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6 May 2008, 09:07 am
First Race At Finn Europeans Goes To AINSLIE
Ben AINSLIE
Ben AINSLIE won the opening race in light winds in Scarlino

Finn European Championship 2008
Scarlino, Italy

Reigning Olympic and World Champion Ben AINSLIE got his series off to a winning start on the opening day of the ISAF Grade C1 Finn Europeans in Scarlino.
After a three-hour delay to wait for the wind to arrive, the 2008 Finn Open and Junior Championship got underway in Scarlino, Italy on Monday with a single race in 6-8 knots of patchy breeze. Ben AINSLIE (GBR) made his intentions quite clear, with a clean race win, after leading at each and every mark. Piotr KULA (POL) was the best of the juniors finishing in 11th place.

Following Sunday night's spectacular opening ceremony and fantastic weather it was with some disappointment that sailors arrived at the Club Nautico Scarlino on Monday morning to find intermittent showers, and very little wind. However by 13:00 the rain had started to dry up and by 14:00 the sun was trying to break through the low cloud and a light breeze was starting to develop. The fleet was sent afloat at 14:15 for a single race at 15:30. A double windward-leeward course was set.

Conditions were quite trying for some with a flat sea and a light wind that tended to reward the middle left. On the first beat a large difference in pressure across the course left those on the right stranded and brought the left to the front. However, right in the middle of the pressure in the middle left was AINSLIE. After a clear start near the favoured pin end he led round the first mark by 50 metres from Guillaume FLORENT (FRA), KULA, Ismael BRUNO (FRA) and Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN).

On the first downwind, the majority of the fleet favoured the right with little chance of any comebacks. AINSLIE extended his lead to nearly a minute at the first leeward gate, and there was very little place changing behind him. During the second upwind, AINSLIE played the middle ground again, taking little gains with each tack. At the top mark he had extended his lead to one minute 20 seconds. FLORENT maintained his second place, but behind him Daniel BIRGMARK (SWE) had moved from around 20th at the first mark to 11th at the gate to third place at the second windward mark. Also making a sizable gain was Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC (CRO) who went from ninth to fourth on the second upwind.

The last downwind produce few changes as by now the fleet was quite well spread out. AINSLIE gradually extended his lead to win by nearly 2 minutes from FLORENT and BIRGMARK. These three were followed across the finish in the dying wind by KLJAKOVIC GASPIC, HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN and Italy's 1992 Olympic representative, Emanuele VACCARI (ITA), making a comeback for this regatta.

After the race, VACCARI, who finished 14th in the 1992 Olympic Sailing Competition said, "This was the kind of race where even the amateurs can have their say because of the light winds. It was great for me to come back into the world of international sailing and kick it off with this kind of a race. It truly made me happy and I'm ecstatic. I stopped sailing in 1996 and I think I can definitely say that I've had my moment of glory here, although I hope to keep on sailing this way."

AINSLIE commented, "It was great to finally get a race after the light winds. It was actually a very difficult race with the breeze shifting about and a long one at that. I managed to pick the right side of the course and kept the lead throughout the race. Having been here for a few days, I know this is not the typical weather conditions for here, so we are hoping for a stronger breeze to return in the days to come."

Last year's Junior European bronze medallist KULA had a great race rounding the first mark in third but finally dropping to 11th at the finish. The junior sailors here are expected to fight as hard for the Junior title as the seniors are for their event, and it is always encouraging to see juniors challenging for the front of the fleet. Second placed Junior on Monday was Tomas HRNCAL (CZE) in 29th and third placed was Vyacheslav SIVENKOV (RUS) in 30th.

Two races are scheduled for Tuesday, and the forecast is for the 10-15 knots breeze that welcomed the sailors to Scarlino and the Gulf of Follonica, Maremma to return. Many are hoping that it does.

Results - click here
Robert Deaves
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