05.05.17 - 13.05.17
Finn Europeans Open and U23 Europeans Marseille
Jonathan Lobert seals first major Finn title after solid week in Marseille
After a fabulous finale to a challenging week, Jonathan Lobert of France won his first ever major title in the Finn class. Ed Wright and Ben Cornish of Great Britain, both survived the Semi-Final to meet Lobert in the Final and secured silver and bronze.
Henry Wetherell made it three medals for Great Britain by winning the U23 European Championship. Arkadiy Kistanov of Russia took silver and Oskari Muhonen of Finland won the bronze.
Highlights from Finals Day at the Finn Europeans
Like the rest of the week, it was a long day with three races to get in. It started windless and with a long postponement onshore before the final race of the Opening Series could be sailed. Despite the earlier light forecast, it turned out to be one of the best races of the week, with nice waves, 10-15 knots, and sunny skies. Though the regatta leaders had already qualified for the Final, they both elected to sail the race. Anders Pedersen of Norway led all the way round for a huge win, to take the overall lead, while Lobert struggled and dropped to second overall.
Nicholas Heiner from the Netherlands, finished second, which boosted him into the top 10, while Wetherall secured the U23 title with a seventh place finish to also make the top 10. This meant that two of the three Croatians, who had all sailed an excellent week, dropped out of the top 10.
Wetherell said, “It’s really good to win the under 23 European Championships. It’s been an up and down week. I started off well, had a little dip mid-week and then had a good last race today and just managed to squeak into the top ten.”
“It was a really close race with Arkadiy. Up at the top mark it was really close and the bottom of the run we were still close and rounded opposite marks and then I had a better beat.”
On the competition. “It’s really tough. There are a lot of older guys here so it’s a real experience. Everyone knows what they are doing and everyone is quick. It’s good fun because no one ever really takes a race off. Everyone is always on their game.”
Great conditions for Race 10
After a short wait for protest time, the Semi-Final was sailed just off the harbour entrance in a reasonably steady 10-15 knots. Wright broke away out of the start and crossed back ahead of the fleet. However the next shift favoured the right again and Wetherell rounded first from Cornish and Heiner. Cornish took the lead on the downwind and was never headed, while Wright looked out of the race. However he recovered on the second beat and then drew level with Wetherell and Milan Vujasinovic of Croatia. It came down to the last few pumps to the finish line with Wright crossing second by less than a boatlength.
So Cornish and Wright proceeded to the Final. The wind dropped off for a while and it started to look doubtful a race could be started, but then the sequence got underway and the breeze returned to 10-12 knots at the top mark.
Pedersen was forced to tack away out of the start and was never again in contention as a big left-hander came in. The disaster struck Zsombor Berecz of Hungary when his halyard lock broke. He stopped to fix it but trailed at a distance for the rest of the race. Lobert owned the pin end of the line and was clear ahead when he tacked back, extending throughout the race for a big win. Wright was a clear second while Cornish held off Pedersen for third.
It’s interesting to note that the top four sailors all wore the yellow leader’s bib at some point during the week. However, the best sailor on points was Pedersen, and he was beaten by the format and went home empty handed.
Cornish said, “I came here with the intention of trying to win a medal, so that's obviously a really good result. It's nice to be going away from the first big event of the season with a bronze.”
He nearly didn’t even make the Finals. In the final fleet race, “I found myself trying to climb back through the fleet and ended up making my way into the Semi-Final. That was a good race for me, and then I progressed on to the Final with Ed. For me the priority switched and it was about winning a medal and so the risk management went down massively.”
On the fleet race Wright said, “There was a lot of pressure on the first race because I was in a position to be in the top three. I didn't manage to beat the Hungarian in that race so I had to go into the Semi-Final sail-off.”
“The Semi-Final was just a pump off on the last run. On the last downwind I managed to pass Henry, which got me into the Final. That was a really exciting part of the race actually; he was a little bit ahead of me at the top mark. I managed to try and cover him a little bit on the run and then to have the starboard advantage. Basically in the last 100-200 yards my winter's fitness training paid off and I was able to really just push the limits on the line and just pip him. It was quite exciting, and quite exhausting.”
In the Final, “Halfway through the race I decided to cover Anders and let Cornish and the French guy get away and do whatever they needed to do, I just needed to be top three. But I managed to end up with the silver medal luckily. A medal here is really exciting because it's the first event back, apart from Hyeres which was a warm up event last week. I'm sailing probably better than I have done ever at the moment. I'm fast upwind and downwind in all conditions and that's really exciting. The winter has paid off.”
He paid tribute to Pedersen, “He’s had an amazing regatta, he was in the top ten every race, very consistent, sailed very well, and it's seems such a shame.”
Lobert is the first French sailor to win the European title since Serge Maury won two titles in 1975 and 1976, and only the second French sailor to ever lift the title. He commented, “This morning I was not sure about sailing the final race, but then when I saw the weather forecast I was very uncertain. Then breeze kicked in and I was very tense and I knew I could lose everything from the work of the week.”
In the final, “I was really looking to have a line where I could keep on going if I wanted because I saw there was pressure coming but I was not sure if it was the right or left, so I want to make sure I could stay and wait the next shift, so that’s why I was really pushing to save the pin end and go on starboard as long I could. Then I got the shift and I was in front.”
“Winning the Europeans means a lot for me because, first, it’s in France, so I am very happy with this, and for once I am winning a championship. I have been many times second or third, so since I am on the top of the box I am very happy and the funny thing is I am in front of two British. So it’s nice as it’s always the British winning, so for once it’s someone else.”
The main conversation point this week has been the running of new format trials tested here this week. It was the second such test, with the first being in Palma earlier this year. It remains controversial and contested. Hopefully, following the survey that will be carried out next week the class will get a clearer insight into the feelings and thoughts of the class as it moves on to future regattas.
Results after Final
1 FRA 112 Jonathan LOBERT
2 GBR 11 Edward WRIGHT
3 GBR 91 Ben CORNISH
4 NOR 1 Anders PEDERSEN
5 HUN 40 Zsombor BERECZ
Results after Semi Final
6 GBR 71 Henry WETHERELL
7 CRO 69 Milan VUJASINOVIC
8 GRE 77 Ioannis MITAKIS
9 TUR 21 Alican KAYNAR
10 NED 89 Nicholas HEINER
Lobert and Pedersen though to Final at Finn Europeans
France’s Jonathan Lobert, the 2012 London bronze medalist, has taken the lead at the top of the Finn European Championship in Marseille, France after a near perfect performance on the fifth day. Anders Pedersen of Norway, remains in second despite his worst day on the water so far, while Hungary’s Zsombor Berecz moves up to third.
Both Lobert and Pedersen have already qualified for the Final on Saturday – the top three from the Opening Series progress straight to the Final. One more place in the Final will be decided in Saturday’s final Opening Series race, while two more will come from the Semi-Final, which will be a race off between the next seven boats in the Opening Series.
Both the Semi-Final and Final are first across the line formats, with all the points across the previous six days wiped out for the final two short races.
Highlights from Day 4 of the Finn Europeans
Friday was another very tough day in the would-be Olympic venue with four races again sailed in easterly winds varying from 10 to 20 knots, though like Wednesday, only three races were valid, after the third race was abandoned in the closing stages due to a drifting mark.
Deniss Karpak, of Estonia, was the fastest to the top mark in Race 7, leading up the middle but he just let Alican Kaynar slip inside him at the top mark. Max Salminen of Sweden rounded third. There was no change at the gate but several changes at the second top mark. Lobert was up to third at second top mark after a strong left hand side came in, and together with Nicholas Heiner, from the Netherlands, sailed a fast run to pass ahead and they rounded the final mark overlapped. But Lobert had the inside track and won his first race from Henier and Karpak.
Race 8 started in much the same conditions with the wind rapidly building up the course and Oscar was raised at the top for free pumping. Milan Vujanisovic, from Croatia, led round from Krzysztof Stromski of Poland and Oisin Mcclelland or Ireland. Vujanisovic led through the gate but Facundo Olezza of Argentina, was close behind and took the lead on the second upwind. There was a big wind gradient again on the run with much less wind at the bottom of the course, but on the final downwind Berecz came through at the last mark to take the win from Olezza and Max Kohlhoff of Germany.
The final race of the day, Race 9 in the Opening Series, was sailed in two parts in a still increasing wind. The first attempt was led by Lobert and Ed Wright of Great Britain but despite a great race, the Race Committee abandoned it on the final leg because the spreader mark at the top had drifted out of position and they were getting incorrect information fed down the course. The sailors were not happy at all, but the race was restarted soon after and again Lobert was in front, to lead at every mark and take his second (or third) win of the day. Thursday’s star performer, Piotr Kula of Poland crossed second after a great race, with Pedersen third.
Many sailors suffered through the race abandonment, including Wright, Heiner and Peter McCoy of Great Britain who had sailed a great race in third place, only to see it evaporate within sight of the finish line. There were five requests for redress against the Race Committee for the abandoned race, all of which were later dismissed.
Last year’s bronze medalist, Vujasinovic is up to fifth. He said, “We had four races again out of three scheduled so it’s a bit frustrating I suppose for most of the fleet. The wind was again very crazy and from all sides and you had to be very patient and just keep your focus to the end, and that’s what I did.”
“In two races I had a solid result in the top 10 and in the third I think I finished about 20, which was OK considering I was one of the last ones in the first upwind.”
The silver medalist last year was Berecz, now up to third.
“It was another exhausting day. The wind was shifty and it was strong. It was supposed to drop in the afternoon but it went up again, and the last race was the strongest wind we had, so it was exhausting.”
“The first one I finished ninth and the second one I managed to win. I was sailing good lines, but I was lucky as the wind was super shifty.”
Lobert said, “Today was a nice day on the water, nice racing and super shifty, up and down. I am very happy with my day because I managed to win the first race. I had an OK second race and then I was winning the third race and they had to cancel it just before the end. I was very disappointed, because I don’t think there was anything wrong with the mark moving away. But it’s like it is and I was trying to reset and get back in the game for the last race and I was really pushing and was winning it again.”
“My goal was to try to be in the top three before the final day. I think today I was very happy it was breeze on, because I am usually a good sailor in the breeze but now I am able to be fast in every condition. For sure I like those winds when it’s tricky and windy. I like to use the shifts and try to play as much as I can with the wind and today I was in a good mode.”
“Tomorrow will be a little lighter and a bit shiftier – it’s always shifty in Marseille anyway.”
While Lobert and Pedersen do not have to sail the final Opening Series Race, the forecast for Saturday afternoon is not very promising. If there is no Final in the afternoon, then the results from the Opening Series stands. While Lobert and Pedersen cannot drop in the Opening Series they can change places after Race 10 tomorrow. So the permutations are not as simple as they first look. Of the rest only Berecz had guaranteed his place in the Semi-Final or Final. The rest still have some work to do.
The format being used here is a simplification of the format used in Palma last month and has generated a lot of discussion. After this event a survey will be carried out to seek opinion among the sailors and media.
Henry Wetherell of Great Britain still leads the U23 European Championship, though his lead has narrowed to eight points after a late charge from the 2015 champion, Arkadiy Kistanoc, from Russia. Oskari Muhonen of Finland is now in third.
The schedule for Saturday is:
10.00 Final Opening Series Race (Race 10)
Not before 13.30: Semi-Final Race (places 4-10 in Opening Series)
Before 17.00 Final (places 1-3 in Opening Series and 1-2 in Semi-Final)
Results after 9 races
1 FRA 112 Jonathan LOBERT 38
2 NOR 1 Anders PEDERSEN 47
3 HUN 40 Zsombor BERECZ 63
4 GBR 11 Edward WRIGHT 64
5 CRO 69 Milan VUJASINOVIC 81
6 CRO 52 Nenad BUGARIN 86
7 GRE 77 Ioannis MITAKIS 86
8 GBR 91 Ben CORNISH 91
9 TUR 21 Alican KAYNAR 100
10 CRO 1 Josip OLUJIC 102
No racing on Day 4 at Finn Europeans as strong winds batter Marseille
The fourth day at the Finn Europeans was a long day spent on shore waiting in vain for the wind to abate enough to go sailing. The forecast had already prompted the Race Committee to delay the start to 12.00, but midday came and went and still the venue was battered by strong south-easterly winds and rain.
The sailors sheltered in the tent or displayed typical Finn bravado, but by 15.30, with the wind still hovering around 30 knots, racing was abandoned for the day.
However, Friday is promising perfect conditions, with moderate winds and sunshine. Three races are scheduled.
But, to continue the entertainment we have a few videos to show.
British Finn sailors dominate Marseille’s bay of contrasts
Ed Wright, from Great Britain, has retaken the lead at the Finn European Championships in Marseille following another long day on the water after almost four full races were sailed. The ever consistent Norwegian, Anders Pedersen, is up to second while Jonathan Lobert, of France, is up to third.
The Bay of Marseille has been a bay of contrasts so far this week with yet another set of new conditions thrown at the competitors on the third day. The sailors are finding the bay both challenging and at times perplexing. Looking forward to a day of moderate to strong winds, the first two races were sailed in a building south-easterly wind with occasional rain, but the third race was abandoned as the wind died completely. The re-sail was eventually sailed in a light and patchy breeze after the Race Committee moved position.
Highlights from Day 3 of the Finn Europeans
Race 4 was a re-sail of the race abandoned on Tuesday with the lead changing at every mark. Tom Ramshaw, from Canada, led at the top after a shifty beat under the Point Rouge headland. Lobert had taken the lead by the gate but then Josip Olujic, of Croatia, found a shift on the left to pass everyone on the second beat. However the winner was Wright, who flew downwind to take the win from Lobert and Olujic.
In the increasing wind, Race 5 was a triangle course in slightly more wind with the rain easing as the fleet approached the top mark. Mikolaj Lahn, from Poland, led at the top and down the run, but it was Henry Wetherell, from Great Britain, leading round the next top mark and round the reaches to the finish from Lahn and regatta leader, Ben Cornish, from Great Britain.
Race 6 was where it started going wrong. With Oscar up at the start and a solid 15-18 knots everyone was set for another great race and for once an early finish. However it wasn't to be with the wind already dropping out at the top mark and R flag up to restrict free pumping. The wind dropped to around 6 knots on the run and there were huge place changes downwind. Wetherall had led at the top and extended round the gate from Milan Vujasinovic, from Croatia and Cornish. Wetherell managed to extend his lead on the next beat as the wind dropped completely for those behind and though he had wind all the way, the race was abandoned when he was 200 metres from the finish line. Most of the fleet was stranded near the windward mark.
After a short wait, the Race Committee moved position and set up a short windward-leeward course further away from the hills to windward. Former European Champion, Ioannis Mitakis of Greece, led round the top mark from the Croatians Vujasinovic and Olujic. It was a short race and Mitakis led through the gate, but Vujasinovic was in the lead at the top and extended downwind for the win, from Olujic, while Wright came through after another blistering downwind for third.
After six races sailed Vujasinovic had broken the British Sailing Team run of five race wins by three different sailors.
The day was won on the water by Pedersen who is piecing together an impressively consistent series with all top eight results.
“It’s been a good week being consistent in all my races. Unfortunately with the new format, if I can keep this up it doesn’t pay off that much. But I am happy with my sailing. I have been improving a lot especially downwind.
“It was shifty, and up and down so hard to get the right puffs. A frustrating day.”
Nicholas Heiner, from the Netherlands had a better day after a tough start to his first Finn major championship.
“I think today was another really tricky day. The race committee put us back underneath the mountain again so every time at the top mark it got really shifty and we had one race where there was no breeze at the top. So basically we sailed four races today, in some really challenging conditions from zero to 20 knots.”
“For myself I just needed to step it up a little bit. Keep my eyes out of the boat and set myself some priorities for today and I think in the end four top ten results, including one abandoned race, so pretty happy with the day.”
Wetherell is now the clear leader in the U23 European Championship after one of the best days on the water. He sits in eighth place overall, 40 points and nine places above Oskari Muhonen, from Finland. Evgenii Deiev, from Russia is in third place overall.
Wetherell commented, “The first two races went quite well with a seventh and a one, and the abandoned race I was winning that as well, but it got abandoned just before the finish, so would have been a great day, but in the fourth race I was in the mid-20s, so it was a good day but it could have been a lot better."
“In the first two races the wind was quite a steadyish wind given that it was coming off the cliffs, but then gradually through the day the gust to lull got quite a bit bigger and got worse all day, so it was quite tricky.”
It was another long day on the water, but at least the championship is now back on schedule. Super strong winds have been forecast for Thursday, with the first warning signal delayed until 12.00 in the hope that the worst will have passed.
The key for the leading sailors now is to stay in the top 10 so they make the winner takes all finals on Saturday afternoon. A simplified format is being tested here of what was first tried in Palma. The top three boats in the opening series go straight to the five boat Final, while the next seven sail the Semi-Final, with the first two across the line advancing to the Final. It is intended to broadcast both the Semi-Final and Final through Facebook Live.
There are now just four Opening Series races left before the cut is made, with the last race scheduled for Saturday morning, before the Semi-Final and Final on Saturday afternoon.
Results after six races
1 GBR 11 Edward WRIGHT 23
2 NOR 1 Anders PEDERSEN 26
3 FRA 112 Jonathan LOBERT 28
4 GBR 91 Ben CORNISH 29
5 HUN 40 Zsombor BERECZ 38
6 GRE 77 Ioannis MITAKIS 42
7 CRO 69 Milan VUJASINOVIC 49
8 GBR 71 Henry WETHERELL 51
9 AUS 261 Oliver TWEDDELL 55
10 CRO 1 Josip OLUJIC 56
Light winds set back Finn Europeans but Ben Cornish takes lead
Ben Cornish from Great Britain has taken the lead at the Finn Europeans following a long day on the water after winning the only race possible on a day beset by light winds and abandoned races. Zsombor Berecz from Hungary moves up to second while Anders Pedersen from Norway remains third.
The mistral that has battered the regatta venue for the past two days finally dissipated overnight, and during the morning slowly faded away to leave a light 8-10 knots in place.
Highlights from Day 2 of the Finn Europeans
The first attempt at Race 3 was abandoned at the top mark after the wind dropped off with Karpak leading round with a nice lead. After a 90 minute wait, the fleet set off again but not before two general recalls, the second under black flag, which pulled out regatta leader Ed Wright, from Great Britain, as well as fourth overall Max Salminen, from Sweden.
When it finally got going, Karpak again led at the top from Pederson and Cornish. Cornish took the lead on the first downwind playing the pressure variations across the course well, and the extended hugely on the second beat to lead down to the finish.
In the chasing group, Berecz found the best pressure on the run to round the gate almost level with Karpak and then take second. Pederson crossed a close fourth
Soon after, Race 4 got away with a clean start with Ioannis Mitakis, from Greece, leading at the top from Cornish and Nenad Bugarin from Croatia. Mitakis held the lead at the gate, but the wind was down to well under 5 knots at times and soon after the Race Committee abandoned the race and sent the fleet ashore.
The fastest man to the top mark today was definitely Deniss Karpak.
“It was the second hard day here. Today was the opposite to yesterday, up to 5 knots. Wind was hard enough but I was quite fast in both races. We made almost three races today and two of them were abandoned. And I was twice first boat at the top mark so I am happy with my speed.”
“I finished third in the first race after losing a few places to the good guys, but a nice day for me. I am quite fast in light winds but yesterday I was also quick upwind in the breeze and then struggling in 30 knots downwind.”
Cornish’s win keep the British flag flying at the top of the scoreboard.
“It was a long day on the water just for the one race. The one we got in was a long one. A long course in not a lot of breeze, but good for me as I managed to get the win, which was nice.”
“It was super tight with me Deniss and Anders, especially at the top mark and down the first run, and it started to spread out a bit on the last beat which made my life a bit easier in that light wind”
“It was reasonably tight at the leeward gate but I was quite confident with the numbers I was sailing and we had a reasonable idea where the pressure was coming from at he top right and as it played out it became quite straightforward half way up.”
On his good speed, “We are using some new sails here that we haven’t had much time to test so it’s good to see we are going all right in the breeze we have been targeting.”
“Tomorrow the wind is going back round offshore from the south-east and quite a lot more breeze. Fingers crossed, we’ll be stretching the legs again.”
This week is also the U23 European Championship, with Oskari Muhinen from Finland mixing it with the seniors in 12th overall, just one place and two points ahead of Henry Weatherall from Great Britain.
The sailors were on the water today for more than seven hours with only one race to show for it. The 10 race Opening Series concludes on Saturday morning, before the Semi-Final and Final on Saturday afternoon.
Results after three races
1 GBR 91 Ben CORNISH 12
2 HUN 40 Zsombor BERECZ 14
3 NOR 1 Anders PEDERSEN 14
4 FRA 112 Jonathan LOBERT 16
5 GRE 77 Ioannis MITAKIS 27
6 CRO 52 Nenad BUGARIN 31
7 EST 2 Deniss KARPAK 39
8 TUR 21 Alican KAYNAR 45
9 AUS 261 Oliver TWEDDELL 51
10 CRO 1 Josip OLUJIC 51
Ed Wright smashes opening day at Finn Europeans in Marseille
Ed Wright from Great Britain has opened the 2017 Finn European Championship with two emphatic race wins after a strong mistral kept the fleet on shore for most of the day. France’s Jonathan Lobert was consistent with two fourth places to sit in second, while two fifth places for Anders Pedersen of Norway leaves him in third overnight.
After the practice race was abandoned yesterday, the mistral was still in place for the first full day of racing and though the early indication was that racing would start on time, this was soon rethought as gusts of 37 knots and a very steep sea was recorded on the race area. So the fleet sat on shore under AP under mid afternoon, when finally the wild wind abated slightly, but enough to get some racing underway, though the wind was still topping out at 30 knots.
Highlights from Day 1 of the Finn Europeans
Each race started with one general recall and then the black flag. The race was really one of two halves: in the starting area big waves and 25 knot winds; at the top mark, 10 knots, flat water and 60 degree shifts, with the windward mark set a few hundred metres of the high ground of L'île de Pomègues.
The first race was initially led by class veteran Rob McMillan, now of Australia, who had a 30 second lead round the top mark. However his training partner, Wright, had taken the lead on the second upwind to extend down the reaches for his first win of the day, followed by Hungarian Zsombor Berecz and Ben Cornish of Great Britain.
The second race was much the same with the strong winds at the start line giving way to huge random shifts the further the fleet progressed up the course. This time Wright led all the way round, to win from Sweden’s Max Salminen and the young Nenad Bugarin from Croatia.
The fleet finally came ashore after 19.00, exhausted, but happy after an awesome day of Finn sailing.
McMillan has made various comebacks over the years, but after shocking a few people in Hyères last week, was stoked at leading round the first mark today.
“I had a really good day. First start was pretty average but I managed to drop into the shifts quite nicely and I had really good speed upwind and was about 30 seconds ahead at the top mark, which was very pleasant. That was a highlight for me.”
“It was a lot of fun and really crazy with the wind shifts. Completely random and in a way quite frightening at times. It was so windy you never really knew what was going to happen next, but what a great performance by Ed today and great to see after all the training we have done together that we can both sail upwind very nicely. But I must clearly work on my downwinds.”
On yet another comeback, at the age of 51, “I will keep coming back as long as I am competitive. I am actually sailing better than I have done for many years, I haven’t really featured since the 1998 Europeans, I took ten years out and really only came back in 2008 for fun. I got a bit more serious in 2011, but I just love training with the guys in Australia. I love Finn sailing; it gives me a reason to stay fit and I will keep racing at this level all the while I am not coming last.”
Salminen commented on his day, “We were just to leeward of this really high island so the wind was shattered all over the place and was really gusty and you had to be on your toes not to get caught. And downwind you had big swells coming into the bay and this short chop that had been building all day. So really tricky to keep the mast upright.”
“I like it when it is this marginal as I am good at keeping the mast pointing upwards."
On his day, “In the first race I was a little bit behind at the start and was fighting my way through. In the next I was second behind Ed.”
Wright, “We were sailing right underneath an island and it was pretty shifty at the top, so very difficult sailing. But great fun."
“I got two first today, so I can’t complain. Really thoroughly enjoyable.”
“The biggest challenge today was just to keep the mast upright. Especially on the downwind, the gusts would hit you so hard and from nowhere."
“Upwind it was not full hiking, as you had to control the boat, but in the Finn in these conditions, when you just get the bow out of the water and start trucking along it’s just awesome sailing upwind, and downwind.”
Racing in the opening series continues until Saturday, with the Semi-final and Final scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
Results after two races
1 GBR 11 Edward WRIGHT 2
2 FRA 112 Jonathan LOBERT 8
3 NOR 1 Anders PEDERSEN 10
4 SWE 33 Max SALMINEN 11
5 GBR 91 Ben CORNISH 11
6 HUN 40 Zsombor BERECZ 12
7 CRO 69 Milan VUJASINOVIC 17
8 AUS 261 Oliver TWEDDELL 19
9 GRE 77 Ioannis MITAKIS 21
10 GBR 71 Henry WETHERELL 21
Event website: 2017.finneuropeans.org
Sailing’s gladiators gather in Marseille for European Finn title fight
The 2017 Finn Senior and U23 European Championships opens in the French Mediterranean port city of Marseille this weekend. Shared with the RS-X Europeans, the events were designed to showcase the potential of Marseille as the preferred Olympic sailing venue should Paris win the right to host the 2024 Olympic Games.
The Finn class voted in 2015 to hold its 2017 European Championships here and is looking forward to its first major championship in these waters.
Coming straight after the World Cup Series event in Hyères last week, some of the form for the coming week should be easy to predict, but the fleet is more than double the size with 65 sailors from 26 countries on the pre-entry list.
The host club is the Yachting Club de la Pointe Rouge, though the sailing base is about 4 km to the north of the club at Stade Nautique du Roucas Blanc.
The outright winner in Hyeres, Alican Kaynar, from Turkey, will be full of confidence after winning his first major event last week. He showed exceptional speed and great decisions on a very tricky course, so will be keen to show that he can repeat this performance.
Likewise new Finn convert, Nicholas Heiner from the Netherlands is gaining confidence at only his fifth regatta since he stepped into the boat towards the end of 2016. The son of the 1996 Olympic bronze medalist Roy Heiner, he is not only keen to follow in his father’s footsteps but also to exceed his achievements. His start in the class has been exceptional so far, but as a former Laser World Champion, he knows his way around the race course.
The home fleet will be led by the bronze medalist in Hyères, and the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, Jonathan Lobert, who has just started his third full campaign. Although he is still in recovery for knee surgery earlier this year he is proving as dangerous as ever, however also in the wings is the younger, and hungry, Fabian Pic, who is making huge progress and will push Lobert hard going towards 2020 selection. Eight years younger than Lobert, Pic was putting together a great series in Hyères until a few slip-ups mid series.
The ever-strong British team will be headed by 2010 world champion Ed Wright and Ben Cornish, both of who are more than capable of podium finishes. Wright, who is one of only two previous European champions competing next week, has just announced his intention to campaign or Tokyo, his fourth attempt to realize his Olympic dream, and one that has been previously dashed by the likes of Ben Ainslie and then Giles Scott. With Scott's future Finn plans still uncertain due to America's cup commitments, Wright may finally achieve his goal. Based on his performance last week in Hyères he is as fast and determined as ever. If Marseille lives up to expectations he will be hard to beat. Cornish, 14 years younger, is starting to hit the front of the fleet more frequently and threatens a win sooner or later.
There are less of the 'old guard' sailing this year than in previous seasons with nine sailors who were in Rio and only five who were in London. The young guys are starting to take over and it will be interesting who emerges as the leaders of this group. One of the more exciting young sailors is Facundo Olezza from Argentina. Still focused on training at Luca Devoti's Dinghy Academy in Valencia, he exceeded all expectations in Rio by winning two races and making the medal race.
Hungarian, Zsombor Berecz, is another sailor who could hit the big time this year. Runner-up at last year’s Europeans in Barcelona he has sailed well in individual races since but has yet to manage to put together a complete series at a major event since, finishing a frustrating 12th in Rio, after holding a medal position earlier in the regatta.
Winner in Palma, Max Salminen, from Sweden, will also be one to watch next week. Also disappointed with his performance in Rio, he has refocused and won four races in a row to snatch the title in Palma. Last years bronze medalist Milan Vujasinovic is also back for his first major regatta since losing the Croatian Olympic trials in May last year. He is up against two fast and younger guys, Nenad Bugarin and Josip Olujic, who have both put in great performances in the past year.
Ioannis Mitakis, from Greece, is the only other sailor here apart from Wright to have claimed a European title. He won in light winds in 2012, and simnce an 11th place in Rio has not sailed a major regatta since placing but he can always surprise, so also one to keep an eye on.
Other names to watch for include Deniss Karpak from Estonia, Tapio NIrkko from Finland, Tom Ramshaw from Canada and Poland's Piotr Kula. With a new boat and new enthusiasm Kula putting together some great races, with only two results outside the top 10 in Hyères, he is sailing as well as he has done since he placed sixth at the 2012 Finn Gold Cup.
Likewise, Norwegian Anders Pederson is finding the front of the fleet more often than not and it feels like only a matter of time before he will make a major breakthrough. His turning point came in 2014 when he won the Junior worlds and later qualified Norway for Rio with a great performance at the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander. Like several of the other young guys he is taking an easy year to focus on his studies but his progress should see him starting to win major events medals in the coming three years.
From an U23 perspective, numbers are down on previous years with last years strong group now too old to compete. The 2015 Junior World Champion, Ondra Teply, from the Czech Republic must be the favourite, but he will still have some strong opposition from the fleet.
Following the format trial in Palma this year, the 'medal races' will be a slight modification, with three boats from the opening series fast tracked to the final. The next seven boats will sail the semi-final, with the top two going through to the winner takes all five boat final. All boats will sail the 10 race opening series from Monday 8 May to Saturday 13 May before the finals on Saturday afternoon. The championships open on Friday 5th May with the practice race on Sunday 7 May.
Because of this continuation of the format trials, the survey the class was intending to carry out will be done after the Europeans has concluded so respondents can compare the two different formats alongside the traditional medal race from Hyères. The results of the survey will be published as soon as possible after that.