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11 June 2007, 09:24 am
Gold To Russia
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Finn European Championship 2007
Balatonfoldvar, Hungary

It has been 21 years since a Russian sailor has won a major Finn title, but on Saturday on Lake Balaton Eduard SKORNYAKOV (RUS) successfully defended his overnight points lead to take the 2007 ISAF Grade C1 Finn European title on the last beat of the Medal Race.
A week of challenging and intense sailing culminated on Lake Balaton on Saturday, with the Medal Race for the top ten and the final points race for the rest of the fleet. As has been the pattern for the past four days, a thermal wind filled in around 08:00 and, although one of the weakest of the week, was enough to sail both races.

Medal Race

The course was set close to the club for the spectators to enjoy with two windward leeward loops sailed. Seeking to make sure of the bronze medal, Emilios PAPATHANASIOU (GRE) started at the pin and immediately tacked onto port to get to the right side where there appeared more pressure. Second place overnight, Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC (CRO) started mid-line while event leader SKORNYAKOV started at the committee boat. Within a few seconds all were on port heading right.

PAPATHANASIOU found the best of the pressure to pull forward on the line of boats and sailed furthest to the right. The Russian tacked back first and was next to last. Round the top mark PAPATHANASIOU had already built a lead of some 20 seconds during the 10 minute beat and was followed by Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN), Gasper VINCEC (SLO), KLJAKOVIC GASPIC and Zach RAILEY (USA). SKORNYAKOV only had two boats behind him. It looked like the title might be going to Croatia. Fourth Overnight Dan SLATER (NZL) had to return to restart and did turns at the top mark so trailed behind SKORNYAKOV with only Joao SIGNORINI (BRA) behind him.

PAPATHANASIOU and HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN pulled away on the downwind and were never really threatened. On the second upwind SKORNYAKOV sailed intelligently and started to pull back a few places. At the windward mark, he pulled through to fifth and then started to close in on the Croatian.

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Finn European Champion
Eduard SKORNYAKOV
© Robert Deaves,IFA
On the tense final leg SKORNYAKOV covered KLJAKOVIC GASPIC's wind from behind, but he had done enough. KLJAKOVIC GASPIC needed at least two boats between himself and the Russian to take the title. Meanwhile at the front of the fleet, PAPATHANASIOU's third win of the regatta secured him the bronze medal.

KLJAKOVIC GASPIC was elated with his second place, 'This is great. I didn't expect to do so well at all. However I was sailing well and had a good feeling about it, was being patient because of the tricky conditions and was generally feeling relaxed. Then yesterday, lots of sailors had high scores which moved me up to second. Today I went out knowing I could win the title, but also wanted to protect my second place. I had a good start but didn't feel I was going that fast upwind. At the top mark I had enough places on the Russian to win, but he sailed well on the second beat and pulled back just behind me, so he won and I was second. I am still very happy though.'

SKORNYAKOV has only been sailing the Finn since September 2006, after moving out of 49ers. He was well prepared from sailing on the lakes in Moscow, where he is supported by the Moscow Sailing School. He is actually sailing one of the Finns bought in for the 2005 Finn Gold Cup that was sailed in Moscow. He said, 'I am very impressed with the quality of the boats and the fleet here. It is all very good. I was well prepared for this event and I hoped that I could win.'

Race 8

The eighth and final race for the rest of the fleet started soon after with two general recalls and then eight boats sent home. The light wind race favoured the right hand side again and those who went left lost all the wind. Round the first mark, Davide BORTOLETTO (ITA) led from Pieter-Jan POSTMA (NED), Sanders WILLEMS (NED) and Andrew CASEY (USA).

On the downwind leg the wind turned very light and the race officer wisely decided to shorten at the end of the next upwind. POSTMA had taken the lead on the downwind and headed right again stretching out to win by a considerable margin. Junior sailor Josip OLIJIC (CRO) worked his way up to second with Michael MAIER (CZE) in third.

Johan TILLANDER's (SWE) fourth place was enough to lift him to 11th and claim to be the 'best of the rest'. There have been a lot of amateur sailors mixing it with the full timers this week and this has been part of the interest over the past six days, with a much more level playing field than usual. Lots of sailors have posted impressive race results and there have been a few upsets to the established order. In fact over 43 per cent of the fleet has had at least one top ten finish. In a 92 boat fleet that is quite remarkable.

In the Junior fleet, a seventh place from Frederico MELO (POR) in the day's race brought him closer to Michal STRUINSKI (POL) who posted a 13th today, bit it was not enough to take the title away from the Pole. Piotr KULA (POL) placed 49th but managed to cling onto the bronze medal.

According to Pat Healy, the Chairman of the International Jury, the sailors here have been remarkably well behaved - well on the water anyway, with relatively few flags and protests. Healy is happy with the way week has gone. He commented, 'This generation of Finn sailors seem to have an awful lot of respect, not only for the rules but also for their fellow competitors. If someone makes a mistake, they are generally doing their two turns automatically. As for Rule 42, the fleet looks very quiet on the whole. Personally, I think that sailing is more fun when everyone follows the rules, and I hope that the Finn sailors here do too and also had an enjoyable week.'

Weather

The weather pattern here has certainly been strange. With the forecast for the whole week being very light and variable winds there was some concern about whether a championship could be completed. However the wind has been kind and every day a local thermal easterly has provided challenging condition for sailors. Spartacus Sailing Club is ideally situated for this kind of wind. At either ends of the lake there has often been no wind at all, at a time when the Finns have been sailing in a nice breeze. We have certainly been very fortunate this week.

The weather pattern for the past few days had been identical. Warm mornings have been followed by exceptionally hot afternoons with building thermal clouds and eventually an impressive thunderstorm with torrential rain and gale force winds. The rain cleans and cools the air and leaves a succession of large puddles across the town.

The sailors all came prepared for long days waiting ashore bringing with them a variety of games, books, movies and laptops to occupy their time so it is great that they were rewarded for making the effort of travelling here with a first class championship, excellent racing and a level of community and class camaraderie that is often missing in the cut and thrust of the Olympic circuit. The club and the locals have been exceptionally welcoming and there has been a great atmosphere both on and off the water. Spartacus Sailing Club and its members have been the perfect host.

The Finn class has one more major regatta - the ISAF Grade 1 Kiel Week - before assembling in Cascais, Portugal for the ISAF Sailing World Championships and the first qualification opportunity for the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition - and where this monologue will continue. We will be back…

For all the news on the Finn European Championship CLICK HERE.

Robert Deaves (As Amended By ISAF). Image, The start of the Medal Race:© Robert Deaves,IFA
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