Saturday, 11 July 2009

Finn Gold Cup: Drama at Finn Gold up as Zach Railey leads fleet into medal race

Olympic silver medallist Zach Railey (USA) is currently in the lead. Image copyright Vallensbæk Sailing Club.

by Robert Deaves

Zach Railey returned to the top of the leaderboard after a tough day at the Finn Gold Cup in Vallensbaek, Denmark. After leading the first race on Friday from start to finish he placed seventh in race 10 to go in into Saturday's medal race with a narrow three point lead over Jonas Høgh Christensen. Race ten was won by Giles Scott, who completes the top three places, a further two points back.

Fourth placed Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) is just two points further back and all four sailors have a realistic chance of taking one of dinghy sailing toughest titles in the double points medal race to be sailed just outside the marina at 11.00 Saturday.

Friday's racing was the toughest yet, with a cold south-westerly in place, raining most of the day with winds up to 25 knots and high seas.

Race nine winner Zach Railey (USA) takes up the story "I started down at the pin end and a left shift came in with about a minute to go and it took maybe 35 or 40 seconds before everyone tacked over to port before I could get over. But once I tacked it looked pretty good and I crossed all the way across the race course. I took one tack on starboard and got to the port layline and took one more shift and then myself and Bryan Boyd [USA] were 1, 2 round the top mark, so that was pretty cool."

The Americans were followed round by Daniel Birgmark (SWE), Mark Andrews (GBR), Tapio Nirkko (FIN), Oleksiy Borysov (UKR) and Jonas Høgh Christensen (DEN). Regatta leader Ed Wright (GBR) picked up a black flag, removing any chance of the world title for him, as he now has to carry a 46th from the first race.

Railey continued, "Daniel Birgmark and I had a really good fight on the first downwind leg and then on the second upwind, the left came in again and I was just a little to the left of Daniel and Jonas." Railey led down the reaches to the finish, though Høgh Christensen closed the gap to finish second ahead of Birgmark, Pieter Jan Postma (NED) and Nirkko.

Finn fleet at the 2009 Gold Cup. Image copyright Vallensbæk Sailing Club.

Though the wind and waves made for great, if tough sailing, the cold rain made for a dismal wait between races. After several false starts, it finally got away in a slightly reduced breeze. The pin end was favoured again and very crowded with a number of boats, including Railey and Høgh Christensen bailing out and restarting.

Giles Scott (GBR) won his second race of the series. He said, "In the second race I nailed the pin end tacked after about a minute or two and just cleared the fleet. Then I caught a big lift on starboard and went over the fleet again and had quite a lengthy lead round the first mark. It went right half way up and I was about the only boat to get into it."

Railey added, "The pin end was really favoured and I didn't want to risk being OCS which would have blown the regatta for me so I held back from the line. We had to bail out and I found a lane to get out to the left side and worked my way through the fleet." Høgh Christensen was thinking alike, "I could have pushed it harder and maybe gotten in there but I didn't want to take the risk and get an OCS on the board. I just wanted to stay clear of any trouble and decided to play it little safer today."

Scott was followed round the top mark by Railey, Rafael Trujillo (ESP), Birgmark, Wright and Høgh Christensen. Scott continued, "I was pretty annoyed to see them [Railey and Høgh Christensen] there. I saw Zach had bit of difficultly at the start but he caught up nicely."

Railey said, "We had a really good fight on the downwind but it got a little shiftier and lighter on the second upwind and I didn't want to take too many chances going to one side or the other and finished seventh so now have a good position going into the medal race."

Scott extended on the downwind and went on to take the race win, while Wright caught up to second. Birgmark finished a steady day with another third place.

Scott said, "It's nice to have the fleet racing over. It's been quite a stressful week with the breeze being up and down. Today was better actually but there was till boats coming in from both corners, but it was just normally racing today. But it was so cold between races."

Railey said, "The points are really close for tomorrow. It's all up for grabs and will be very tough. The medal race is supposed to be very exciting and I think we will have an exciting one tomorrow. There are four guys who can win and it will be interesting to see what happens. All you can really ask for is to be in a position to finish on the podium at the end of the day."

Høgh Christensen agreed, "It's going to be be a fantastically tight race. All four of us are within a few points and anyone can take it, so I'm expecting a really tight and a good fun race."

Scott was more bullish, "It's going to be tight tomorrow, but bring it on!"

DEN 2 - Jonas Høgh-Christensen enjoying the wind. Image copyright Vallensbæk Sailing Club.

So the medal race line up looks like this:

Zach Railey _USA
2008 Olympic silver medalist but yet to medal at a major championship. But sailing cooler and cleverer than ever, so this could be his year.

Jonas Høgh-Christensen - DEN
World Champion in 2006 and placed sixth at last year's Olympics. Hasn't raced since then and is here 'for fun', but his relaxed attitude is showing with the best scoreline of any sailor in the second half of the regatta,

Giles Scott - GBR
Fast improving young pretender who won last year's Junior Worlds in Melbourne. Won race three and ten here and has put together an impressive series. Placed second at the Delta Lloyd after leading all week and losing on the medal race to Wright.

Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic - CRO
Had an impressive series this year and been consistent this week, but hasn't won a race yet. Won Hyeres this year, and twice been runner up at the Europeans in 2007 and 2008.

Dan Slater - NZL
Only really just returned since taking a beak after the Olympics and has a few rusty areas, but a great competitor. Can take silver if things go his way,

Daniel Birgmark - SWE
A typical performance from Birgmark this week. Very steady. Could just take the bronze, but it's a long shot.

Marin Misura - CRO
Won a race this week, but too far adrift to take a medal. Made the top ten at the 2007 Gold Cup, but lost out on Olympic selection to Kljakovic Gaspic.

Rafael Trujillo - ESP
2004 Olympic silver medalist and 2007 World Champion. Made life hard for himself this week with too many high scores and no possibility of a medal.

Edward Wright - GBR
European Champion in 2006, and third in the Finn Gold Cup that year. So far this year he has won two ISAF Sailing World Cup events, won three of the medal races and has taken an unassailable lead in that series to take the title before the final event in Weymouth. But Friday's black flag has cost him dearly.

Andrew Mills - GBR
Sailed a great series here for his best ever Gold Cup result. A lot of work to do to move up from 10th, at 15 points adrift of Wright, but could easily be up the front.

The medal race is scheduled for 11.00 on Saturday, with the 11th race for the rest to follow immediately afterwards.

Top 10 after 10 races
1st 6 USA 4 Zach Railey 10.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 (29.0) 4.0 7.0 13.0 1.0 7.0 89.0 60.0
2nd 8 DEN 2 Jonas Høgh-Christensen 20.0 (35.0) 17.0 1.0 5.0 7.0 4.0 1.0 2.0 6.0 98.0 63.0
3rd 16 GBR 41 Giles Scott 6.0 16.0 1.0 13.0 (20.0) 8.0 5.0 2.0 13.0 1.0 85.0 65.0
4th 3 CRO 524 Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (31.0) 3.0 21.0 2.0 6.0 13.0 3.0 3.0 12.0 4.0 98.0 67.0
5th 13 NZL 1 Dan Slater (33.0) 1.0 3.0 5.0 3.0 20.0 12.0 14.0 15.0 8.0 114.0 81.0
6th 5 SWE 11 Daniel Birgmark 17.0 2.0 13.0 (20.0) 8.0 5.0 20.0 12.0 3.0 3.0 103.0 83.0
7th 33 CRO 25 Marin Misura 3.0 (21.0) 10.0 11.0 21.0 1.0 6.0 10.0 10.0 16.0 109.0 88.0
8th 1 ESP 100 Rafael Trujillo 22.0 19.0 16.0 4.0 4.0 (31.0) 2.0 6.0 7.0 11.0 122.0 91.0
9th 10 GBR 111 Edward Wright 46.0 4.0 2.0 9.0 18.0 6.0 1.0 4.0 (88.0 BFD) 2.0 180.0 92.0
10th 18 GBR 634 Andrew Mills 7.0 5.0 (32.0) 16.0 2.0 16.0 13.0 16.0 22.0 10.0 139.0 107.0

Finn Gold Cup 2009
International Finn Association

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