The 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander came full circle on Saturday with the last of the fleet racing series abandoned in almost identical conditions that led to the abandonment of Monday's racing, six days ago.
Since then one man has dominated the fleet and has built a 20 point lead, never scoring worse than fourth in any of the eight races sailed. With no races sailed today Giles Scott (GBR) takes this comfortable margin in Sunday's medal race off the breakwater. All he has to do is finish the race tomorrow to lift his second Finn World Championship, for the Finn Gold Cup, one of the most prestigious trophies in the sport of sailing.
His immediate reaction, "I'm nearly there. It might just seem like a formality tomorrow, but I've still got to finish, without having an OCS and without gear failure to make absolutely sure, but other than that, I am very happy."
On not racing today, "It's good for me because I keep my 20 point lead but it was odd out there today. There was a big split in pressure. To the left was really light and to the right was probably raceable. By the time we moved over to the right, it immediately shut down and we came ashore. So maybe it would have been possible but it was marginal at best."
A lot of sailors were celebrating today, but one of the stand out performances of the week has been that of Anders Pedersen (NOR). Three years ago in Perth he tried and failed to qualify Norway for London 2012, finishing 55th. Now, not only did he win the 2014 Junior World Championship for the Finn Silver Cup earlier this year, but he has also placed seventh going into the medal race. He said of his performance, "I am super happy with this. My dream goal was to qualify Norway for the Olympics, though I didn't really dare to say it out loud. But it was a good week and it has turned out well for me."
"I've known for the last few months that I have really good speed so I was just trying to use that and follow the good guys and use simple tactics and hang with the group. Getting into the medal race is just a real bonus, but of course I will try to do my best in that as well."
"There is not a lot of funding in Norway, especially for the Finn, so now I hope I get the right openings and get some funding and allow me to train a bit easier than it has been."
The 12 countries to qualify for a place at the Rio 2016 Olympics are: Great Britain, Croatia, France, New Zealand, Norway, USA, Sweden, Denmark, Slovenia, Australia, Hungary and Finland. The next chance to qualify is the 2015 Finn Gold Cup in Takapuna, New Zealand, next November.
The final Olympic qualification space was won for Finland by Tapio Nirkko (FIN). He said, "It's been quite a tough and challenging week. A lot of waiting, first with problems not having enough wind, but then we had a really nice breeze for three days. There were a lot of ups and downs for everyone in a very challenging and tricky wind, with massive shifts and pressure areas moving across. I could have done better but the minimum goal was to qualify the country so I am happy with that."
So the medal race line up looks like this.
Giles Scott (GBR) – Current European Champion and former World and European champion in 2011, he missed out on Olympic selection in 2012 to Ben Ainslie but is now arguably sailing better than his arch rival. Unbeaten in the class all year he has all but won the gold already and just has to finish the race to lift the title.
Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) – Best Worlds results was a third in 2012, but he was also European Champion in 2009 and 2010. Placed fifth at London 2012 and has been one of the few consistent sailors this week and the only sailor other than Scott with all single digit placings. Joined Team Fantastica last year and has not looked back. He is sailing as well as he has done in many years. Normally sails well in medal races, so would be the favourite to take the silver.
Jonathan Lobert (FRA) – London 2012 bronze medalist and more lately silver at the first Rio test event, but he has never won a medal at a major class championship yet so he is looking to break that run of bad luck. Went into last year's Finn Gold Cup medal race in third and came away with nothing. He probably just has to beat fourth placed Ed Wright (GBR) to make sure of bronze as long as they are not last.
Ed Wright (GBR) – 2006 European Champion and 2010 World Champion, Wright has taken a medal at the past four world championships. Incredibly fit and focussed Wright performs best in breezy conditions, hence his three race wins in the strongest winds of the week. With the light and shifty conditions forecast for Sunday, Lobert is probably the favourite to hold off Wright, though of course anything could happen.
Andrew Murdoch (NZL) – Only joined the class last year after two Olympics in the Laser where he placed fifth on both occasions. Took the bronze medal in last year's Europeans. Very good tactical sailor, so the medal race setup here should suit him well. Can mathematically steal the bronze medal but needs everything to fall into place.
Thomas Le Breton (FRA) – Had a great start to the season with a silver in Palma and a bronze in Hyeres. Part of the training group that includes Lobert, Max Salminen (SWE) in 10th and Tapio Nirkko (FIN) in 16th. On the same points as Murdoch but perhaps too much to do to snatch a medal.
Anders Pedersen (NOR) – the youngest sailor in the medal race, having recently won the Junior World Championship. Pedersen's performance is one of the stand out results of the regatta. He has sailed the regatta of his life to make his first major medal race and qualify his country for Rio. Coached by Peer Moberg (NOR), who won Laser bronze in 1996 and competed in the 2008 Olympics in the Finn.
Josh Junior (NZL) – Came into the Finn at the same time as Murdoch and their training together has paid off handsomely this week. Coached by 1988 Finn bronze medalist John Cutler (NZL), they have both sailed well this week and for Junior this is his second Worlds medal race in a row. Yet to win a medal at a major championship but is showing great potential.
Caleb Paine (USA) – Best result ever at a world championship wherever he finishes in the medal race though too far adrift to get a medal now. Paine has made steady progress over the last few years after being introduced to the class through a US development programme in 2009.
Max Salminen (SWE) – Had a great week in Santander, but can only move up to fifth if the maths works out. Won the Star gold medal crewing for Fredrik Lööf (SWE) at the London 2012 Olympics and switched to the Finn straight after. This is his first significant result in the class.
The medal race is scheduled to begin at 14.10 on Sunday in the confined waters just off the breakwater here in Santander. The forecast so far is not great though local winds did allow Saturday's medal races to take place. Most of the fleet have had the feeling that Scott has had one hand on the Finn Gold Cup all week. On Sunday, he should have both of them on there again, as he did three years ago in Perth.
Top 10 going into the medal race
1 GBR 41 Giles Scott 10
2 CRO 524 Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic 30
3 FRA 112 Jonathan Lobert 43
4 GBR 11 Edward Wright 44
5 NZL 16 Andrew Murdoch 60
6 FRA 29 Thomas Le Breton 60
7 NOR 1 Anders Pedersen 61
8 NZL 24 Josh Junior 64
9 USA 6 Caleb Paine 65
10 SWE 33 Max Salminen 71
Extensive gallery of each day can be found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/finnclassphotos/ and on http://www.facebook.com/pages/Finn-Class/110408332633
Photo credit: Robert Deaves/Finn Class