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17 July 2009, 09:46 am
RAILEY Overall Winner Whilst MIHELIC Takes Laser Radial European Title
Overall winner Paige RAILEY
Paige RAILEY wins the 2009 Laser Radial European Championship

Laser Radial European Championships 2009
Charlottenlund, Denmark

The outcome of the ISAF Grade C1 Laser Radial European Championship in Denmark hung in the balance until the very end.
It was a shifty and unpredictable regatta every day on the ever-changing waters of The Sound between Denmark and Sweden, but most sailors believed the final day was the hardest of all. In the end, Paige RAILEY held on to her lead to win the Open European Championship. Being American, she did not qualify for the European title, which went to Tina MIHELIC of Croatia.

In the first race of the gold fleet finals, Poland's Ewa MAKOWSKA and the early leaders found themselves dumped to the bottom of the pile. Meanwhile, some of the contenders for the European Championship who had been languishing in the back few of the 48-boat gold fleet now found themselves fighting for the front. Among the lucky ones to find new breeze with a massive right-hand wind shift were the reigning World Champion Sarah STEYAERT of France, and Marit BOUWMEESTER of the Netherlands. Bouwemeester led for a while but Steyaert pulled through to win that heat. Railey was 20th, and so at this stage the regatta was wide open.

The first beat of the final race saw the pack on the left doing well early on, and then it swung to the pack on the right before the wind almost completely died just 200 metres before the mark. America's Sarah LIHAN found her own personal gust out of the middle of the course to lead around the mark just ahead of Railey who led the rejuvenated right-hand pack down the reaches.

By the leeward gate, Railey had pulled out to an almighty lead. Despite the wind shifts she played a good defensive game to score a resounding victory, not only in that race but in the overall points score.

Railey was delighted with the win. It's been a challenging regatta, not least for the American who has also managed to take one of her university exams over the internet during the course of this week. "Today was really hard, the hardest day so far. In the first race, the girls in the back were almost last, the fleet was doing big flip flops," she said. "After that first race, the door was wide open. It was anyone's game in the second race. It was definitely 50:50, we had all split to a side, and it was which ever side was going to make it out first."

The European title was a great reward for Tina Mihelic of Croatia, who won three races this week. She would have run Railey close for the overall title had she not forgotten to sign off after racing on the first day, for which she incurred a 10-point penalty to add on to her score. As it was, Mihelic only beat Steyaert by 2.5 points, and only ten points separated second place to ninth place overall. So much depended on the outcome of that final race.

Most consistent performer on the final day was Alberte LINDBERG with a 10,2 score. This elevated the Dane to fourth overall, just one point behind Steyaert. Lindberg is not local to Copenhagen, so she was no more clued up about the local conditions than the international competitors. She won a race the previous day and said she felt more comfortable racing in the gold fleet than in qualifying. "I love to do the final rounds, I hate the qualifying but love the finals."

Maiken Foght SCHüTT was the next most successful Danish sailor in twelfth overall. She had scored a third place earlier in the week after her coach gave her an old glove that originally was the property of triple Olympic Champion Ben Ainslie. After scoring a 32nd in today's first race she decided it was time to bring out the Ainslie magic again, so she stuffed the old glove down the front of her buoyancy aid. She was fifth around the first mark, then up to fourth, but dropped away to eighth at the finish. Even so, Schütt felt the hand of Ainslie had worked again, and said she would be taking the glove with her to Japan, the venue of the Laser Radial World Championships in just over a week's time.

In the 70-boat Men's division, Poland's Zemke Wojciech had led all week, winning race after race. But today his regatta fell apart with scores of 20,26. This left the way clear for Greek sailor Michail Aristeidis to win the Men's European Championship.

Full Results - click here

The Laser Radial Europeans is one of a number of high profile sailing regattas taking place in Denmark this summer as part of wider festival of different sports, called Denmark's Year of Sport. To do their utmost to ensure that their events are held to the highest possible standards the Danish Sailing Association is working with the support of the insurance company CODAN (part of Sun Alliance Group), to provide TracTrac tracking during the Laser Radial Europeans, Finn Gold Cup, EUROSAF Match Racing Europeans and 470 World Championship. The Danish Sailing Association has purchased 150 state-of-the-art GPS tracking devices, allowing races to be followed in real time over the internet.

Last year the TracTrac tracking of the Volvo Youth ISAF World Championship in Aarhus, Denmark was followed by nearly 30,000 viewers from 69 countries all over the world.

To follow the TracTrac tracking for the Laser Radial Europeans (starting from the second day's racing through to the finals) go to www.tractrac.com/elr

Johanne Rosenquist
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