The wind shifting further into the north and coming off the shore produced a selection of intriguing right hand and left hand shifts for the sailors to choose from. The Oscar flag for free pumping remained up through both races with wind speeds averaging 15 knots and gusting to 25 at times, with the windward loop/triangle course set.
For the first time this week, race seven got underway first time. Winner Ed Wright said, "I came off the line well and then tacked to the right. I had really good boatspeed and just pulled away to round the top mark in the lead."
He was followed by Piotr Kula (POL), Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO), Marin Misura (CRO), Rafael Trujillo (ESP and Mark Andrews (GBR). Wright gained some distance on the first downwind. "On the second beat I just loosely covered Rafa and the rest of the fleet and then sailed away from them again on the last reaches."
Kljakovic-Gaspic finished third, "It was a tough day for me but came good at the end. In the first race I had a bad start and I ended up on the left. I was sure it was going to be shifty conditions and I was sailing on a starboard lift getting going quite a long way to the left. Then a new wind came in and I got a big advantage from that to go back over to the right and rounded in the top ten. The rest of the race was quite easy for me as I was fast on the downwind. On the second upwind before the top I was on the left and the rest of the fleet were on the right and in the last 200 metres I got a nice shift from the left and gained 50 metres on the group."
Meanwhile Trujillo climbed to second with Høgh Christensen finishing fourth just ahead of Giles Scott.
Race two started after a brief intermission to allow a rain storm to pass over. The clouds brought 30 knots winds and cold rain but it soon passed and the wind dropped to 12-14 knots for the start of race eight, which also got away first time.
Wright said, "The second race was really difficult. Out of the start the guys on top of me weren't tacking. The rest of the fleet at the port end had tacked and were starting to cross us. They were taking all the lanes or I would have gone earlier, but I had good numbers so I was happy to keep going. But I was lucky that the right ran out of pressure. I rounded about 20th but then had a good downwind so that pulled me up to seventh and then on the last reach I was working really hard and finished fourth."
Kljakovic-Gaspic had a much tougher time. "I think on the top mark I was 35th and I knew I had just one downwind and it was really important to surf as much as possible and to make up a lot of ground. So after the top mark I gave it 100 per cent and I gained lots and got in the middle of the top 15 and rounded close to the front pack. On the second upwind I sailed really smart and had some good moments to round the top mark in fourth with a couple of boats around me and I was really fast on the reaches and finished third."
"It was a great day. The wind was was good, but still very shifty. You just have to get used to these conditions and use them the best you can. In the first two days I was expecting them to cancel the race, but that didn't happen so you just have to keep going and make the best of what you have. Today was really exhausting for me, especially the second race."
Race winner, Høgh Christensen tells the story of race eight. "The second race was very tricky. Before the start I thought I saw something coming out of the left and I was a little afraid because the right has been quite good so far and I decided to start at the pin and got a half decent start there. I was lying next to Bryan Boyd and shouted at him to drop his traveller because he was pinching and we just needed to just get across the fleet. We did and then rounded the first mark first and second."
Behind them were Zach Railey (USA), Daniel Birgmark (SWE 11), Rafael Truijillo (ESP) and Michael Maier (CZE).
"The wind came in from behind on the run and a lot of people moved up and Giles came past and led at the bottom. The next beat was really shifty and I managed to play the shifts a bit better than Giles and pulled out a little bit. The left side came in quite well but I kept playing the middle and tried to stay safe and minimise the risk, and take a little out of Giles every time I had the chance."
The Dane rounded the top mark clear ahead of Scott, Misura, Kljakovic-Gaspic and Wright and extended his lead down the spray filled reaches to record his second race win of the series.
By the finish, Wright had moved up to fourth behind Høgh Christensen, Scott and Kljakovic-Gaspic with Maier in fifth.
Høgh Christensen continued, "I would be happy with a top ten here but also when it's on, I'll do anything to win and today I gave myself that opportunity. There's still a good way to go and Ed has a good lead. If the forecast is right we are going to have a lot of breeze tomorrow and Ed usually doesn't make mistakes in that so he's going to be a hard guy to beat, it's going to be tight and a lot of good guys are in a good position.
"For me, today couldn't be much better and I very much more relaxed than last year. I could see myself coming back to the class but right now there's no money to do that. That's my main problem right now. Sport in general in Denmark is getting a 20 per cent cut in funding, while everyone else is increasing by 20 per cent. I am all out of finance and I can't put myself in that sort of debt every year. So we'll see."
The previous regatta leader Dan Slater (NZL) ended the day in 6th after a 12th and 14th. He said, " It was one of those days. I wasn't that quick and it was pretty hard to play the game. The lack of sailing since the Games probably got found out a bit today to be honest. I'm also using equipment I've never really used before, especially in a breeze. I'm using a UK North for the first time in three years.
"I kept being forced to tack off because I couldn't hold a lane so it's not just about missing shifts. But every time I was forced out of my lane it was another few boatlengths lost. It's one of those things. But we will have all closed up quite a lot today and there is still plenty to play for."
One sailor who had a better day, Thursday was Pieter-Jan Postma (NED). With two ninth places he has moved up to 18th. Postma has been struggling with his form and not found the speed that led him to silver medal at the 2007 worlds and pre-olympics but is optimistic about the future. "I am getting good starts. Off the line I am looking good. By my strategy and boat speed are not 100 per cent and that creates some doubts and that's not good. It's tough, and the level is high, but I have faith and patience and I'll get there. So no worries. I'm not actually sure what the problem but sometimes it's good to analyse and put some distance on it to pin point the issues. The winter was a little bit messy and I think if you have a steady winter you have a better season."
"But today was nice. Perfect conditions. It's also a perfect atmosphere here. They have arranged everything here really well. I think it is one of the best, if not the best regattas I have been to. When you come ashore you get a bit of music, some beer and a sandwich. On the water there are perfect races. I am really enjoying it."
The two final qualification races are scheduled at 11.00 on Friday, with the medal race and the final race for the rest on Saturday.
|3||Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic||CRO||-31||3||21||2||6||13||3||3||82||51|
|11||Thomas Le Breton||FRA||5||18||18||25||12||14||-26||8||126||100|
|15||Deniss Karpak||EST||9||28||5||15||(88.0 DNF)||25||22||7||199||111|
|17||Pieter Jan Postma||NED||13||-56||27||14||39||9||9||9||176||120|
|22||Eduard Skornyakov||RUS||32||8||35||17||1||29||15||(88.0 DSQ)||225||137|
|27||Jorge Zarif (J)||BRA||26||10||23||41||-60||11||39||41||251||191|
|28||Giorgio Poggi||ITA||19||26||28||7||14||15||88.0 DNE||-34||231||197|
|29||Tomas Vika (J)||CZE||34||40||11||26||26||42||-50||19||248||198|
|37||Nanno Schuttrups||NED||23||14||51||42||55||(88.0 BFD)||36||45||354||266|
|38||Filippo Baldassari (J)||ITA||-65||53||26||38||54||34||34||29||333||268|
|40||Egor Larionov (J)||RUS||48||27||38||43||-74||35||25||62||352||278|
|41||Thomas Mørup-Petersen||DEN||54||25||42||46||(88.0 BFD)||40||31||42||368||280|
|42||Karel van Hellemond||NED||49||33||39||30||-65||49||28||59||352||287|
|48||Caleb Paine (J)||USA||14||64||48||44||-67||24||65||56||382||315|
|51||Lauri Väinsalu (J)||EST||25||38||54||(88.0 DNF)||47||58||40||70||420||332|
|53||Ian Cook (J)||USA||52||49||55||50||43||28||-60||58||395||335|
|54||Oleksiy Borysov||UKR||66||(88.0 DNC)||88.0 DNC||88.0 DNC||16||19||43||20||428||340|
|56||Gert van der Heijden||NED||45||37||-64||57||44||52||59||51||409||345|
|57||Anton Sadchykov (J)||UKR||40||44||-66||58||61||66||44||33||412||346|
|60||Dennis de Ruiter||NED||63||-71||52||67||69||53||32||36||443||372|
|63||Harles Liiv||EST||73||48||(88.0 DNC)||36||68||88.0 DNC||45||32||478||390|
|65||Gasper Vincec||SLO||21||17||(88.0 DNF)||12||88.0 DNC||88.0 DNC||88.0 DNC||88.0 DNC||490||402|
|66||Henk de Jager||NED||-78||62||53||64||63||50||57||57||484||406|
|67||Peter Haidekker||HUN||58||45||46||77||42||77||67||(88.0 DNC)||500||412|
|68||R. Phillip Ramming||USA||-86||36||61||74||72||48||61||61||499||413|
|72||Claudio Bosetti||ITA||42||78||62||66||52||71||(88.0 DNF)||88.0 DNC||547||459|
|73||Olof Lundqvist||SWE||75||76||75||72||38||62||(88.0 DNF)||69||555||467|
|74||Carlo Recchi (J)||ITA||51||75||58||55||56||(88.0 DNC)||88.0 DNC||88.0 DNC||559||471|
|75||Elemer Haidekker (J)||HUN||43||83||81||81||66||56||73||(88.0 DNC)||571||483|
|76||Jesper Petersen||DEN||70||79||68||69||59||67||(88.0 DNC)||71||571||483|
|77||Lars Hall||DEN||61||63||72||60||58||(88.0 DNF)||88.0 DNF||88.0 DNC||578||490|
|78||Patrik Deutcher (J)||CZE||71||80||57||71||82||64||71||(88.0 DNC)||584||496|
|79||Nikolai Ratzlaff||DEN||79||66||(88.0 DNC)||76||79||57||72||68||585||497|
|80||Peter Corbett||GER||77||82||71||80||78||63||70||(88.0 DNC)||609||521|
|81||Uwe Barthel||GER||72||72||73||79||62||81||(88.0 DNC)||88.0 DNC||615||527|
|82||Sverker Härd||SWE||84||61||78||(88.0 DNC)||70||79||88.0 DNC||88.0 DNC||636||548|
|83||Matthias Bohn||GER||74||(88.0 DNF)||60||68||88.0 DNC||88.0 DNC||88.0 DNC||88.0 DNC||642||554|
|84||Charles Heimler||USA||83||84||77||78||77||69||(88.0 DNC)||88.0 DNC||644||556|
|85||Christian Qvist||DEN||81||77||80||82||75||76||(88.0 DNF)||88.0 DNC||647||559|
|86||Richard Hart||GBR||80||81||(88.0 DNF)||88.0 DNC||80||78||88.0 DNC||88.0 DNC||671||583|
|87||Richard Hirschler (J)||HUN||68||(88.0 DNF)||88.0 DNC||88.0 DNC||88.0 BFD||80||88.0 DNC||88.0 DNC||676||588|
The greatest Gold Cup nation
While the boat may have been born in neighbouring Sweden, the country to have had the most success in the boat at World Championship level, if admittedly not in the Olympics, has been the 2009 hosts of the Finn Gold Cup - Denmark.
Denmark has a long, successful history in the class, its biggest Finn star being its first: Paul Elvstrøm, the greatest Olympic sailor of all time. Elvstrøm won three of his four consecutive Olympic Golds in the men’s heavyweight singlehanded dinghy between 1952 and 1960 while Henning Wind followed this up with a bronze medal in 1964. Unfortunately Denmark hasn’t medalled in the Finn at the Games since, despite fielding some very strong contenders.
But in terms of the class' World Championship, the prestigious Finn Gold Cup, Denmark leads the field with nine wins in its 53 year history (the UK is next with seven, Ben Ainslie alone having been responsible for five of these). The Danish Gold Cup wins went to Elvstrøm in 1958-59, Henning Wind in 1968, Lasse Hjortnæs in 1982 and 1984-5, Stig Westergaard in 1986 and 1989 and their present day Finn star, Jonas Høgh-Christensen, in 2006.
Despite being reasonably local to Vallensbæk, Paul Elvstrøm, now 81, has now retired from involvement with sailing and is not expected to put in an appearance this week. So does Danish success in the Finn stem from him? While it may have done for previous generations, Jonas Høgh-Christensen, who has been Finn sailing at a top level since 2001, is no sentimentalist, preferring to stay in the present. “The class has a very good tradition in Denmark,” he acknowledges. “Beside Paul Elvstrøm we have had Jørgen Lindhardtsen, who has been in the class for ages and still competes; Lasse Hjortnaes, who is a three time World Championship; Stig and Bjorn Westergaard, etc.; so we have a long tradition of good Finn sailors.”
Even today there remains a strong domestic Finn fleet that sails regularly in Denmark. At a Finn Danish National Championship, says Høgh-Christensen, they will typically have 50 boats sailing. “A lot of the guys are older sailors, but they have all the gear and they might be 50 years old, but when they were 30 they were competing at the Olympics and they are really good sailors and if it is not blowing 30 knots you have to get up early to beat them!”
Rather enjoying an apprenticeship in the class with some of the greats, the decade or so between the Westergaards leaving the class and Høgh-Christensen getting into it was large enough that he had to find his own way. This doesn't seem to have been much of a hindrance. “The first regatta I went to we created a training group of five guys from different countries and we all wanted to go to the Olympics," he says. "We all had common goals – ‘let’s work hard at this’ and we just worked hard. When we started no one was in the top 100. While the group changed, by 2006 we had 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 8. We were six guys in the top 10 in the world…”
Høgh-Christensen’s success in the Finn, and particularly his Finn Gold Cup win in 2006, was what attracted this year’s event to Vallensbæk Sailing Club, to the south of Copenhagen. Høgh-Christensen claims to have given up Finn sailing, due to the tough economic climate and found full time employment in ‘the real world’ one month after returning from the Beijing Olympics last year, as Marketing Partnership Manager for pop concert promoter giant, Live Nation. However having had only five days back in the boat since he finished 6th in Qingdao last year, he is putting in a creditable showing currently fifth at the 2009 Finn Gold Cup, 11 points off the lead, with two days of racing to go.
“When Vallensbæk YC came and said ‘we want to hold the FGC’. I said I think that is a great idea, it is probably one of the best yacht clubs to do it in Denmark at this time of year, but make sure that this regatta is at least as good as any other regatta or hopefully a lot better," says Høgh-Christensen. "And I think they have managed well. We have had pretty good sailing conditions except for the first day. And the rest of the time, it has been perfect.”
As to whether we will see Høgh-Christensen on the start line of the 2012 London Olympic sailing down in Weymouth, at present the prospects are not looking good – but with an upturn in the economy, who knows if the lure of winning that elusive Olympic medal might not prove too great.