It promised much and it certainly delivered. The first day of the 2012 Finn Junior and Senior European Championship in Scarlino, Italy was characterised by a shifty 8-10 knot northwesterly, moderate temperatures and some great racing. Rafa Trujillo (ESP) leads the way afer placing fourth and first, with 2007 European Champion Eduard Skornyakov (RUS) in second and Florian Raudachl (AUT) in third. Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) won the first race by a nice margin while Trujillo won the second in a thrilling finish.
After a long wait for the wind to stabilise, race one got underway in 8-9 knots northwesterly. Several of the favourites started on the left but it was the right side that paid with Deniss Karpak (EST) leading the fleet round the top mark followed by Eduard Skornyakov (RUS) and Egor Terpigorev (RUS).
On the first downwind Vasilij Zbogar (SLO), who rounded in sixth, found some extra pace to move into the lead from Karpak. Zbogar then extended to the next two legs to win by around 40 seconds. Karpak crossed second with Skornyakov in third. Rafa Trujillo (ESP) was fourth.
Race two was similar except that the left side payed nicely on the first leg. Unfortnately for some, many of the favourites had gone to the right again and it cost them dearly. The Turkish team were having a good day though with Alican Kaynar (TUR) and Akif Muslubas (TUR) rounding the top mark right behind a consistent Skornyakov. However the battle turned out to be between the next two: Bjorn Allansson (SWE) and Trujillo.
While Skornyakov and Muslubus picked up yellow flags, Allansson went wide on the first downwind to move just ahead of Trujillo at the gate. Florian Raudaschl (AUT), having a great day, moved up to third. The second upwind proved very tricey with both sides paying at times and both leaders trying to stay calm in the middle. It worked and Allansson rounded the final mark just ahead of Trujillo.
However Trujillo, made a big gain on the final downwind and for the final few hundred metres both boats were neck and neck. However it was the 2007 World Champion Trujillo, who found just that bit more pressure to slide over the finish a couple of boatlengths ahead of Allansson with Oleksiy Borisov (UKR) in third.
Trujiilo commented: “These were not my conditions, 8 to 10 knots, shifty and patchy, so to make a fourth and a first is unbelievable. So I am really happy and wasn't expecting to have these results today.” About the last downwind, “I was actually really happy being in second. The second upwind was really tricky. It was paying both sides with 20 degree shifts and I played the middle. But on the last downwind I had one opportunity and took the pressure and the shift, while Bjorn went too far on starboard and I got the advantage on him and that was that. We need to have some luck and today I think I used it all up.”
On the venue, “I am really happy to be here. I remember being here in 2008 and that was amazing. There's always wind and it's great for sailing and I hope we have a great championship.” Putting today into perspective in terms of his preparation for the Olympics, “One day like today gives you good motivation, but I am far behind where I should be.”
Zbogar said on his day, “The boat was going really smoothly. I was playing in the middle of the course all the time and it paid off in the end, so I was very happy with that. I had a great first downwind, moving from sixth to first. I thought I had a very good feeling down that leg on the waves, I was surfing better and I saw the others were struggling a bit, so I just focussed on the waves and the boat was really, really fast.
“In the second race I made a huge mistake on the first beat and was just trying to catch up. I thought the wind was going to go right with the sun, but then the left paid, and I was losing a lot of places. The last downwind I got a penalty as well so I finished 11th. So I am not happy about the second race at all.
“There was a little bit up and down today and it was very unpredictable and hard to plan the upwinds but, Rafa had a great day and made very good tactical decisions.”
Zbogar is about to start the Slovenian Olympics trials against Gasper Vincec. He said, “Gasper is very experienced in the Finn and this is just my third year so I still have a lot to learn. Out first trials are in Palma. I have two Olympcs medal [in the Laser] and I want to get another one so I have to be foucssed on not just being in front of Gasper, but being in front of most of the other guys as much as possible. With the AC45, because our team is half Finn sailors, we decided to just turn up and some those regattas, and to focus on the Finn until the Olympics. After the Olympics we will focus much more on the America's Cup.”
It's been a long time since a Raudaschl was at the the front of an international fleet, but after his best first day ever at a major champinship Florian Raudaschl sits in third place. He said, “I had good speed and some good luck today and then it's easy. Once you are in front in this wind then it's easier to stay there. The biggest difference for me is that I have been able to do more training. I have a coach now and I have trained more and worked less. The conditions suited me. I like the choppy water and light winds. The results were a bit unexpected, but I had a good feeling already in my training. I am using the same gear as I did in Perth but in my head it is much better.”
In the Juniors, Michal Jodlowski (POL) leads in 22nd overall after placing 20th and 26th. But just one place behind on equal points is Dimitar Vangelov (BUL), while Tomas Hrncal (CZE) is 20 points further back. The current Junior World Champion, Arkadiy Kistanov (RUS), struggled today and lies in 34th overall, and fourth junior. The Junior Championship is as hard fought for as the senior championship, and often more so, as for these young sailors, a win at this level is a big acheivement and opens up many paths for future funding and support.
Fleet racing continues until Friday, with the medal race for the top 10 and the final race for the rest on Saturday 24 March.
Results after two races
1 ESP 100 Rafael Trujillo 5
2 RUS 9 Eduard Skornyakov 10
3 AUT 3 Florian Raudaschl 10
4 SLO 573 Vasilij Zbogar 12
5 NED 842 Pieter-Jan Postma 13
6 CRO 524 Ivan Kljakovic Gapspic 18
7 UKR 1 Oleksiy Borisov 22
8 GER 151 Matthias Miller 23
9 TUR 21 Alican Kaynar 26
10 SWE 6 Bjorn Allansson 27
1 POL 13 Michal Jodlowski 46
2 BUL 855 Vangelov Dimitar 46
3 CZE 81 Tomas Hrncal 66
4 RUS 6 Arkadiy Kistanov 76
5 HUN 728 Elemer Haidekker 76
6 RUS 111 Andrey Yanitsky 85
7 RUS 91 Sivenkov Viacheslav 87
8 CZE 11 Patrik Deutscher 94
9 POL 11 Maciej Malag 102
10 GBR 18 James Hadden 110