Not many sailors get the chance to sail a major championship in their home town and even fewer get a chance to win one. But Sunday, for Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) that dream came true as he successfully defended his Finn European Championship title in the medal race of the 2010 Finn Open Senior and Junior European Championships in Split, Croatia. The Junior title went to Ioannis Mitakis (GRE), also defending the title he won in 2009.
After a shifty and gusty medal race, Kljakovic Gaspic placed second to retain his title, saying “This has been one of the toughest regattas of my life.” Third place for Ed Wright (GBR) secured him the silver medal while fifth for Daniel Birgmark (SWE) left him with the bronze.
For the first time in the whole regatta, racing started on time, first time. It was all about the shifts and they came through at frequent intervals with large gusts mixed in. It was a fantastic test of sailing skill.
The two Croatians, Mate Arapov and Kljakovic Gaspic jumped out of the start on the first few shifts and were not really ever challenged for the lead. Race one winner, Arapov led throughout the race with Kljakovic Gaspic just behind. The chasing pack was led mainly by Wright and Birgmark, while regatta leader Rafa Trujillo (ESP) rounded the first mark last and with too much to do.
Kljakovic Gaspic takes up the story, “Today was a really tough day and I knew yesterday when I saw the weather forecast that it was going to be really shifty and gusty as well because we had the racing area really close to the hill.”
“I knew I had to get a clear start because you need clear wind so you can tack whenever you want and I got a perfect start, I think. I got the first couple of shifts and gusts right and got clear on the upwind so I could control the fleet in the rest of the race.”
“On the first downwind I was super fast and I got a couple of really strong gusts just at the mark rounding and I flew away from the pack. Then I was totally clear to sail my own race. On the second beat I controlled the fleet through the gusts and on the last downwind it was just about finishing the race and not making any disasters like capsizing or crashing. I think I performed really well today and I am proud of myself.”
At times the Croatians had built a lead of close to 100 metres. Oscar flag was raised for free pumping on the final leg and the fleet behind closed up a bit with Kljakovic Gaspic almost catching Arapov at the finish.
In the end there were only eight finishers. Jonathan Lobert (FRA), mistakenly assuming that Oscar flag for free pumping was up, picked up his second yellow flag so had to retire while team mate Thomas Le Breton (FRA) unfortunately fell ill overnight and was unable to sail.
Wright said of his race, “It was a very tricky race – as it's been all week. The wind was off the land so we had very shifty and gusty conditions. I good a pretty good start but I couldn't really tack because there were a lot of boats on my hip. The Croatian, Mate, managed to tack and cross and he was away for the race. On the first run they just got away really and we were just trying to catch them the rest of the race.”
“But considering where I was at the beginning of the week I am pretty happy with second.”
Third placed Birgmark said, “Today you had to cash in the whole time, taking every shift as it arrived. I had a reasonably good start, but the left end of the line paid off so I lost a bit there to the two Croatians, Mate and Bambi, but then I managed to come up in the middle of the fleet. I had a good chance for silver and Ed was very close to me. But I am very happy with the bronze here though.”
“It's been hard conditions this week, but even though we have only had six races, they have been reasonably fair, and they have been good races. We would have liked to have more races of course, but the ones we did were not bad at all.”
Just after the medal race the final race for the rest was completed with the race win going to Florian Raudaschl (AUT) from Ioannis Mitakis (GRE) and Michael Maier (CZE). This left Dan Slater (NZL) in 11th overall, having missed he medal race by just one point.
In the Junior European Championship, Ioannis Mitakis had already retained the title he won in 2009 with a race spare, and with a second place in the final race he ended up an impressive 12th overall. The two Americans, Luke Lawrence (USA) and Caleb Paine (USA) went into the final race in silver and bronze positions. A 16th for Lawrence and a 54th for Paine left them in 30th and 40th overall and well clear of fourth paced Josip Olujic (CRO) from the host club.
Kljakovic Gaspic concluded, “Winning the event at home is I think impressive because it's one thing to win a race somewhere else as there is always some pressure, but it's just on you. But back home you have thousands of people looking at you and everyone's interested in this. All my friends are calling, sending texts and emails. Everyone means well but you feel big pressure and it's not so easy. But I managed to stay cool with good consistent sailing and not to many stupid mistakes and in the end I did really well and am so proud I won another Europeans back home because this was really big pressure event for me.”
Final top 10 after medal race
(medal race position in brackets)
1 CRO 524 Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic 35 (2)
2 GBR 11 Edward Wright 35 (3)
3 SWE 11 Daniel Birgmark 41 (5)
4 ESP 100 Rafael Trujillo 41 (7)
5 CRO 25 Marin Misura 49 (4)
6 CRO 2 Mate Arapov 52 (1)
7 GBR 41 Giles Scott 54 (6)
8 FRA 112 Jonathan Lobert 54 (RTD)
9 NOR 1 Peer Moberg 57 (8)
10 FRA 115 Thomas Le Breton, 59 (DNC)