Josh Junior (NZL) has sealed his first ever European regatta win and his first ever major Finn regatta win with a fifth place finish in the medal race at the 47th Trofeo Princesa Sofia IBEROSTAR to take the gold by 27 points. Giles Scott (GBR) wins the silver and Tapio Nirkko (FIN) the bronze. The medal race was won in great style by Zsombor Berecz (HUN).
The weather had returned to normal for the final day on the Bay of Palma with sunny skies and blue waters. With the overall win already secured by Junior – he just had to take part – the interest was in who was going to take the other medals with Nirkko, Jake Lilley (AUS), Scott and Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) all in with a shout, with 11 points separating them going into the race.
Of the 10 sailors competing in the medal race, eight have already been selected to their national teams for Rio. The other two – Lilley and Junior – are still waiting for their trials to be completed, but are arguably the favourites at the moment. So in this regard the medal race here today could be seen as a dress rehearsal for the Olympics medal race in less than five months time. As Junior put it, “We are not missing many people here so it was probably the hardest regatta of the year, and it's just awesome to win it.”
The medal race was started in 10-12 knots dropping to 8-10 on the final downwind. Nirkko made the best of the first upwind, while Berecz sailed further to the left of the fleet and rounded in third. He took the lead on the next lap to extend and lead down for a comfortable win. A fourth for Scott was enough to lift him to second overall, while Nirkko dropped to ninth in the race, but crucially within two paces of Lilley, to take home the bronze. Lilley dropped off the podium after one of the best performances of his career this week.
Berecz talked about his plan for the race. “I had nothing to loose and I wanted to win. We had a plan that we liked the left side, so I went for it. I went for the pin end end and won that, and I was a bit alone for a while. It was close at the top and I took the lead at the bottom.”
“It was really tough this week, every day was hiking, so everyone is tired, me as well, so it's good that it's over. But it was a much tougher fleet here that at the Europeans so I am happy that I managed to be near the top again.”
Junior explained his race, “All I needed to do today was to finish the race so I am ecstatic to have won the regatta, really happy. I am lucky enough to have John Cutler as my coach and we have been working hard all summer on technique and going faster and consistency, and I think we have achieved that and now we need to keep building until Hyeres, and hopefully the Olympic Games.”
“It's my first ever win in Europe. It feels great and I want to do it again. It feels awesome.”
Scott also spoke of his preparations for what will be his first Olympics. “This week has gone really well apart from the day I got a 45th and 11th and ultimately, what really killed me was the breakage. But that being said, if Josh had a breakage, he'd have picked up 14th and not 45th, so in that regard you have to take your hat off to Josh.”
This week is the first regatta that Scott has lost since April 2013, just short of a three year winning streak. “But where I am at the moment, it's going very well. We have been experimenting quite a lot this week and are pretty happy with what we've been doing. Matt [Howard, his coach] and I still think we are in a very strong position.”
Junior's win comes at a crucial time for him in his preparations for the Olympics, for which he still has to win selection for the New Zealand team. He continued, “It's been a glamour week and we have completed every race. Most races have been been pretty challenging, with power sailing in 15 knots of breeze. We've had strong conditions and some people have been very fast. Giles has proven to be fast again, so to come out on top is great. This is probably the most competitive event leading into the Olympics, so this is a great one to win. I am very pleased to have chipped away with a lot of top five places and won the regatta with a day to go.”
Results after medal race (medal race in brackets)
1 NZL 24 Josh Junior 51 (5)
2 GBR 41 Giles Scott 78 (4)
3 FIN 218 Tapio Nirkko 78 (9)
4 AUS 41 Jake Lilley 80 (7)
5 NED 842 Pieter-Jan Postma 83 (6)
6 GRE 77 Ioannis Mitakis 88 (2)
7 HUN 40 Zsombor Berecz 98 (1)
8 FRA 112 Jonathan Lobert 103 (8)
9 BRA 109 Jorge Zarif 111 (3)
10 SWE 33 Max Salminen 122 (10)