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7 June 2007, 04:48 pm
All Change At The Top
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Finn European Championship 2007
Balatonfoldvar, Hungary

After a day of topsy-turvy racing, four sailors drop out of the top ten and a second win for Emilios PAPATHANASIOU (GRE) moves him from 11th to first at the ISAF Grade C1 Finn European Championship on Lake Balaton, Hungary. Today, two more races were sailed in light winds, with Stefan DE VRIES (NED) dominating the first and Marko KOLIC (ITA) extending his lead in the Junior fleet.
On waking this morning, most sailors were hoping for at least one race to be sailed in order to make a championship, but on arriving at the club, they found a healthy 5-7 knot breeze in place from the northwest with clear blue skies, which meant that two races were sailed and a drop could be counted. With the light winds, course 2 was sailed for the third day running. The fickle winds again produced some high scores and surprise results, and with temperatures reaching over 25 degrees, it was tough going for some.

Race 4

After a clean start at the first attempt, the fleet split fairly evenly to the right and left, with some sailors still gambling on a corner bonanza. This left the middle of the course almost devoid of boats.

At the first mark, DE VRIES led by a comfortable margin from Florian RAUDASCHL (AUT), Joao SIGNORINI (BRA), Dan SLATER (NZL), Chris BRITTLE (GBR), Daniel BIRGMARK (SWE) and Vladimir KRUTSKIKH (RUS). He emerged from the middle left after those who had banged the right hand corner rounded in the 30s.

He extended his lead on the run while SLATER moved up to second. On the next beat SLATER went hard right while DE VRIES played the middle ground again. When the two came together, DE VRIES had gained more and rounded well ahead. RAUDASCHL remained in third.

On the final downwind, DE VRIES was never seriously threatened, although KRUTSKIKH caught up SLATER and looked at one point to have passed him. However SLATER had the inside track at the mark and led the Russian to the finish for second place.

After the race DE VRIES said, 'I got a good start in the middle of the line but didn't really know which side to go so I stayed in the middle and waited to see. I ended up going left of middle and that was very nice. The last run was a bit tense as the wind was light, so I just put myself between the next boats and the mark and managed to win by just over 20 seconds.'

Race 5

After two general recalls, race five started under black flag. The main casualty of this was SLATER who rounded the top mark in a good position only to see his number on the black board. Others sent home early were BRITTLE, Pieter-Jan POSTMA (NED) and Matthias BOHN (GER).

PAPATHANASIOU started at the committee boat and immediately tacked off to the right. He rounded the first mark nicely ahead and led all the way to the finish.

Following him round the first mark were RAUDASCHL, Gasper VINCEC (SLO), BRITTLE, Nathan QUIRK (AUS) and Andrew CASEY (USA). PAPATHANASIOU extended his lead on the run with Eduard SKORNYAKOV (RUS) moving up to fourth. A shift to the left on the second beat meant a long port tack, and fewer opportunities for passing. However SKORNYAKOV had moved to second by the windward mark.

On the final downwind, the wind went very light, but PAPATHANASIOU's second win of the event was never in question. RAUDASCHL recovered to second on the run to wrap up an excellent day, with SKORNYAKOV having to settle for third place. After VINCEC in fourth there was a significant gap to the following fleet.

So after five races, PAPATHANASIOU has moved into the lead on 32 points with SKORNYAKOV just two points behind him and Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC (CRO) a further five points adrift. There has been no discernible pattern to this event so far with everyone in the top 20 picking up high scores at some point.

Speaking later PAPATHANASIOU said, 'It is very difficult to make the top ten here. We knew before we came to Balaton it would be a high scoring regatta, and so it is turning out to be. I am happy to be leading but yesterday I got a yellow flag, so I must be careful now. After doing my turns I dropped to 47th in that race. I hope tomorrow we have two more nice races for people to watch and the sailors to enjoy - and also that I can maintain my lead.'

About the right side of the course, he said, 'I think the right side of the course is the safest bet. It is very difficult to start here and stay in the middle. The wind is coming from left and right at times, so that makes the tactics hard - and you also need some luck. The right side seems safest - but not always! The race officer has done a good job in difficult conditions and should be pleased. The courses are fantastic and all the sailors are happy.'

Mixed Fleet

This regatta - perhaps due to its location on a lake in central Europe - has attracted a diverse range of competitors from all sectors of the Finn family. As well as the committed Olympians there are juniors, masters, locals and class stalwarts in attendance, all adding to the mix and all hoping for their share in lady luck. 'I'd rather be lucky than good,' is, perhaps, an overused phrase here this week.

While roughly 25 per cent of the fleet racing on Lake Balaton classify as Masters, about 30 per cent are juniors, which is clearly more encouraging for the class.

Now in its 41st year, the Junior Finn Europeans is combined with the senior championship, although it used to be an independent event. Here on Balaton, the shape of the Junior positions is becoming slightly more defined than in the senior event.

After a 27 and 21 today, Marko KOLIC (ITA) is the leading junior in 25th place. Just 12 points behind him is Michal STRUINSKI (POL) who is four points ahead of Frederico MELO (POR). The third placed Junior of yesterday - Ian COOK (USA) - drops a few places after two results in the 30s today, while there is a large gap of 32 points to the fifth placed junior Piotr KULA (POL).

Homecoming

At the other end of the spectrum is Louie NADIE (USA). He is back on Lake Balaton for the second year running, having competed last year in the Finn World Masters at Balatonfured, just across the lake. He came back this year mainly because his son Andras NADIE (USA) wanted to compete in the European Championship. Travelling to Hungary is something of a homecoming for Louie as he was born nearby before his family moved away - eventually to the USA - soon after the Second World War.

NADIE has been a keen Finn sailor for over 40 years. Buying his first Finn in about 1964, he placed fifth in the 1973 Finn Gold Cup and fourth in the 1978 Finn Gold Cup. He also finished second in the US Olympic trials in 1972 to Ed BENNETT (USA).

Asked why he keeps coming back for more after all these years, his answer is simple, 'The Finn is a great boat to race. It's fun to sail, a handful in a strong breeze, but when you get it right it gives you a wonderful feeling. Age is also no limit. Many people in the States are finding out quite late in life how fun the Finn can be.' Speaking about this event, 'For me it's just a matter of seeing what I can do. Sometimes I am up there, sometimes not. You have to take it all and I just enjoy it.' NADIE is currently lying in 73rd place, well ahead of his son.

The final two qualifying series races will be attempted tomorrow, Friday 8 June before the Medal Race on Saturday and the final points race for those placed 11th and higher.

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

Robert Deaves (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Action from race 5:© Robert Deaves,IFA
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