Michael Maier ahead
Lighter winds on day four at the Finn World Masters in Punta Ala, Italy, brought a lot of new faces to the front. Michael Maier (CZE) won his sixth race to take a points lead for the first time – though it is only by one point. Only one race was sailed, however it was a day for the Italians with heat wins for Marco Buglielli (ITA) and Francesco Fragiani (ITA). The fourth heat was won by Uli Breuer (GER) to lift him up to second overall, with Allen Burrell (GBR) in third on countback.
The day started with a postponement ashore as the sea breeze experienced so far this week failed to materialise by 12.00. The fleets were sent out an hour late in sweltering temperatures and a further postponement afloat meant that the first heats didn't get away until nearly 14.00 and even then only in 4-6 knots of unstable breeze.
On course 1, in Yellow fleet, Laurent Hay (FRA) started at the pin and immediately tacked across the whole fleet, but a few more boats went further to the left and found more pressure and rounded ahead. Francesco Faggiani (ITA) already had a good lead at the top mark, which Hay, who rounded in sixth, gradually reduced to move up to second, but he could not catch the Italian. Christian Kühlwein (GER) crossed in third.
In the Blue fleet, Uli Breuer found more pressure on the left on the first upwind and then more on the right on the second upwind to lead throughout. Andre Budzien (GER) spent the race trying to catch him up but didn't quite make it. Howard Sellars (GBR) was also up the front and rounded the gate in second, before finally finishing fourth behind Budzien and Davourlis Panagiotis (GRE) who climbed through the fleet on each leg.
Over on Course 2, Marco Buglielli dominated Red fleet from start to finish, winning with a margin of around 200 metres. Florian Demetz (ITA) placed second with Jonny Peach (GER) in third. Lots of boats were pulled out with black flag disqualifications after several restarts.
The real interest today was in Green fleet where three out of the top four were up against each other. Initially Thomas Moerup Petersen (DEN) had the advantage, but Michael Maier caught him on the second upwind to claim his sixth heat win of the regatta, while Enrico Passoni (ITA) slipped into second place. Second overall Allen Burrell (GBR) could only manage a sixth, which he can discard, though he drops to third overall.
The race officer then decided as the wind was still only about four knots to call it a day and send the fleet home, which typically meant that the breeze almost immediately filled in and stayed in at 8 to 10 knots.
Marco Buglielli would have liked another race in the lighter condition, but he commented on his big win, “I started mid-line during a shift to the left and immediately tacked and played the shifts. I was very fast and that was it. I was first at the top mark with Jonny Peach just behind me and then I really extended downwind and had about a 200 metre lead. It was really very easy then to win the race. For me it was nice to have a light day after the windy days. These were my conditions, I like them and I am fast in them. Italians are more used to these conditions and you can see a lot of them at the top today. I am only 85 kg so I really struggle in wind and I am a bit slower than the big guys when it is windy, so I am forced to do tactical mistakes because I cannot go the way I want.”
Fourth overall, Thomas Moerup Petersen said, “I went to the left in the beginning and then after a few shifts was leading round the top mark and led down the run. Maier got past me on the second upwind. When I rounded the gate we had a shift to the left, so I tacked and thought I was safe, but he went further and got another shift and was inside me. It was great racing today. It was a very strong group for us, but I would prefer a gold fleet set up as this is not fair on some sailors. It's sometimes too random who you sail against.”
“I am really happy with how well I am doing, which is better than I thought I would. I thought it would be a tougher competition, though today it was a lot tougher. But I think it's fun, it's a good event. The sailing venue here is great, though the beach can sometimes be a problem with launching.”
After his second place today, which leaves in in fifth overall, Laurent Hay said, “It was a very difficult race because the wind was very light and it was my first time this week on course 1. On the first leg one of the Italians went to the left corner and rounded the top mark with a 100 metre lead. I was sixth round, but moved into second on the downwind, but not close enough to get past him. It was a good day for me, but not enough to move up the results as each point is very important in this type of regatta. The conditions here are very good because we have wind, waves and sunshine It was very pleasant, and the competition is very good, so I think it's a very good championship.”
After a fourth place finish today, Howard Sellars is the favourite to take the coveted Legend trophy, with a useful 34 point gaps on last year's winner Richard Hart (GBR). He said of today's race, “I started four boats up from the pin, just over the top of Andre Budzien. I think we were all a bit shy of the line because it was a black flag. He tacked over early and I couldn't because of a boat on my hip. When he finally tacked this left me as most windward boat, and I lifted over the fleet, and rounded the top mark in fourth. I stayed to the left on the run while the others were playing with each other on the right and I rounded the bottom mark second behind Uli Breuer. I didn't get it right up the second beat and was back in sixth at one point, but got a nice lift into the top mark, and from then on it was a procession to the shortened finish.”
What would winning the Legend prize mean to him? “I could be quite emotional about the whole thing, but it would be absolutely wonderful to win it. I've done a lot of sailing but it would be right up there among all the things I have done.”
With just three points between the first four boats, tomorrow's final races are going to be crucial. They are again scheduled to start at 12.00, though there is a latest time limit for a start at 15.00. The forecast for Friday is for stronger winds, so two races to complete the series should be possible as long as the sailors behave at the start.
Results after six races (full results here):
1 CZE 1 MICHAEL MAIER 5
2 GER 707 ULI BREUER 6
3 GBR 2 ALLEN BURRELL 6
4 DEN 9 THOMAS MOERUP PETERSEN 8
5 FRA 75 LAURENT HAY 11
6 NED 780 JAN WILLEM KOK 13
7 FRA 99 MARC ALLAIN DES BEAUVAIS 20
8 BUL 24 MIHAIL KOPANOV 20
9 NED 60 LUUK KUIJPER 22
10 NED 25 ARWIN KARSSEMIJER 24