The final International Finn Class championship prior to the Olympic Sailing Competition later this summer is due to take place at Scarlino in Italy next week, from 2-10 May.
Despite most countries having already finalised their trials for China, there are 93 pre-entries from 30 nations. As is traditional the event also features the Junior European Championship and this year the growth of the junior fleet continues with 19 sailors from 11 countries taking part, including many new faces. The line up also includes a growing number of new sailors finding their footing in the Finn class with an encouraging four entries apiece from Serbia and Ukraine and five from Russia.
The racing is being hosted by the Club Nautico Scarlino. This modern club is located in the La Marina di Scarlino, a brand new marina in the Gulf of Follonica, Maremma, Tuscany. This venue is about half way between Rome and Pisa on Italy's western coastline. The course area for the championship is within spitting distance of the famous Bonaparte retreat, Elba, but the sailors will not be thinking about taking prisoners this year, but rather looking to stamp their authority at a crucial point in the campaign for gold in China.
In the final medal race of the Gold Cup earlier this year in Melbourne, Ben AINSLIE
(GBR) had the unusual pleasure of having to actually race in order to win the series. In doing so he narrowly beat Dan SLATER
(NZL) to take his fifth Finn World title, the first person ever to do so. A few weeks later it was back to business as normal though after he had wrapped up the Princess Sofia Regatta before the final race. Having skipped Hyères, AINSLIE will be looking to take yet another title in Italy and further demoralize his fellow sailors. However to do that he will have a hard battle ahead, and I would venture again to say that it is not a foregone conclusion. Although AINSLIE is the obvious choice for headline material, there are plenty of others with hatchets in hand ready to knock the Brit off the top spot. There are many possible contenders.
AINSLIE's vanquished arch rival for the Qingdao berth and the 2006 European Champion, Ed WRIGHT
(GBR) is back for more. Clearly not discouraged by losing out to AINSLIE this time, he has already seemed to have re-focussed on 2012 and his second place in Hyères proves he has lost none of his edge.
Despite recently completing two years at the top of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings
, Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN
(DEN) has won few major events in that time. A bronze at this year's Finn Gold Cup is the closest he has got to a major title since winning that event in 2006. However a win in Hyères last week must be a useful confidence boost just before a major title is at stake.
The defending champion is of course Eduard SKORNYAKOV
(RUS). However he has never really reproduced the form that made him the surprise winner last year on Lake Bataton, and had to wait until this year's Finn Gold Cup to perform sufficiently well to qualify Russia for a place in China. He managed a 14th in Hyères, and that is really his best result since last year's Europeans.
Other likely contenders include second in Palma, Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC
(CRO), third in Hyères Gasper VINCEC
(SLO), runner up at last year's Finn Gold Cup Pieter-Jan POSTMA
(NED), SLATER, Athens silver medallist and 2007 World Champion Rafa TRUJILLO
(ESP) and 2001 European Champion Emilios PAPATHANASIOU
(GRE), although such is the depth of the Finn fleet at the moment, that any of another 20 sailors is quite capable of winning individual races. However, many sailors have reduced their sailing weight in expectation of light winds in Qingdao, so if next week proves to be windy, there could be some interesting results.
In the juniors, the current World Junior Champion Giles SCOTT
(GBR) looks set to be absent, while the 2007 Junior European Champion Michal STRUSINSKI
(POL), 2007 silver medallist Frederico MELO
(POR) and bronze medallist Piotr KULA
(POL), as well of course as the 2007 World Junior Champion Jan KURFELD
(GER) will provide a high level of competition. In addition there are a lot of new names sailing the Junior championship this year, so this will be interesting to watch.
The practice race is scheduled for Monday 4 May at 14:30, with the first points race the following day at 12:00. An eight-race opening series is planned with up to two races each day and a medal race for the top ten and a final race for the rest on Saturday 10 May.
Finn European Championship - www.eurofinn2008.it