Those with expectations for some of the most exciting and close team racing that the Optimist Europeans has ever seen were not disappointed. The day began with Turkey sailing Croatia in first semi final.
The wind was light but stable and conditions were excellent for a great day of racing. Turkey, with only one loss so far, was the favourites in this first to two wins semi. Croatia however was aggressive from the start but by the first mark, Turkey had 1, 2, 3, and held the lead until the finish.
In the next race, the pressure was on Croatia. In a complete reverse of the first race, Croatia was 1, 2, 3 at the windward mark and Turkey was 5, 6, and 7. Turkey however fought back and the two teams demonstrated just why they had progressed through to this stage of the competition. Croatia managed to hold on to the lead and forced a third and deciding race.
Turkey rounded the first mark in 1, 2, 3, and were in a strong position. However, Croatia clawed a place back on the reach so that by the second mark, Turkey was 1, 2, 6, and 7 still winning but now the fleet was spread out and the match was still very open. The battle for places 3 and 8 continued through the run and final beat, with Croatia pulling through to finish 3, 4, 5, and 6 and took the race and the overall semi final.
The second semi final also went to three races. Race 3 started again as a very close race, with all 8 boats converging on the first mark at almost the same time. Italy came out ahead with a 2, 3, 4, 6 combination which they then converted to a 1, 3, 4 on the reach. The teams battled on the run and at the final mark Italy were still ahead with 1, 3, 6, and 7. France had not given up though, and the 2nd place boat came back to help team mates work on the last two Italy boats. The second half of the beat saw some very close sailing, with France forcing Italy into errors which resulted in the Italian boats receiving penalty turns. This left France to finish and win with a 3, 4, 5, 6 combinations.
The petit final between Turkey and Italy was active and noisy even before the start. At the second mark, Italy were ahead with 1, 2, 5, 8, with 2 (Italy) and 3 (Turkey) fighting hard for the place. It remained a hard fought match all the way to the finish, where Italy forced Turkey into errors that gave them a penalty from the umpires and left Italy with the first race won 1, 2, 6, and 7.
The second race was also close but once again Italy prevailed and finished 3rd overall, much to the pleasure of the home crowd. The conditions on the course had continued to improve all day. The wind had now increased to 10-12 knots and with the sunshine and the glorious mountain scenery; these were truly perfect conditions for team racing. Croatia, still celebrating from their win over the championship favourites, took the lead early on and despite numerous challenges from France, won the first race.
All boats got away first time and spread evenly across the course. The first mark saw Croatia round first closely followed by France. A French boat tried to execute a mark trap but it wasn't quite good enough to hold the fleet back so Croatia started the reach with 1, 3, 4, 5 and the fleet quite spread out 7 and 8 were a long way back. The spread reduced the number of chances available to France to fight back and Croatia held on through the run to round the last mark in a winning combination, including first and second place. France however had not given up and there was an intense battle all the way up the final beat with all boats engaging.
At a very close finish, Croatia got position 3 and 8 to go with their 1 and 2 ¬ enough to give them the race and the overall title. Every year we comment that this was optimist team racing at its best and this year was no exception. This event is unique in offering top class competition and a tactical coaching and learning environment. If you want to improve your overall sailing skills, try team racing. The event will be here in Ledro again next year and the 16 teams will all qualify through participation at the Europeans in Tavira in Portugal.