Giles Scott (GBR) has convincingly and unflinchingly shown that he is still the man to beat in the Finn Class as the 2015 season gets underway. Finishing a close second in the medal race at the end of the Sailing World Cup Miami, Scott wrapped up his eighth consecutive major win in the class and defends the title he won this time last year.
A third place from Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) was enough to hold onto silver, while a sparking race win from Jake Lilley (AUS) moved him ahead of Ioannis Mitakis (GRE) to take the bronze.
The Finns were the first class to start the medal race day in Miami. With 15 knots from the east it was a fitting end to a great week of racing. And it was an incredibly close race. All boats finished the 25-minute race within 40 seconds. That is pretty close racing by any standards.
Starting at the pin, Jake Lilley (AUS) won the start and as soon as he was clear, tacked and crossed the fleet to lead around the top mark from Scott and Piotr Kula (POL). Scott briefly took the lead at the gate, but Lilley again led at the top mark, if only by 1 second. He kept his lead downwind to cross first, from Scott and Kljakovic Gaspic.
Going into the day in third overall, Ioannis Mitakis (GRE), rounded the top mark in sixth but then dropped to ninth by the finish. The only person who could have taken a medal away from him was Lilley, and he had to be six places in front. It was a big ask, but in the end Lilley was eight places in front and took the bronze medal. Mitakis ended up fourth overall.
The last time Scott was beaten at a major Finn event was April 2013 in Hyeres. He was second. In fact he has only been off the podium once since 2010, and this is his third win in Miami.
He won five races out of 11 and a bad day for him would have been a great day for any other sailor, ending with a winning margin of 25 points. His relaxed style of sailing is disarming, but deadly, and unless the rest of the felt start to catch up soon he is going to continue his clean sweep of events.
Final comments from Scott, "I just had a good week, and we've been lucky to get some good racing in here especially after a bit of disappointing weather last year. On to the next one..."
Silver medalist Kljakovic Gaspic had too much to do in the medal race, coming into the day 23 points behind Scott. He had a bumpy start to the week and then a DSQ in race 4 didn't help matters. But he turned it around in the second half of the week amassing identical points to Scott over the final six qualification races. Kljakovic Gaspic is one of the most focussed sailors on the circuit and very focussed on the task in hand – a medal in Rio – and you get the impression there is a lot more to come from the double European Champion.
He said on Saturday's race, "Just an ordinary medal race. The idea was to stay close to Giannis and Jake. After Giannis was left behind on first run I just made sure to stay close to Giles and Jake in front. My speed was good so I could keep a close contact to them."
Bronze medallist Jake Lilley (AUS) held second place for the first four days here, but fell at the final hurdle and amassed a lot of points in the light and shifty Friday races to drop to fourth, 11 points outside a medal. It needed something special to turn that around, so to come out and win the medal race is quite an achievement. He is the youngest sailor here and with his coach John Bertrand (USA) they are making steady progress. Lilley only joined the class in 2013 and is one of its fastest rising stars. Only time will tell whether he can continue this momentum, though you get the feeling he will.
A wrap would not be complete without further mention to Mitakis, who has sailed an exceptional week. After winning the 2012 Europeans in light winds, he had made his mark, but struggled to repeat the form on a regular basis. One highlight was eighth at the 2013 World Championship, again in generally light winds. In Miami this week he has held his own in most conditions and showed his speed potential in the 10-14 knot range. If only there were four medals up for grabs: he fully deserved one.
It has been an interesting week in Miami and with more than half the major players here a good indication of form as the circuit now moves onto Europe.
Results after medal race (medal race positions in brackets)
1 GBR 41 Giles Scott 27 (2)
2 CRO 524 Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic 52 (3)
3 AUS 41 Jake Lilley 60 (1)
4 GRE 77 Ioannis Mitakis 65 (9)
5 SLO 573 Vasilij Zbogar 78 (4)
6 POL 17 Piotr Kula 95 (7)
7 GBR 11 Edward Wright 96 (5)
8 ITA 146 Michele Paoletti 107 (6)
9 USA 6 Caleb Paine 108 (8)
10 AUS 261 Oliver Tweddell 108 (10)
Event website: http://miami.ussailing.org
Live tracking at: www.sailing.org/worldcup/multimedia/tracking.php