Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) will go into the medal race with an unassailable 23 point lead at the ISAF sailing World Cup Hyeres after two second places on the final day of the opening series. Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) has climbed to second after winning the second race of the day while just three points behind is Thomas Le Breton (FRA). The first race was won by Josh Junior.
After a short delay for the wind, the final two races got underway to decide the top 10 for Saturday's medal race. Current World Champion Jorge Zarif (BRA) was first round the top mark in race 9, but Josh Junior (NZL) was not far behind and passed him on the run to extend to win by nearly half a minute. Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) rounded the top mark in 11th but moved through the fleet to second on the final downwind. Third place finally went to Milan Vujasinovic (CRO).
This result left Postma with a 24 point lead at the top, but he still had to sail well in the final race as he was discarding that 58th from Thursday. Anders Pedersen (NOR) was fastest to the top mark in race 10, leading round from Caleb Paine (USA) and Ioannis Mitakis (GRE). Kljakovic Gaspic had a blistering first run to move into the lead, which he held to the finish. Postma again rounded 11th but was soon into second, which again he held to the finish. Paine finished third.
This leaves the medal race as a formality for most sailors with Postma just having to show up to take gold. The only real interest is the battle for silver between Kljakovic Gaspic and Le Breton, separated by just three points. Fourth placed Paine, has a mathematical chance of winning a medal but needs to win the race with Le Breton last. Barring disqualifications, nothing much else can change to the top three.
For Postma this is a milestone. His first major victory in the Finn class after years of hard work. The Frisian sailor said, "This is a very special feeling. A big step. Up to today during major events something went wrong in the end. I set myself straight. This now feels like a break, I can win."
"I have been in the gym a lot recently each day and I trained on a Volvo Ocean Race boat. But it is the sum of the experience, of all the training, being a little older, to know yourself better, more race experience. That has led to this victory."
"I have put so much energy into it over the past decade. Despite the stress I was really strong this week. This growth has been in recent years. If you look at the Olympics, which of course was a huge thing, on sailing quality I deserved a medal but I failed to rise above. Now it feels like I have overcome. The process of sport is grandiose, heavy, but very special."
Deniss Karpak (EST) commented, "The week was perfect, with nice weather, 100% free pumping in all 10 races. So, the conditions were excellent for sailing. The race committee was very good, with no extra long postponements before and between racing."
"Today was a hard day again, with full hiking and pumping. I'm happy with my eighth place so far, and being in the medal race again, after Palma, but I'm not happy with my speed, so I will try to improve that before the Europeans. It was nice training before La Rochelle."
Bjorn Allansson (SWE) said,"The Race Committee made the right choice and postponed us ashore for a short while, which meant perfect sailing conditions once we got out there. In the first start I was a bit too conservative, which came at a high price, but the rest of my performance today I'm pleased with, especially my downwinds."
"I'm real happy to have qualified for tomorrow' s medal race. I will go in with a attitude to win the race - I guess I will not be the only one."
The medal race line up looks like this:
Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) - Twice runner-up and last year's bronze medalist in the World Championships, Postma has sailed exceptionally well this week. Thrives under the pressure of the medal race and won the high pressure race at last year's Finn Gold Cup. Even though he is assured the overall win just by finishing, expect him to try to seal it in style.
Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) - The 2009 and 2010 European Champion is back in contention after taking most of the last year off. After a mediocre first day, he has only been outside the top 3 twice and historically does well in medal races. Expect him to keep Le Breton on a close rein in Saturday's race.
Thomas Le Breton (FRA) - After losing the 2012 Olympic trials to the eventual bronze medalist and training partner Jonathan Lobert (FRA), Le Breton has started the 2014 season in his best form yet. He has followed a silver in Palma with another great week here and is clearly on a roll.
Caleb Paine (USA) - Former world No 1, Paine has had an exceptional week after one of his best performances to date with seven top 10 places. Has an outside chance of a medal but needs to win the medal race to stand a chance.
Josh Junior (NZL) - Apart from one slip up, Junior could have been competing for a medal here but has left himself to much to do. Otherwise a very good series from him with eight single digit placings and starting to emerge as the top kiwi.
Björn Allansson (SWE) - After a slow start in Hyères the ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne winner has put together a great series and a great confidence boost in the Swedish selections. Too far adrift for a medal but will still be competing for a top four place.
Ioannis Mitakis (GRE) - The early leader this week but a couple of high scores cost him dearly. Was the junior European champion in 2009 and 2010, before taking the senior European Championship in 2012, including winning the medal race. Historically better in light winds, but getting better in the breeze as this week has proven.
Deniss Karpak (EST) - Starting to put in some consistent performances but not enough single digits to be challenging the podium this week. Can move up to fifth with a good medal race.
Milan Vujasinovic (CRO) - Only in his second year of sailing Finns and improving all the time. Finished fourth at the 2013 Finn Gold Cup, but a bit inconsistent this week leaving him too much to do.
Jorge Zarif (BRA) - Current world champion, only made the cut on the final day here. Too far adrift to make much impact further up.
Results after 10 races
1 NED 842 Pieter-Jan Postma 29
2 CRO 524 Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic 52
3 FRA 29 Thomas Le Breton 55
4 USA 6 Caleb Paine 72
5 NZL 24 Josh Junior 74
6 SWE 6 Björn Allansson 81
7 GRE 77 Ioannis Mitakis 83
8 EST 2 Deniss Karpak 92
9 CRO 69 Milan Vujasinovic 93
10 BRA 109 Jorge João Zarif 110
Photos: Thom Touw (www.thomtouw.com)
The medal races are schedule from 11.00 on Saturday. Live tracking can be found here: http://www.sailing.org/worldcup/multimedia/tracking.php
Event website: http://swc.ffvoile.com/swc2014gbr