Giles Scott (GBR) will head into the Rio Olympics having won the last major event before the Games begin in just over 50 days time. A second place in the medal race at the 2016 Sailing World Cup Weymouth & Portland was enough to maintain his lead on the final day. Jonathan Lobert (FRA) won the race to take the silver, while a fourth for Max Salminen (SWE) left him with the bronze.
At the start of the week the talk was of challenging racing to prepare for Rio's challenging conditions. However the only challenge this week has been enough wind to be able to race. The first day was lost entirely. On the third and fourth days the weather only allowed one late race to take place. Just Thursday produced enough sailable breeze to allow three races to take place. Scott opened up a narrow lead in the small fleet only to lose it the following day to Ben Cornish (GBR). He regained the lead in Saturday's only race to take a one point lead into the medal race.
Sunday dawned foggy and wet, but at least there was wind. By medal race time there was 10-12 knots from the south-west as well as dense low cloud hanging over Portland. While the Finn fleet was not breaking any records this week, the medal race included five sailors heading to Rio and remained wide open with just 11 points separating first to seventh. There was still everything to play for. Lobert led at every mark to secure the win while Scott climbed to second on the first downwind after a tight top mark rounding. He starting chasing down the French sailor, but could not catch him. Tapio Nirkko (FIN) rounded out the top three. Salminen recovered to fourth to maintain the bronze position, but was looking in trouble half way through.
Lobert clearly likes medal races in Weymouth. He won the 2012 Olympic medal race to take the bronze medal four years and today he led from start to finish to move onto the podium. “It was nice to hike a little bit after this light wind regatta. I am very happy to be able to stay in front of Giles to win another medal race in Weymouth, so it's nice to finish the series like this.”
“I made a few mistakes with the jury this week with yellow flags so it was very interesting to have them judge. I need to clean it up a bit and I will try to work on this and be more safe for the Games. It's always nice to come back to Weymouth. I'm really looking forward to the Games now.”
Four years ago Salminen was collecting a gold medal in the Star class. The three medalists in Weymouth this week did not meet on the water in 2012, but all will be fighting hard against each other in Rio.
Speaking about the medal race he said, “I took a bit too long to break free from the other boats to express my own speed, and that looked a bit hairy half way through. I was outside the podium but managed to fight my way through.”
While many others in the fleet are training in Rio this week, he felt it was important to come to Weymouth for the last major event. “We've spent a lot of time in Rio already, and we are going there again after one week at home so we are not missing out on Rio days. Weymouth is a good event and it's the last big one before the 'big one'."
He is optimistic about his chances in Rio. “There are couple of points during this week where I could have done better. We've always been fast in Rio so I have to trust that. I need to clean off some cheap mistakes, but it doesn't feel like the gap To Giles is as large as it was. Everyone has closed up on him.”
So Scott adds another victory to the very long list. Beaten only twice in more than three years, he remains the one to beat in Rio. “This week served as a very good training regatta and that's the way everyone here was taking it. But ultimately it's another regatta and everyone wants to win it so to be able to do that is great.”
On the medal race, “It was a very physical race. We were all max heart rate. But it was a great race, with flat water and free pumping. It was an incredibly hard fought week.”
Speaking about the physicality of Finn sailing, “I think it is becoming ever more physical. The way the techniques have been developed, the free pumping downwind, has become increasingly physical and the margins for gains downwind, especially on a day like today, have become about as big as they have ever been so we need to be smart as well as strong and fit. It's been a general trend over the last eight years really but its still being developed.”
On Rio, “Rio can really throw up anything. When we first went there we thought it would be a really light wind venue but as we've been there over the past three year that hasn't really been the case you can get some really light conditions but also you can get some really spectacular racing, so I really think you have to prepare for everything there. Much like here. Weymouth is seen as a really windy venue but this week we haven't seen much over 6 knots.”
Results after medal race (medal race in brackets)
1 GBR 41 Giles Scott 13 (2)
2 FRA 112 Jonathan Lobert 16 (1)
3 SWE 33 Max Salminen 21 (4)
4 FIN 218 Tapio Nirkko 26 (3)
5 GBR 91 Ben Cornish 26 (8)
6 FRA 17 Fabian Pic 30 (6)
7 GBR 71 Henry Wetherell 35 (9)
8 GBR 29 Peter McCoy 41 (5)
9 AUS 41 Jake Lilley 42 (7)
10 FIN 225 Mikael Hyryläinen 49 (10)