The Delta Lloyd Regatta for the Finns ended as it began – with strong winds and a battle between Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) and Ed Wright (GRR) for overall honours. In the end Wright led the medal race from start to finish, while Kljaovic Gaspic spent the race recovering from a poor first beat to cross in third, but not enough to retain the gold. Brendan Casey (AUS) took the bronze.
With the wind at 15-18 knots and very gusty and shifty it was a fitting and thrilling end to a physically and mentally demanding week. An individual recall signal at the start resulted in Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) returning, but Rafal Szukiel (POL) didn't, and scored OCS.
Early on it was apparent that Wright was taking the battle to Kljakovic Gaspic, covering him closely out of the start, but half way up the first beat, they split with Wright heading to the right, while Kljakovic Gaspic took a bad shift to the left. But Wright had picked the better line and was soon clear ahead and from there just extended on the fleet.
At the first top mark Wright led from Gasper Vincec (SLO), Brendan Casey (AUS) and Pieter-Jan Postma (NED). Kljakovic Gaspic was back in eighth, but showed his form on the first downwind, working the free pumping downwind legs really well to round the gate in fourth behind Wright, Postma and Casey.
Kljakovic Gaspic inflicted a penalty on Casey on the next beat after Casey tacked too close, and the Croatian moved up to third, with only Postma between him and the gold medal. However Postma's game was raised and despite the boats sailing within five or six boatlengths of each other, Kljakovic Gaspic just could not get past the Dutchman.
While Postma and Kljakovic Gaspic battled on the downwind, Casey capsized, which put him out of contention for a higher colour medal. At the final windward mark, Wright still had a comfortable lead of around 40 seconds, while the fight between Postma and Kljakovic Gaspic continued on the final downwind. Postma gybed across late, almost capsized on a gust and crossed the line just a few boatlengths ahead of Kljakovic Gaspic. This relegated the Croatian to the silver medal position, while Wright took the gold by just one point. Casey crossed the line in ninth, but still took the bronze medal.
Afterwards Wright said, “It was exciting to go out there this morning. I saw my friends win the 49ers and it was inspiring. I love these conditions and I was quite confident but you never know with the medal race. Ivan sailed really well this week and it was hard job to win this event.”
“I just had an opportunity to pass him back at the beginning of the race. I tried to cover him and he took a bad shift and sailed himself a little bit out of it. He came back really well but there was still Postma between us, which gave me the regatta.”
Wright had opted to race in Medemblik this week, instead of training in Weymouth for what could arguably be the biggest regatta of his life in two weeks – Sail for Gold. “I've thoroughly enjoyed it. Even with a few of the top guys missing the competition was still very close and every point counted. It was a toss up whether to come here or stay in Weymouth and train but I am happy I made the right decision. I will now relax a bit next week before getting back to it in Weymouth.”
Postma sad, “The wind was all over the place, it was very shifty and difficult to sail so it was hard work but I really wanted the second place and to do the best I can today, so I am happy with that. Congratulations to Ed.”
Third overall Casey reflected on the week. He said, “It's not been that strange to have less of the top ranked people here...we had very close and competitive racing. The regatta programme is overloaded this year so some events are seeing less of the big names but the Finn fleet has such a strong following that we still have a good fleet size and standard.”
For the young Canadian Greg Douglas (CAN), today was his first medal race. Now 20 years old, Douglas, who competed in the last Olympics in the Laser for Barbados, vowed that there will be more to come. He finished fifth in the medal race to move up one place to eighth overall for the week.
“It is a good result here. The training has paid off, but the last races were not good. I capsized a lot, and got tired, but I am positive also because I made good starts. The medal race was very intense. The start was impressive with everybody 100% trying to take the early advantage, so it was tough.”
"I moved to Canada when I was 14. My parents had Canadian nationality so that was easy. I have a good friend in the Laser in Canada Robert Davis. In his house one day I met Ken Dool. We talked about switching to the Finn and sailing for Canada. Later I met Chris Cook at a regatta and he invited me to a training camp for new Finn sailors. My first Finn event was in Miami in 2010. The Canadian Finn class has three boats they lend to guys out of the Laser. We have now identified other young sailors to pass it to.”
“The transition to the Finn was pretty hard but great. Chris Cook is very helpful and a good coach. It is hard to learn the boat, a bit more complicated with the sail and mast. I now live in Toronto and sail from the Royal Canadian YC. I also get more support from Canada with my campaign and there is a good group to sail with. So it makes sense for me to race for Canada. My long term goal is 2016. I have time to medal there. My objective now is to qualify for London, but it is still a long learning process. I need to improve my fitness level and downwind speed.”
Wright's win in Medemblik means that Skandia Team GBR sailors have now won all five of the events sailed so far in the 2011 Sailing World Cup, and now also fill the top three places overall in the Sailing World Cup standings. Winner in both 2009 and 2010, Wright is now up to third behind Ben Ainslie (GBR) and Giles Scott (GBR).
The next event, Sail for Gold at the Olympic venue in Weymouth, in one week's time is arguably the most crucial event for each of them this year. It is going to be a herculean battle of gladiators, each one determined to prove that they are the best.
Results after medal race (medal race position in brackets):
1 GBR 11 Edward Wright 14 (1)
2 CRO 524 Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic 15 (3)
3 AUS 1 Brendan Casey 36 (9)
4 SLO 5 Gasper Vincec 42 (4)
5 NED 842 Pieter-Jan Postma 45 (2)
6 SLO 573 Vasilij Zbogar 50 (7)
7 POL 17 Piotr Kula 52 (8)
8 CAN 5 Greg Douglas 58 (5)
9 CRO 25 Marin Misura 58 (6)
10 POL 7 Rafal Szukiel 77 (ocs)
Photos: Margje Tempelaars
Event website: www.deltalloydregatta.org
Full results: http://results.deltalloydregatta.org/
Event facebook page: www.facebook.com/deltalloydregattaswc
Live updates: twitter.com/DeltaLloydRegat