The first eight nations have qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games after two more races at Hempel Sailing World Championships in Aarhus. The only thing left to decide now is who will win the 2018 Finn Gold Cup in Thursday’s medal race.
After winning the epic final race, with a 35 knots squall coming through, Max Salminen, takes an eight-point lead into the medal race from Zsombor Berecz and Josh Junior. Realistically any of the first six boats can win the Finn Gold Cup, while all ten boats have a shot at one of the silver or bronze medals.
With eight nations in the 10-boat medal race, all nations have qualified. These are: Argentina, Canada, Hungary, Great Britain, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and Turkey. The next qualification opportunity will be at the 2019 European Championship in Marsala, Sicily.
The conditions did not get easier on the final day of the opening series, with a long delay on shore waiting for the wind to develop. The fleets were finally released after 15.00 and it took another two hours before the first race got away in a very nice 10-12 knots from the south.
In Race 9, Pieter-Jan Postma was the early leader, but it wasn’t long before Alican Kaynar, who has had a lacklustre week so far popped out in front and took the race win.
The second race of the day and the final race of the opening series was a crazy and fascinating race that ended with a battle-of-the-fittest survival downwind leg to the finish as a 35 knot (some sailors exaggerate at 40 knot) squall arrived at the end of the second upwind. There were lots of place changes with the big shift, with capsizes and wrong navigation. Early leader Ioannis Mitakis led round the final mark only to capsize and end up 34th. Salminen was in the leading pack and steered a perfect course downwind to take his second race win of the week.
Sailors gained and lost all over the course, but it has set up a fascinating medal race battle with the points remaining close as they have done all week long. Overnight leader Ed Wright had a high scoring day and just managed to stay in the top 10, while Josip Olujic, who sailed an exceptional week, missed out by just six points. Many other top sailors also failed to qualify for Tokyo and will have to wait until next May for another chance.
Meanwhile, Berecz climbed from seventh to second after two seventh places, while Nicholas Heiner has had a rocky few days with several high score, before finally finding some form to place fifth in the final race and hold a three point lead over Pieter-Jan Postma in their national selection trials.
Andy Maloney just scraped into the top 10. “It’s been a really competitive week in Aarhus, and really tricky. It was always going to be a super tricky venue and a shifty venue no matter where the wind was coming from. So the key has been to try and be consistent, and there has been a lot of guys sailing really well so it’s been a good fight all week.”
“In that last race today we had about 35 knots come in at the top of the beat and it was quite an exciting downwind to the finish. It was never over until the end of the last race, that’s for sure and it will be an exciting medal race tomorrow.”
Ramshaw, who entered the class in 2016 and qualified Canada for Rio 216 at the Continental qualifier stage, was elated to have qualified the nation early for Tokyo.
“When the squall came in I knew just to keep the boat balanced. I have been training a lot on san Francisco so I was able to put that to work and make gains and bear away and finish 11th so now I am fifth overall, which is enough to qualify the country for Tokyo, and that was the goal coming hear so I am pretty stoked.”
“I was second going into the day and had a pretty rough first race and that ended up being my drop. Going into the second race I knew I had to put a good one together and I was behind, and when the big puff came in I was able to sail straight to the mark where a lot of guys got a little lots or capsized or got stuck in the breeze so I took advantage. I was a little but lucky but that’s what you need sometimes.”
Salminen will go in the medal race as defending champion and a useful eight-point lead.
“I went into the day in fourth and it was tight with the points, as it has been the whole week. I knew I had a really important day ahead of me. It was a tricky first race, and everyone knew that the wind was going to go right the whole day and it did a bit in the first race. I didn’t do my best race but then in the second race, dark clouds had started to build on the right even more and everyone started heading to the right.”
“But it didn’t really strike until the last top mark rounding when we got a big gust. From there it very important take care of your boat and bring it safely to the finishing line. With the big gusts and the rain it was really hard to see where you were going so you had to know course configuration and trust on your compass to get back to the gate and the finishing line.”
“So now I have an eight-point buffer on two guys in second and third and nine points to third. So it will be me just having to do a good medal race tomorrow to hold on to the Gold Cup.”
The medal race is scheduled for a 14.07 warning signal and will be streamed live on the World Sailing YouTube channel here.
Results after 10 races
1 SWE 33 Max Salminen 60
2 HUN 40 Zsombor Berecz 68
3 NZL 24 Josh Junior 68
4 NED 89 Nicholas Heiner 69
5 CAN 18 Tom Ramshaw 71
6 NED 842 Pieter-Jan Postma 72
7 ARG 48 Facundo Olezza 77
8 TUR 21 Alican Kaynar 78
9 NZL 61 Andy Maloney 82
10 GBR 11 Edward Wright 83