Big chink in the British armour
Jorge Zarif (BRA) is within a whisker of winning the 2013 Finn Gold Cup after an outstanding performance on Friday, including winning the first race of the day. Ed Wright (GBR) moves up to second with Jonathan Lobert (FRA) in third. The other two races were won by Wright and Pieter-Jan Postma (NED), who climbs to fourth. Only the medal race is left.
The day began as expected with no wind and fog and warnings from the PRO of a long day ahead. However the air cleared, a breeze began for form and the sailors were sent out at 13.00. Thursday's pessimism came to nothing as the sailors were rewarded with three good races on Tallinn Bay, with winds reaching 8-10 knots, as well as patchy rain towards the end of the day. Miraculously, all three races got away at the first attempt, though there were OCS boats in each race.
Ed Wright (GBR) was the early leader in race 5 rounding the first mark ahead of Jorge Zarif (BRA) and Alican Kaynar (TUR). The left side was strong, and not for the only time during the day. Wright started to stretch out downwind, but Zarif closed on the next beat and just sneaked past him on the final downwind to lead into the finish. Unfortunately Wright was one of the early starters, so second place went to Greg Douglas (CAN) from Milan Vujasinovic (CRO). Another casuality was Bruno Prada (BRA), his third such disqualification this week.
At this point, Vujasinovic had taken a commanding lead of the championship, but it was all about to change again. Wright continued his good form in race 6, starting correctly and rounding the top mark in sixth. First round was young Jake Lilley (AUS) from Tapio Nirkko (FIN) and Josip Olujic (CRO), befitting from a big left hand shift into the top mark. Nirkko took the lead downwind but then collected his second yellow flag and had to retire from the race. Lilley led through the gate, but it was all very tight. He had dropped to fourth by the windward mark and finished in sixth, which moved him into the silver medal position for the juniors. Wright took the lead upwind and extended into the finish from Olujic and Jonathan Lobert (FRA).
Zarif had now taken the overall lead by 12 points, with all around him picking up high scores of one sort or another. He just needed a solid final race to keep things simple. The line up at the first mark was different once again with Alejandro Muscat (ESP) leading round from Lobert and Vasilij Zbogar (SLO). Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) and Ioannis Mitakis (FRA) were up to second and third at the gate, with Wright also moving up. Zarif moved through to around 15th.
The final beat was crucial. Mitakis took the lead from Postma while Zarif moved up to tenth. Postma sped away downwind to win from Mitakis and a fast approaching Josh Junior (NZL). More importantly Zarif went right downwind, stayed away from the pack and slipped round the final mark in seventh, just enough places to make the medal race a formality for him, albeit a necessary formality.
Lobert's and Postma's good form pulled them back into contention, while some of the other early leaders struggled and dropped. The leader going into today was Andrew Mills (GBR). His best result of the day was 26th, as he struggled to find any of the form of the early races, and he has dropped to eighth overall. Zsombor Berecz (HUN) also had problems and dropped to ninth, while Vujasinovic just stays in touch in fifth. Junior left it to the last minute to drag himself into the medal race with his second place.
Lobert summed up his day, “It was a very difficult day again, very shifty. In the first race I didn't manage to start properly because of a boat beside me who got a penalty. Then in the other two races I got good starts and managed to be on top on the left to be there at the first mark. On the third race I found a hole downwind and I lost some places, but I finished top 10. I am a little bg disappointed because it is not possible to win any more. That's a shame but when it's tricky, you never know what can happen. But Jorge sailed well, so well done to him, and tomorrow I look forward to fighting with Ed to get the second place, and of course, PJ again.”
Postma climbed 10 places today to be in with a shot at a medal. “It was a tricky day with the left paying all day today. But still there were a few clouds you had to watch. In the last race I started at the boat end and crossed the whole fleet to the left and then played the left. I was about tenth at the top mark and then third at the bottom. I chose to play the left again but the second half of the fleet had to play the right because of this big cloud and we could cut this cloud before the top mark. The Greek sailor passed me to round the top mark ahead but I was faster downwind. I ended up winning the race so I am happy with that.”
“Tomorrow I will be full-on. We are four guys who can win two medals. So I'll put all the cards on the table and we'll see.” He concluded, “A medal tomorrow will make me happy,” reflecting on a string of fourth places in recent events.
Zarif, who is just 21 and won the Junior Finn World Championship in July, has sailed his best regatta ever including winning two races. He said, “I couldn't imagine this happening, assuming I finish tomorrow. I think the company of Rafa and Bruno has been crucial to this.”
“It's really different to be top 30 or top 10. I think this time with them has helped me to change a little bit, to change my head. I am using the same boat and mast as at the Olympics, with just a few modifications to the sail. Before when I had a good race it was, wow I did well, and I think this time with Rafa [Trujillo] and Bruno [Prada] it starts to get more normal. Today after the second race I didn't know I was in front, Rafa didn't tell me. Everything was just normal. And this made the difference.”
“I think Friday was the best day of the sailing here in Tallinn. It was really shifty, the conditions were very hard but the wind was stronger than the other days. You had to work a lot with the shifts and that was the key to the day.”
His coach Rafa Trujillo (ESP) said, “We still need to finish tomorrow, but it's really great. I was more nervous than him all day I think. Since the beginning of the championship, I knew in these conditions he could make top 10, but I didn't want to say that to him as he is still so young, but after seeing him leading the second race of the first day and being so steady in this wind, I talked to him about a target of being top 15 each race. It's amazing. It's been really difficult conditions, and good racing. And if it was windy I think he would also be competing to win because he is now a good all round sailor.”
The championship concludes Saturday, with the medal race for the top ten at 12.00 and the final race for the rest at 13.00. Zarif just has to finish the medal race to take the title. Theoretically seven boats can take the other medals, so that should be a battle worth watching.