The Finn medal race at the Finn Gold Cup at the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championship was a fantastic finale of the the first week of competition in Fremantle, and it didn't disappoint. With three sailors capable of winning the coveted title and three more capable of snatching bronze, it was an enthralling and exciting contest with a thrilling ending.
Giles Scott (GBR) took the title in the closing stages by just one point from Pieter Jan Postma (NED, who led the race from start to finish. Defending World Champion Ed Wright (GBR) had to settle for the bronze medal.
Sailed in a fitful sea breeze, Oscar flag was only raised at the second windward mark as the breeze topped 10 knots. Postma dominated the race from the start, winning the pin end and protecting the left side to round the top mark ahead of Jonas Hoegh Christensen (DEN) and Scott. Hoegh Christensen briefly took the lead in more pressure close to the sea wall on the first downwind but Postma just broke the overlap at the leeward gate and from there on extended to lead throughout.
Scott was close on the Dane's heels throughout and at the final top mark had closed the gap enough to be confident in his downwind speed to the finish. Scott went wider, and surfed through to the lead as the fleet passed in front of the cheering grandstand, and was closing on Postma towards the finish. But second place in the race was enough to take the Finn Gold Cup for the first time.
Both sailors held their head in the hands after the finish and were clearly emotional. Postma had picked up another silver and for Scott, the realisation that even as European and world champion, he would still not be going to the Olympics. For him it remains a hard pill to swallow.
Meanwhile, defending champion Ed Wright didn't have such a good day. At one point he was in last place but climbed to fifth by the finish to take the bronze.
After winning the Europeans in Helsinki this summer, Scott had said he had felt “total relief”. Asked the same question again today, he said, “The same, but more so. I don't really know why. Probably because it's the worlds. But when I crossed the line I was a bit of mess to be honest. And it was a really weird feeling. There's five years to go to the next Olympics for me, though I am not really sure I have though about it too much.”
On today's race he said, “I made things difficult for myself today. PJ did a brilliant job, as he has done all week, of getting off the pin end of the start line and getting the first shift right and he has almost led every race to the top mark, so as soon as I saw him do that I knew I had a bit on. I was just thankful that I rounded so well.”
On catching Hoegh Christensen on the final downwind, “I thought that if I got round on his tail I had a decent chance of taking his wind and surf over the top of him. Fortunately I was able to do that. Jonas did well on the first downwind coming into the wall and I thought he'd end up in the lead so was quite surprised when PJ got water at the mark, and that made things a bit more difficult for me as well.”
Asked to describe the event in three words, the only word Scott could come up with was, “Emotional, really emotional. Rafa came over to me earlier and gave me a hug and said welcome to the Finn Gold Cup Club It's quite funny but it's great to be a part of that.”
Wright commented on the race,“Today was harder: lighter and more shifty. I made some mistakes. I probably was a bit too much confident. At the start I was too eager, so I made a show for the public,” he joked. “I crossed the line, was clearly over and came back. I thought my first beat was good and that I had gained some places but the racing was so tight that I was last at the top mark. It was good racing, very close and tricky, it took me the full three laps to catch up.”
You have to feel for Postma. After picking up a silver in 2007, many thought he was a real threat this year and and lost again by the smallest of margins, after dominating the medal race, his fifth race win of the week. “I missed the title by a point and it is hard, but I gave it all and more importantly I have greatly enjoyed the process. The racing was fantastic and fun, and that's the most important part. Giles had a better preparation than me, and is benefiting from a good programme. Working with the British Finn squad is a real advantage as he is always training with the top four guys in the world. They push each other constantly. The British are a step ahead.”
About racing in front of the crowd on Centre Course, “I loved it. The supporters cheering during the racing are bringing lots of positive energy. It makes sailing more lively even if I stay focussed on what I am doing!”
So there is a new name on one of the most hard to win trophies in the sport of sailing. At the medal ceremony at the World's Village, the Finn Gold Cup was presented to Giles Scott by Finn class legend John Bertrand.
The fleet reconvenes in just five months time for the next Finn Gold Cup at Falmouth in the UK, the home waters of Ben Ainslie, so that is going to be really interesting.
Follow the Finn racing on the class blog again at: http://www.finngoldcup.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&Itemid=6 which includes the Twitter feeds of many of the sailors racing in Perth. All you need to know in one place.
Results after medal race (medal race results in brackets):
Full results at: http://www.perth2011.com/competition/PERTH2011/SAM002000/results