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7 May 2008, 09:58 am
VINCEC Hits The Front At Finn Europeans
A bullet and third place propelled Gasper VINCEC to the top of the leaderboard

Finn European Championship 2008
Scarlino, Italy

Slovenia's Gasper VINCEC moved into the overall lead after a long day on the water but two great races on the second day of the ISAF Grade C1 Finn Europeans.
The glorious Tuscany weather returned for the second day of racing at the Finn Open and Junior European Championship in Scarlino, Italy. However, again, the wind didn't make things easy. It took four hours waiting for the wind to stabilize and three general recalls before racing could finally start. When it did, race wins went to Gasper VINCEC (SLO) and Pieter-Jan POSTMA (NED) with a number of favourites picking up high scores.

The moderate northeasterly offshore wind in the morning created some early problems for the race committee as a shifting wind produced two general recalls before the race committee decided to wait for the thermal breeze from the sea. They waited for an hour and nothing changed so decided to start race two in the offshore wind. This got away first time with Zach RAILEY (USA) starting at the committee boat, taking a short hitch to port before crossing right across to the left and leading round the first mark. He was still leading at the leeward gate, but soon after the wind disappeared and three guns sounded from the committee boat.

The fleet then had to wait a further hour and a half before the next start was attempted at 15:40. By then a 6-8 knot breeze and arrived from the west. After one general recall, the fleet set off to a black flag at 16:00 and was let go, but with numerous boats disqualified for being OCS.

The fleet was very spread out on first upwind where there were lots of shifts and pressure changes. This left a lot of favourites struggling mid-fleet. Eduardo COUTO (BRA) made the best of the beat to lead round the top mark followed by VINCEC and Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC (CRO). Overnight leader Ben AINSLIE (GBR) rounded back in 45th.

COUTO extended his lead on the first downwind as the breeze increased, but then lost some ground on next upwind to Chris COOK (CAN) and VINCEC. COUTO rounded third with Guillaume FLORENT (FRA) in fourth.

On final downwind to the finish, the top four had a nice gap on the bunch behind. COOK and COUTO went to the left while VINCEC and FLORENT went to the right. The right paid and VINCEC took the win followed by FLORENT and COOK. COUTO was yellow flagged on the final approach but only lost a place to COOK, however he was one of the 16 boats picking up an OCS. Notable casualties also included Peer MOBERG (NOR) and Daniel BIRGMARK (SWE).

Race three got underway almost immediately at 17:20. The wind had by now stabilized and strengthened further to 10-11 knots. The fleet again got away to a black flag and POSTMA starting near the committee boat, controlled the first upwind to round the top mark with a small lead over RAILEY and Tim GOODBODY (IRL).

The wind increased to 14 knots on the run and POSTMA excelled in these conditions to take a commanding lead by the leeward gate. At that gate, the Oscar flag was raised to indicate unlimited pumping. Behind him, COOK had moved up to second ahead of RAILEY and AINSLIE had moved into fourth. The final upwind produced few changes, except AINSLIE moved up to third.

On the downwind leg to the finish the sailors were allowed unlimited pumping and clearly enjoyed the conditions. VINCEC rounded the top mark in fifth, but took the right side of the leg and moved past RAILEY and then AINSLIE to take third place. COOK was comfortable in second, while POSTMA extended his lead to win by 50 seconds.

RAILEY, after a 64th place on Monday, scored a sixth and fifth on Tuesday and is currently in 19th overall, became the new International Finn Association Vice-President Development at the class AGM on Sunday. In doing so he takes charge of various development initiatives around the world. RAILEY is particularly passionate about introducing younger sailors to the Finn and giving them a useful step up into international sailing. One such initiative is underway in the USA, where a new scheme has just been established to encourage sailors into the class. The USA Class Association is planning to buy a new Finn and offer it on loan for periods of up to one year to suitable candidates, who have to apply for its use. RAILEY stated, "The objective is to get one new sailor into the class each year through this initiative, probably a talented sailor from another class or someone who has got too big to sail a Laser."

This ties in well with the IFA's FIDeS initiative to encourage development across a range of nations, that was started two years ago by outgoing Vice-President Michele MARCHESINI (ITA), who had the vision to create a programme that is benefiting Finn sailors worldwide.

The USA initiative is one of a growing number of Junior development schemes initiated by various national associations and individual sailors, including in Denmark and Germany, to really focus on and develop Junior Finn sailing as a viable and rewarding alternative introduction to top-flight international competition.

In the Junior European Championship this week, Piotr KULA (POL) is leading the field after a tenth and a 41st on Tuesday and stands in 15th place. Second placed junior is Jan KURFELD (GER) in 21st while Andriy GUSENKO (UKR) lies third in 29th place overall.

In the overall standings, after three races VINCEC is leading on ten points with FLORENT also on ten and COOK in third on 19 points. Two more races are scheduled for Wednesday at 12:00.

Results - click here

Robert Deaves
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