After the first two races of the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta 2011, Ben Ainslie takes the early lead in the Finn class with a second and a first on Saturday. Jonathan Lobert (FRA) is in second on five points after placing third and second, while third is the winner of the first race Deniss Karpak (EST).
The English weather upset the start of the day's racing with nearly two hours of postponement, as the early light winds and drizzle gradually gave way to sunny skies, warmer temperatures and eventually a usable sailing breeze. Originally scheduled for a 12.00 start, the Finns did not start their first race until nearly 14.00 as the wind filled in at 6-8 knots and then increased through the day to 15-16 knots by the end of the second race.
The first race started in 7-8 knots with the fleet spreading out more or less evenly over the course area. Michael Maier (CZE) chose the middle right and rounded with nice lead from Deniss Karpak (EST) and Ivan Kjlakovic Gaspic (CRO). Karpak took the lead on the first downwind and led up the second shortened beat. He held on to finish on the next lap as the breeze picked up and Oscar flag was raised for free pumping for the final downwind to the finish. Behind him, Ben Ainslie (GBR), who had done penalty turns on the start line and started almost last, had been gaining each and every leg and moved into second at the final top mark. Ainslie put the pressure on Karpak on the final downwind, but could not quite catch him. Jonathan Lobert (FRA) also moved up from eighth at the first top mark to third at the finish.
In the second race, eventually started under black flag, Ainslie won the pin end and dominated the race to lead at each and every mark. He never quite made a big enough break to look comfortable, but was never really in danger. Oscar was up for the entire race which allowed free pumping downwind with Lobert again sailing well to finished second, overtaking Pieter Jan Postma (NED) at the final mark to lead him into the finish. The front group also included Gasper Vincec (SLO) and Rafa Trujillo (ESP), and they built a nice gap on the rest of the fleet.
Ainslie said of his day, “Really happy with today, it was a lovely day for sailing. I had an issue with the Polish guy on the start. It was a bit 50:50 really, he luffed me coming from behind and I wasn't sure whether we has started at the time, as after the gun he doesn't have any luffing rights, so I did a 720. The second race was OK, but I was happier with the first race, it was nice to come back from there to make second place. ”
Lobert was also happy, “Very happy with the first day with a third and second. I was a bit tense before the start today as this is a special regatta, but it was slowly getting better and I was pushing quite hard on the downwinds, and I really gained a lot there. I lost a lot on the second beat in the second race, but I came back well and managed pass Postma at the last mark, so actually it was a pretty good day and a good start.”
Former double world champion Jonas Hoegh Christensen (DEN), who is in fifth place, commented, “I haven't been training much, just four days since Sail for Gold, so overall I am pretty happy with today. I had two bad starts, I lost a minute one downwind, so in that sense I still have a lot to do. I will be back full time in November, so then we'll see.”
The 2008 Olympic silver medalist Zach Railey (USA) sits in seventh. He said, “It was very puffy and hard to predict what it was going to do. I got on the wrong side of a relatively big shift; it was a right shift and unfortunately I chose the left, so in that context bit was not a bad result. I am sure to spend more time here in Weymouth, so that by the time the Olympics come around we should all be as familiar as the home competitors with the conditions.”
In ninth is Pieter Jan Postma. “The current had a lot of influence and it was tricky, so it is good that we have a test event here to learn the conditions. It's good to get familiar and know the surroundings. Ben has got the edge in speed making, real calculated decisions and always close to the fleet with a bit of leverage.”
The 27 strong fleet here in Weymouth includes three former world champions, three former European champions and three Olympic medalists. While Ainslie is clearly the favourite going into this regatta, having won four out of five of the ISAF Sailing World Cup event he has competed in this cycle, it is interesting to note that the top three ranked sailors in the world are not sailing in Weymouth, and there is no World or European Champion present. World Champion Ed Wright (GBR), European Champion Giles Scott (GBR) and Thomas Le Breton (FRA) all failed to win selection for this event. In addition, 13 out of the top 25 in the world are here, and 15 sailors here are former Olympians, 13 of which were in the Finn.
The Weymouth and Portland International Regatta 2011 is the test event for the sailing events of the London 2012 Olympic Games, as part of the London Prepares series. The Finns are scheduled to have 10 races from Saturday 6 August to Thursday 11 August, with reserve days on Wednesday and Friday. The medal race for the top 10 is scheduled to take place on Saturday 13 August There are five course area (three offshore, one in Portland Harbour and one under the Nothe) and the fleet will race on all the courses over the week.
Results after two races
2 FRA Jonathan Lobert 5
3 EST Deniss Karpak 8
4 CRO Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic 12
5 DEN Jonas Hoegh Christensen 13
6 SLO Gasper Vincec 14
7 USA Zach Railey 14
8 SWE Daniel Birgmark 16
9 NED Pieter Jan Postma 17
10 ESP Rafa Trujillo 21