Giles Scott (GBR) leads the 2014 Finn Europeans in La Rochelle from defending champion Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) and Tapio Nirkko (FIN) after two great races on the second day of the competition.
It was about as tough a day as it was possible to have for both sailors and organisers (not to mention the media). The fleet went afloat at 10.00 and didn't return to the beach until gone 18.00 having done 10 starts and two and a half races.
It took 11 starts to get race 1 away, and that took the best part of two days. Three starts on Monday were followed by another eight in total today including a race that was abandoned at the gate because of a major wind shift. As soon as the sailors arrived on the course area it was clear there was going to be a delay. The first few starts took their toll with another 23 sailors picking up a black flag to add to the 11 from Monday. These 34 sailors just had to sit and wait for the rest to finally get a race in before they could rejoin the fleet.
Eventually a race got away and everyone thought the curse had been lifted. Gordon Lamphere (USA) led round the top mark from Zsombor Berecz (HUN) and Laurent Hay (FRA). But the wind had shifted so far to the left that the run became a reach and the race was abandoned as the leaders passed through the gate.
Three more starts later and the wind had finally swung to its forecast direction and was beginning to build. Oscar was raised at the first top mark and stayed up for the remainder of the day as the wind built to 14-15 knots before easing off in the early evening.
So, we finally get to race 1. Tapio Nirkko (FIN) made the best of the start at the pin end to lead round the top mark from Berecz, Giles Scott (GBR) and Pieter-Jan Postma (NED). Nirkko held on to his lead downwind and up the second beat, but on the final upwind mark, Scott was up to second and took the lead at the end of the final run to cross the line in first for the gun. With Berecz over at the start, Nirkko took second and Zbogar third.
It only took two starts to get race 2 away, with the second start under black flag clear. This time there were no disqualifications. Again those from the pin made the best of the upwind with Zbogar rounding neck and neck with Ed Wright (GBR), just ahead of Nirkko, Piotr Kula (POL) and Thomas Le Breton (FRA). Wright, Kula and Le Breton had all been black flagged in the first race.
Zbogar stole a march on the first downwind and looked to have the race sown up. rounding the gate with a sizeable lead. However, Scott was soon up to second and ground him down on the second beat to close the gap. Scott finally passed Zbogar just metres from the final downwind mark, to round ahead and lead down the short reach to the finish for a perfect score for the day. Zbogar crossed in second with a very happy Kula in third.
Though three races had been planned for the day, everyone was happy to be sent in after two. The wind had brought with it cloud and rain and everyone had had enough for one day.
Scott summed up the day, "The big thing today was the starting. It was very difficult to get the fleet off the line, so early on in the day it was about surviving the black flag. Fortunately I managed to do that, and then about 15.00 the wind came in and we ended up with two pretty good races. I didn't have the best of starts today but managed to dig myself out for a decent windward mark rounding. Then I managed to pull through in both to win, which was great for me."
On starting in a big fleet. "It's so difficult. Ultimately you need to be on that leading line to get a good start, because if you get a bad start in a 100 boat fleet it's an absolute nightmare. So you just have to be careful about managing if you can be seen, if you think you're over and being very quick to pull the plug if you think you are going to be over."
The key today was, "Today I managed to get to the windward mark in good contention with the leaders and I had good downwind speed."
On the first run of race 2, "Vasilij was just gone. He went round in that leading bunch and and the likes of Ed and Thomas didn't see the gate and gybed off and Vasilij had a nice clear run down. He was launched. I clawed him back a little on the second beat and managed to get him on the run."
Having taken the lead in both races on the final downwind, was he saving his energy for the final leg? "I seemed to come good on the last run. There was no more effort, maybe less actually. So I wouldn't say I was holding back, it just managed to come good today."
Kula said, "Unfortunately I only had one race today because I was BFD in the first. I started really well from the pin end and all the race was at the front of the fleet. I have a new boat here, a new Polish hull, so I am happy with it. It was pretty demanding to switch to it because I was using a Devoti before, but it's nice and I am happy with it."
On managing the risk, now he has a BFD already, he said, "You know what they say. Sometimes it's better to chase than to run from something, so maybe chasing this week will be good for me."
In third place is Nirkko. "There was a big punch up at that end of the line and I managed to get a really good start and tacked immediately. It was a bit of a one way track. I kept my lead until the end of the second downwind when I lost the rhythm with the waves for a while and I got passed by Giles and Zsombor. In the second race I started really well again and rounded in third, but the wind had dropped a bit and I was a little in trouble with my technique and lost boats downwind to finish about tenth."
The defending champion Zbogar was quite happy with his day, but knew he had missed chances. "The day was very long and very hard, especially with the starts when you had to be very careful. I managed a good start and I was leading almost to the end when Giles got passed me. I wasn't happy with that."
"There are 40 or 50 extremely good sailors and everyone is trying to push on the line and have a good start because with 100 boats it is very important to get a good start. I was really careful and trying to be in a position behind the line and in the end this patience paid off. Overall it was a good day. A lot of people have BFDs and up and downs, so to make two top three was extremely important today."
The defending Junior European Champion Peter McCoy (GBR) had a great day with a 23, 22 to sit in 12th overall. He commented on remaining focussed when the conditions were difficult. "It's difficult, but the aim is just to stay focussed and keep doing all your routines. If you can do that then you're likely to perform your best. I was pleased to get two good races in." Even though two of his main competitors were among those black flagged, "It's still early days. I am sure they'll be putting the pressure on later in the week. It's going to be about who is most consistent throughout the week. Being 12th after the first day is a good start, after a pretty difficult two days and a long time on the water."
In the Junior Championships, McCoy leads Philip Kasuke (GER) who is 15th and Anders Pedersen (NOR) in 19th.
Racing continues on Wednesday at 11.00.
About the event
The opening races for the 2014 Finn Junior and Senior Championship consists of 10 races between Monday and Friday and will be followed by the medal race for the top 10 and the final race for the rest on Saturday 10, May. Each race will be covered live on Twitter. There will also be video summaries each day.
Results after two races (provisional)
1 GBR 41 Giles SCOTT 20
2 SLO 573 Vasilij ZBOGAR 50
3 FIN 218 Tapio NIRKKO 12
4 GBR 85 Andrew MILLS 14
5 NED 842 Pieter-Jan POSTMA 22
6 FRA 112 Jonathan LOBERT 23
7 EST 2 Deniss KARPAK 26
8 NZL 16 Andrew MURDOCH 28
9 SWE 6 Bjorn ALLANSSON 29
10 ITA 117 Giorgio POGGI 31
Full results: www.finneuropeans.org/ec2014/results/
Follow the event live on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Finn_Class
Full photo galleries will be on www.flickr.com/photos/finnclassphotos