Drama, comebacks, excitement, wind and rain – the Finn medal race at the Delta Lloyd Regatta in Medemblik, Netherlands had it all. Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) fought back from the tail end of the fleet to retain the overall lead and win his first Sailing World Cup event of the year.
Rafa Trujillo (ESP) also fought back after being out of the medals for a while to retain the silver medal position while Marin Misura (CRO) led the race from start to finish to snatch the bronze away from Zach Railey (USA) and Ed Wright (GBR) who both had their chances during the race. The rain and the low clouds thinned slightly for the Finns but the sailors were not worried about the appalling conditions.
What concerned them was how to approach the windward mark, close under the shore. Very shifty winds and variations in pressure on either side meant that whoever got it right could move through the fleet with ease. Several sailors who got it wrong were dumped out of the running. Starting in the middle of the line Marin Misura favoured the left side of the course on the first upwind to build a small lead around the top mark from Ed Wright and Zach Railey. Trujillo rounded seventh with Kljakovic Gaspic in ninth – both were out of the medals at this stage. Mark Andrews (GBR) and Tapio Nirkko (FIN) had favoured the right hand side and rounded fourth and fifth. Misura extended on the first downwind and was never really threatened again. Andrews and Nirkko moved up to second and third on the free pumping downwind with Wright and Railey rounding fourth and fifth.
The second upwind was where things started to change. First working the left and then approaching the windward mark from the right, Kljakovic Gaspic cruised into fourth place, enough to take back the overall lead. Trujillo was still back in ninth and with a lot of work to do.
Andrews was still second and Wright was fourth. Not a lot changed on the second downwind, but on the final upwind Trujillo made his move. Staying initially more to the right of the fleet he started to take places and finally rounded the final windward mark in fifth place. Giles Scott (GBR) also made gains on this leg jumping from fifth to second. Meanwhile both Wright and Railey had slipped to the back of the fleet, and out of the medal positions.
The last downwind was crucial. Both Wright and Railey worked hard to take boats, and managed to climb to fifth and seventh, but it was not enough. Misura's win meant he climbed two places to third, while Trujillo, who finally placed fourth, retained his second overall position. Kljakovic Gaspic, who made a brilliant recovery from ninth to third took the regatta by a margin of just six points.
It was his second major win in two weeks, after retaining his European title 14 days ago in Split. The European champion said, “It was a typical medal race, always complicated, especially in these shifty and gusty conditions I knew it was going to be a long and exhausting race so it was just about being patient, waiting for my moments, and I finally got them. Everything except the first beat was really good for me.” “You can't say do anything special in these conditions, you have to sail in the wind that you have and make the best of the conditions that you have, and it's not easy for anybody, so I knew it was going to be tough, so I was prepared for that. I like sailing in these shifty conditions.”
“This is my 11th podium place in last 11 major regattas that I have done, so it has been a good season for me, and last season was really great for me so it can't really get better.” After finally gaining a podium place, Trujillo said, “Very difficult racing today, very shifty and pressure differences but mostly it was difficult because of all the good sailors I was competing against. I just think being patient was key.” Did he think he had lost a medal again, after lying in ninth place after the second upwind? “No - I never thought that - once you start thinking like that you are dead. I have not had a great year in terms of medal races but I was more patient and waited for an opportunity.”
On his performance in general, “I think I have made small steps forwards but there is still a lot work to do before Sail for Gold and the Gold Cup, so much work to do. Thankfully this week I was able to work with Sebbe Godefroid again, he has been fantastic to work with. I always learn a lot from him.” “I have been sailing OK all year but the results probably have not shown that. To be honest I am not too fussed about results. What is most important for me is that I keep improving but most importantly that I enjoy my sailing and that I can make all my supporters back at home happy - that's what is important for me.”
Just before the medal race the final race for the rest of the fleet took place with Jan Kurfeld (GER) winning from Andrew Mills (GBR) and Brendan Casey (AUS). This left Casey in 11th place with the returning shape of Pieter-Jan Postma (NED in 12th.
The 2010 Sailing World Cup picks up again in Kiel on June 19th.
Final results after medal race (medal race positions in brackets)
1 CRO524 Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic 26 (3)
2 ESP100 Rafael Trujillo 33 (4)
3 CRO25 Marin Misura 37 (1)
4 GBR11 Edward Wright 40 (5)
5 USA4 Zach Railey 43 (7)
6 GBR41 Giles Scott 51 (2) 7 SLO5 Gasper Vincec 64 (9)
8 GBR88 Mark Andrews 70 (6)
9 FIN218 Tapio Nirkko 82 (8)
10 SLO573 Vasilij Zbogar 87 (10)