Great Scott with a day to spare
Though he didn't have the best of days, Giles Scott (GBR) did enough to wrap up his second European Finn title, and with a day to spare. Friday's lighter and patchy conditions were probably the most challenging of the week, with race wins going to Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) and Andrew Mills (GBR). Defending champion Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) is in second and guaranteed a medal, while Ed Wright (GBR) is back up to third.
It was a mixed day on the water with a lot of place changes inside the top 10. Only Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) can move into the top three, but even that is a long shot, as he is now 15 points adrift. Jonathan Lobert (FRA) has lost any chance of a podium place after an unlucky day while another high score from Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) also puts him too far down. Meanwhile Thomas Le Breton (FRA) and Andrew Murdoch (NZL) had a great day to put them into the top 10, and into the medal race.
But before the racing began, the day started on a sad note of remembrance. Sailors and organisers gathered on the deck of the Société des Régates Rochelaises (SRR) for a minute silence in memory of Andrew 'Bart' Simpson, who was lost a year ago today. It was an emotional start to the day, matched by the inclement weather, The starting gun marked the beginning and end of a minute of silence, with the Finn class flag remaining at half mast in memory of a lost friend.
After three long days on the water, racing was scheduled for the slightly later time of 12.00 with just two races needed to complete the opening series. The forecast was similar to past days, with 10-14 knots expected. However in race 9 the wind barely exceeded 8-10 knots. All eyes were on Giles Scott (GBR) and while he was on the front row on the middle right, the left side came in so strong that he rounded in the 30s. First round was Jakub Marciniak (POL) from Le Breton and Kljakovic Gaspic.
Marciniak held his lead through the gate but on the second beat, with the left again favoured, Kljakovic Gaspic moved ahead and built a sizeable lead to win the race. Marciniak rounded the top in second with Ioannis Mitakis (GRE) in third, but it all changed again downwind, with Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) slipping through to second. Scott recovered to 15th but it wasn't enough to secure victory yet.
After a number of recalls, race 10 got under way with Scott starting conservatively and getting buried. He had to bail out and duck several transoms before finding clear air. The left again paid with Mills rounding with a nice lead from Fernando Ros Martinez (ESP), Postma and Jake Lilley (AUS). Scott rounded in 10th and looked pretty safe, with Zbogar not too far away. The wind peaked at 12-13 knots on the first downwind, but soon started to drop as the fleet rounded the gate.
Mills immediately sailed into a useful lead downwind and left the others to fight for second. Postma was up to second by the gate from Alejandro Foglia (URU), while Murdoch sailed the second upwind well to move up to fourth. Scott was tight on Zbogar to make sure of the title and they both lost ground out to the right.
On the final run the wind went really light and Mills was starting to look nervous as it was still free pumping. Nothing much changed though except Jorge Zarif (BRA) came through into third. Mills won by nearly 90 seconds from Postma, Zarif and Murdoch. A fourth for Murdoch got him the final space in the medal race on countback.
Lobert said he was happy to have the Finn fleet on his local waters but was disappointed with the way things tuned out for him. “I was very happy to have all the guys around here this week. Usually I never race here, I just train, so it's very different when we are racing.”
“The wind was very uneven today, and it was not a lucky day for me. It was so crazy how I lost it on the first race. I was on the left, looking good and crossing in front of the fleet, and then I got no wind and in about 30 seconds to a minute I lost everything. So then I was far back, and there was no chance to come back.”
“Then I tried to refocus for the second race but I had a difficult start so that was not an easy race again. So a pretty tough day. I lost the chance for the podium. I will try for fourth but I'm disappointed not to be able to fight for the podium in my home town and with losing it in such a way, I feel bad, because I was doing everything well.”
Mills explained his race. “I started about a quarter of the way up from the pin, sailed fast on the shifts and tried quite hard. I had it all set up properly so it felt good. On the second beat, PJ tacked to go through the pack, and I didn't think that was the best idea and it wasn't a great number so I split from him and then when we came back he'd lost loads. It dropped out pretty light on the last run, down to about 5 knots and it's always bound to come from behind when it fills back in, and with unlimited pumping you can make up some ground pretty quickly. I was a bit nervous but there wasn't a lot you could do about it. But it feels good to get a bullet for Bart today.”
Kljakovic Gaspic said, “It was quite an interesting day. It was tricky with the tide over on the right, but I was convinced that the left was going to pay, so I almost went to the layline. Finally I had a nice start and everything went well.”
“Since the first day I have been really conservative in all the starts and this was killing me and every first beat I was struggling to stay in contact with the fleet. Finally I was a bit more relaxed.”
“The second race was basically the same, I tacked early across the group. In one moment it really looked nice then there was a small shift and I tacked a little early but then I had to come back on the downwind. The last downwind was pretty strange and difficult for everyone after long days on the water all week. Free pumping in five knots is very difficult. It looks a bit ridiculous but is still part of the game.”
“Tomorrow will be difficult to get on the podium so it's going to be tough. I am a little bit too late this week. I was not at my best, perhaps a bit too tired after a lot of time away from home racing.”
Ed Wright (GBR) has sailed well all week, especially on the upwinds. “It's all pretty close for the medals, so should be fun out there tomorrow. Giles has had a great week and just scooted away. I think upwind I was probably good to the top mark all week, but I have not really focussed on my downwind this winter in training. So now I need to go away and put some hours together working on that and put the package together ready for Santander.”
Scott just has to sail the medal race to take the title. Was it a nervous day for him? “The day was made more nervous by not having a great race in the first one. A 15th put me through to the medal race in a good position, but in the last race I just stuck with Vasilij. Then I had a shocker of a start, I was back from the line, with bad acceleration, and people just went round me. I managed to get a righty across to the guys on the left and Vasilij was in that group and then from there I had control over him. It was tight down the first run but on the second beat I put a close cover on him and managed to extend away.”
“It's quite nice to be able to go into a medal race like that. I will of course try and win it, and give it my all. I'm pretty relaxed, and very happy.”
In the Junior Championship, Lilley still leads Zarif, but by a reduced points margin of just 25. With both sailors already having a BFD from Race 1, tomorrow's race will count and decide who takes the title. Defending champion Peter McCoy (GBR) is now back up to third overall, though has three more juniors within 17 points, so for the Juniors there is still very much all to play for.
The medal race is scheduled for 14.00 on Saturday, but before that the final race for the rest of the fleet is scheduled for 11.00.