for six years, could only finish third, behind both Jonathan Lobert (FRA) and Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) and dropped to fourth overall.
Weymouth saved its best weather for the last day of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta with 12-15 knot winds, low grey cloud and never ending rain throughout the early part of the day. By the time the Finns started at 14.00 the rain had eased and so had the wind, with 8-10 knots during the race, and really dying in the closing stages to produce a nerve wrackingly close finish as virtually the whole fleet crossed the finish in the space of about 10 seconds.
Ben Ainslie (GBR) was 16 points adrift in second place and though he has turned some events around on the double scoring medal race, he had perhaps left too much too do here today. Leader Giles Scott (GBR) only had to finish eighth or better to be sure of the win – his first Sailing World Cup win since Palma in 2009.
Ainslie aimed for and protected the pin end start with Scott in the middle of the line with Lobert. After the first tack, Scott looked to have the advantage but following a few quick shifts was mid fleet and trying to catch up. While most of the favourites favoured the left, Zach Railey (USA) rounded the top mark first from Brendan Casey (AUS) from the right and then Scott.
Railey still led through the gate followed by Ed Wright (GBR), Casey and Scott. The second upwind is were everything changed with the leaders getting pined on the left of the course by a big right hander that brought Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic from sixth to first and Lobert all the way from ninth to second. Lobert gybed first on the downwind and got a gust through Kljakovic Gaspic. The following boats all bunched up as the wind started to fade away but Ainslie was moving through the fleet.
Into the finish Lobert held a boatlength lead over Kljakovic Gaspic. Ainslie had moved up to third, but he was less than a boatlength from another six boats who all crossed the line overlapped. It was a very tense and exciting finish. The race win lifted Lobert to second and a second place lifted Kljakovic Gaspic to third, ahead of Ainslie by just 0.4 points,
Lobert said of the last upwind leg, “In the position I was in [ninth] if I wanted to come back I needed to try something and then I saw the cloud on the right and the water was darker. I had nothing to lose so thought 'let's see what happens'. And when I got there I got a wonderful shift and I just kept going. I was surprised it paid off so much. The goal was just to come back into the top five and play the downwind, but it was better than that."
“I am very pleased with second overall. If one week ago somebody had told me that I would finish second I would have never believed them, so I am very happy.”
Scott said on breaking Ainslie's record, “I guess it's quite a big deal. To be honest I tried to ignore it as much as much as I can but obviously Ben is coming back after not doing a lot of sailing so he's still got to improve a lot. Winning here is fantastic of course but I think the next two years is going to be really, really difficult but it's great to get my name in there and prove that I can win.”
Does he think it will make Ainslie try harder than he would have done otherwise, “For sure he will, but the fleet has really progressed in the last two years and it always continues to evolve and change slightly. There are a lot of good sailors in the fleet at the moment; it's a very hard fleet to sail in. But I am sure he'll come back fighting.”
Ainslie reflected on his return to the class. “It's been good getting back into the class, with great racing and a good breeze. It's a tricky course out there so I've learned a lot from it. But for sure my fitness and my racing weight is way off where it needs to be. I knew that coming in to the event. All things considered I am pretty happy with the way it's gone. I just need to find some time now to do some Finn sailing really. But I am really impressed with the level here. The guys have been working really hard improving their game, so for me I need to get back into some full time training and get back to somewhere near the top.”
Skandia Sail for Gold was also the final event in the 2010 series with Ed Wright retaining the 2009 title from Jonathan Lobert and Rafael Trujillo.
Top ten after medal race
1 GBR 41 Giles SCOTT 60
2 FRA 112 Jonathan LOBERT 63
3 CRO 524 Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC 66
4 GBR 3 Ben AINSLIE 66.4
5 GBR 11 Edward WRIGHT 76.3
6 NZL 1 Dan SLATER 87.1
7 USA 4 Zach RAILEY 89
8 AUS 241 Brendan CASEY 95
9 FRA 115 Thomas LE BRETON 99
10 SWE 11 Daniel BIRGMARK 102
1. Giles Scott - onEditon
2. Jonathan Lobert - onEdition
3. Start of medal race - Robert Deaves
4. Top three - Robert Deaves
Full results at http://www.skandiasailforgoldregatta.co.uk/results/Finn.htm