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17 September 2005, 06:57 pm
AINSLIE And PAPATHANSIOU Set For Last Race Showdown
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Finn Gold Cup 2005
Moscow, Russia

The first day of the finals at the 2005 ISAF Grade W Finn Gold Cup in Moscow, Russia saw a mixed bag of weather from which Ben AINSLIE (GBR) still holds a narrow lead over Emilios PAPATHANASIOU (GRE). A good day for Chris COOK (CAN) sees him lifted from sixth overnight to third going into tomorrow's final race.
Yesterday's moderate breeze was still in place this morning, albeit now from the south. However by the time the races were started this had died to a shifty three to five knots. However, by the start of the second Gold fleet race it had shifted some 120 degrees towards the west and increased to 16-18 knots.

Starting in the light rain and lights winds, COOK led round each and every mark of the first race of the day to score his first win of the regatta. At the first mark he was followed by Ivan KARATKEVICH (BLR) and PAPATHANASIOU. The Greek moved up to second on the third upwind, while Gasper VINCEC (SLO) moved up to third. KARATKEVICH, sailed his best race of the regatta to finish in fourth. Series leader AINSLIE got himself boxed in at the start and spent the entire race trying desperately to catch up with the leaders. Picking off places on every leg, he finally caught up to eighth at the finish, his second worst result so far, but also a countable race.

However, after this first race, for the first time in the regatta, AINSLIE had lost the overall lead to PAPATHANASIOU by one point. He responded in typical AINSLIE fashion by winning the final race of the day, but not after a great deal of confusion.

The second race was started in similar conditions to the first with COOK again in front, Walclav SZUKIEL (POL) in second and AINSLIE in third. However, half way up the second beat, a 120 degree shift in the wind led to its abandonment. PAPATHANASIOU must have breathed a sigh of relief as he was second to last at the time. Actually this is the third time this week, he has got out of jail through a race abandonment.

The course was reset along the length of the lake and with gusts up to 18 knots and waves starting to build, the sailors had a great time with the O flag raised for free pumping throughout. Again AINSLIE did not get a great start, but recovered to round the top mark just behind Soren HOLM (DEN) and Dan SLATER (NZL). Behind him there was chaos. Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN) was finally having a good race and about to round the top mark in fourth, but David BURROWS (IRL) did not see him as he ducked AINSLIE rounding the mark and the two collided and capsized.

Behind this collision, a lot of boats were arriving at the windward mark together allowing the top three to escape down the run. HOLM maintained his lead at the second top mark with Josh BEAVER (AUS) moving up to second and Daniel BIRGMARK (SWE) in third. AINSLIE had slipped to 6th. He put that to rights on the third beat, taking the lead which he held to the finish. HOLM held on for second place, with Chris BRITTLE (GBR) claiming third.

After the top mark collision, BURROWS happened to be OCS anyway, so sailed home, but HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN had trouble righting his boat in the strong winds and moderate waves and rounded the bottom mark in 44th. He sailed well though, to recover to 18th by the finish but was understandably upset.

Commenting on his success today COOK - who finished 9th in the second race of the day - said, 'I have been doing a lot of training in Canada on a lake similar to this, with flat water and very shifty winds. A shoulder injury meant I was unable to do the European summer circuit, so instead I did a lot of training at home. It seems to have worked.'

In the silver fleet, both races became somewhat scrappy due to the shiftiness of the wind. Consistency is very hard to achieve here due to the vagaries of the wind, and most people are looking for a few top poisitons to boost them up the results table. One such is David MCGREGOR (BAR), representing another new country in the Finn community. Taking the lead on the final run of the first race in his own private patch of wind, he sailed well to score second in the next, after recovering from around tenth at the first mark. Second race winner, Dragoutsis ALEXANDROS (GRE) found an impossible shift out of the start line to lift out on port and cross the entire fleet. He sailed well to lead throughout and win by a large margin.

International Finn Association President Balasz HAJDU (HUN), who missed the gold fleet by just three points, had an unfortunate day with an OCS followed by a 9 to lie fifth in the silver fleet. Giedrius GUZYS (LTU) and Jurgien EIRMANN (GER) both had a consistent day to end the day first and second.

The battle for the junior title took a new twist today when overnight leader Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC (CRO) had a bad day with a 30th and an OCS to drop to 18th overall, just eight points ahead of the defending champion Tapio NIRRKO (FIN) in 21st place. Tomorrow, these two will fight it out for the Jorg Bruder Silver Cup while third placed Norbert WILANDT (POL) will try to maintain his twelve point margin over Mark ANDREWS (GBR).

Tomorrow all eyes will be on AINSLIE and PAPATHANASIOU. Between them they are guaranteed first and second. The four point margin means that PAPATHANASIOU has to be in the top five to stand any chance of winning, and at least three places clear of AINSLIE. While not pre-empting AINSLIE's strategy for tomorrow, some pundits are already expecting a repeat of the AINSLIE/Robert SCHEIDT (BRA) showdown in the last race of the 2000 Laser regatta in the Sydney Olympic Games. For third place, COOK has a 12 point margin over SZUKIEL, but with the wind the way it is in Moscow, that could all change.

The forecast is for a miserable, cold day but with wind. It all starts at 1100 hours local time, with live internet coverage through www.finngoldcup2005.ru.

Top Ten After Eight Races

Pos Nation Helm R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 R7 R8 Pts
1 GBR Ben AINSLIE 2 1 1 2 (10) 2 8 1 17
2 GRE Emilios PAPATHANASIOU 1 3 1 (8) 5 3 2 6 21
3 CAN Christopher COOK 3 (50) OCS 3 13 8 5 1 9 42
4 POL Waclav SZUKIEL (19) 8 7 4 2 14 5 14 54
5 CZE Michal HRUBY 8 10 17 2 1 7 (23) 13 58
6 NZL Dan SLATER 10 1 2 7 17 10 13 (26) 60
7 ESP Rafael TRUJILLO VILLAR 8 12 11 1 (32) 8 12 8 60
8 AUS Joshua BEAVER 12 5 (40) 9 4 22 7 5 64
9 SWE Daniel BIRGMARK 2 3 8 (21) 19 8 21 4 65
10 CRO Marin MISURA 11 18 2 3 1 15 (20) 16 66
Robert Deaves (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Overall leader Ben AINSLIE:© finngoldcup2005.ru
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