The Finn European titles were decided today in the Gulf of Follonica after a week of tough, tricky racing in unusually light and shifty winds. Overall leader Ioannis Mitakis (GRE) took the senior title in style after leading the medal race from start to finish. Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) took silver with Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) taking bronze. In the juniors Michal Jodlowski (POL) who has led all week, took the title from Dimitar Vangelov (BUL) and Andrey Yanitsky (RUS)
After leading the medal race from start to finish, Ioannis Mitakis has won the Finn European title for the first time, just two years after he won the Junior Finn European title for the second time. For the 23 year old it is a dream come true, and also perhaps a bit unexpected, but all week, the light winds have favoured him and he has demonstrated a level headedness and clear strategic thinking that has left many more experienced rivals in his wake.
After starting the week with a 13 and 35 in the strongest winds of the regatta, he never looked back and was the only sailor here to record five top ten places in a row, ending in his only win of the week in today's medal race. After a reasonable start, it looked like Kljakovic Gaspic had the upper hand, however the young Greek edged through and forced Gaspic to tack away. When they came back together Mitakis has a two boatlength lead and from there he just extended to win by nearly 75 metres.
He said, “I am really happy with this. I didn't expect to win this championship so I am really happy. I had a very good final race. For sure the light winds are my favourite conditions. Today I was really fast upwind. I started on the left and I just tried to keep close to Vasilij and Bambi, and suddenly I had the chance to pass into first and that was it. I think the right hand side paid more with more pressure.”
“I will go back home now, and then go to the British Nationals and Finn Gold Cup in May. And then of course the Olympics. It will be my first.”
Silver medalist Vasilij Zbogar is the only sailor here to win two races, in the shortened series of just seven races, but was clearly well prepared and determined to do well. “I hoped for this result. We really worked hard this winter with Filippo and Giorgio, and all three of us battled for the top three places, so that means that we trained well. We didn't expect to do as well as this as a team, but we managed to do do a really good job. Unfortunately Filippo is fourth but he is still young, and Giorgio too, was still battling in the last race for everything.”
On the new champion he said, “I know Ioannis very well and I know that in light conditions he is unbeatable. He is fast and very smart and sailing well. I made a few mistakes myself but I am still in the process of learning and I hope these mistakes get less and less during the season.”
“One problem for me was that I didn't have a sail for light winds this week. Like everybody else I expected about 8 to 12 knots of sea breeze everyday and so I didn't check in my light wind sail. I only had a medium wind sail and a strong wind sail. So that was a bit of a problem for me. When the wind was a bit stronger I managed to win two races. I just need to work a bit in the sail for light winds.”
While Mitakis led throughout the medal race, and Deniss Karpak (EST) followed in second, Kljakovic Gaspic was flagged at the top mark and had to do some turns which dropped him back. Zbogar was the main beneficiary of this but admitted, “I was flagged myself today as well, but I still had a small advantage and it was enough to stay in third place. It was very tricky. We had a bit of wind at the beginning of the race and then it was just dropping away all the time. I had no idea which side the wind was going to come in. On the second upwind I was pretty sure it would be the right because there was nothing on the left. I knew I had to go right, but the first upwind I was just struggling up the course in the middle. It was good to be there because I got two shifts, and got up to third, and with these short races, rounding in third is good.
“This is a good confidence boost going forward, though I can't celebrate too much as we go straight to Palma but I am really looking forward to that to seeing how I go against the Brits and the other top sailors there.”
In the Juniors, leader all week Michal Jodlowski (POL) was assured the title after second placed Dimitar Vangelov (BUL) picked up his second yellow flag and had to go home. The bnronze medal finally went to Andrey Yanitsky (RUS) after overtaking the former bronze medal position holders Tomas Hrncal (CZE) and Arkadiy Kistanvov (RUS) with an excellent sixth place finish. Kistanov was black flagged in the final race, ending his chances of a medal.
The final race itself was won by Bjorn Allansson (SWE) from Gasper Vincec (SLO) and Eduard Skornyakov (RUS)
It has been a strange week here in Scarlino. The wind really hasn't played along and has been completely unseasonable. The racing has been up and down a lot, but what is in no doubt that Ioannis Mitakis was the best sailor here this week and his cool headedness and clear thinking will be a great benefit as he approaches the biggest regatta of his life this coming summer.
Relive the racing and the championship on the live blog at http://www.finneuropeans.org/ec2012/index.php/news-blog which has all the links, photos and videos from the week.
The sailors are now heading to Palma for the 43 Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia – MAPFRE regatta, the second event of the very busy European season this year as they prepare for the Olympic Games in August.
Full results: http://www.finneuropeans.org/ec2012/index2.php?Itemid=6
Results after medal race (medal race position in brackets)
Juniors (Top 6)