On Monday, 30 July, the Finn man of the moment, Jonas Hogh-Christensen (DEN) extended his lead on day two in the Finn class at the 2012 Olympics in Weymouth.
Jonathan Lobert (FRA) moved up to second and there is a four way tie for third place. Race wins went to Dan Slater (NZL) and Daniel Birgmark (SWE).
It was another windy and beautiful day in Weymouth with sunny skies and 14-16 knots of breeze in the morning. The Finns sailed two great races in the Weymouth Bay West course and there was plenty of drama to keep the viewers happy.
Race three belonged to Dan Slater (NZL). After having to wait a long time to have his national selection for these Games confirmed, he has proven his ability with a stunning performance in testing conditions to dominate and win race three by nearly 30 seconds. He rounded the top mark with a narrow lead from Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) and Ioannis Mitakis (GRE) and extended on every leg.
By the bottom mark Mitakis had dropped down the fleet while overall leader Jonas Høgh-Christensen (DEN) had climbed to second, with Postma in third. Ben Ainslie (GBR) climbed up to fourth on the run but lost places upwind again and finally finished in sixth. The top three remained the same with Slater extending to win by half a minute. Third overall Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) recovered from fourteenth at the top mark to seventh at the finish.
The fourth race was full of drama. First Høgh-Christensen hit the pin end on the start and, after rerounding, headed out right to clear his wind, but in last place Ainslie also had a bad start and at the top mark the two regatta leaders were fourteenth and twenty-first. At the front Tapio Nirkko (FIN) rounded first from Daniel Birgmark (SWE) and Rafa Trujillo (ESP). Nirkko then capsized at the downwind mark, although he recovered his boat quickly and rejoined the race in sixth.
Then Trujillo also capsized after his rudder popped off. The new leader was Jonathan Lobert (FRA) who had moved into second on the downwind. Lobert held onto the lead round the next windward mark but the fleet had compressed slightly with Høgh-Christensen making the biggest gain to round in seventh. He had taken more than a minute from his deficit on the first leg to trail the new leader by just 30 seconds. Ainslie had dropped to twelfth, another 30 seconds back. Two offwind legs remained to the finish, and it was a great test of stamina and strength, as well as a thrilling finish.
With the wind increasing to 18-19 knots Birgmark powered down the run and just sneaked round the leeward mark ahead of Lobert to scream down the final reach to take the winner's gun. Lobert crossed three second later with Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) another two seconds later in third. While Kljakovic Gaspic moved from thirteenth to ninth, neither Høgh-Christensen nor Ainslie could make any gains.
However a seventh for Høgh-Christensen was easily enough to retain the overall lead by eight points from Lobert, with Ainslie, Kljakovic Gaspic, Postma and Zbogar all on equal points, three points further back.
Nirkko said of his brief spell at the front: “Finally I got some of the big lines right and had good speed and rounded in the lead. I stretched out a bit until the downwind mark. I was hassling with the sheet and it slipped out of my hands and the boom went all the way out and, I think it was a combination of the position of the boat on the wave and heeling of the boat, I capsized to windward. Fortunately I had such a comfortable lead before that so when I got the boat up and started to sail again, the leaders were not too far away. I guess after a capsize a fifth place is all right. I just have to think about the points rather than the feeling it created.”
On his regatta so far: “Generally not really very good, but leading today gave me some confidence that I could be at the top. And after four races I am quite consistent so I've not had any bombs in the series so that's a good thing.”
Birgmark, the race four winner said: “It was not as shifty as yesterday. In the second race I got the shifts right, which I didn’t in the first when I went right early on and a big left shift came and I was almost last. It was too much distance to catch up. But I am very happy with my last downwind when I managed to pass Jonathan. He rounded the top mark just ahead and I was just in front at the downwind mark.”
“It was tough on the last reach to the finish but I had it under control. But the downwind was really interesting to just be in front for the mark rounding. It's a shame though that Tapio capsized while in the lead.”
Leader after four races, Høgh-Christensen said: “I am very happy so far. Today was actually a good day.
“In the first race I didn’t know what was going to happen with the wind. There was big cloud coming down the race course and I thought it could go both ways so I decided to start in the middle and play it safe. I didn't get the greatest start but I played it safe and played the middle up the beat and rounded the windward mark in sixth or seventh. And then had a good downwind and got to second. So that was good.
“Then in the second race I hit the pin end committee boat. It was really frustrating and a stupid, stupid mistake. It was a little bit of tide and a bit of bad timing. I had a chance to bail out at 20 seconds but didn’t take it, when I should have. I had to go round and do a turn and started way last and had to fight my way back up. I fought my way back to the top guys and was right next to them downwind and then passed them on the second beat so I was really happy with that. It was fantastic to come back like that, but I pushed really really hard and it felt good.”
On fitness: “I am probably not the strongest guy out there but strong enough, and luckily I have been in a couple of races where I have been far enough ahead to take it easy and save my energy for the next race.”
On the surprisingly poor results from the favourite, Ainslie. “I don't think it's the wind. Ben dominated the worlds in Falmouth not more than three months ago in this much wind and more. Since then people have upped their game and I think sometimes you can have a good week and sometimes you don't but, as I said earlier, knowing Ben he'll be fired up tomorrow and he'll come back like thunder so let's see what happens. He usually gets fired up when things aren't going well.”
On the forecast for moderate to strong breeze all week: “I think it shows off our sport in the best possible way and makes it interesting sailing and good fun to watch. So it couldn't be much better.”
Ainslie was in agreement with this: “I wasn't happy with my own performance. It will get me fired up for the rest of the week. It's a very fine line between success and failure at this level. I don't think I went the right way all day. Hopefully it will go a lot better.”
Races five and six are scheduled for 1200 on Tuesday, 31 July, both on Weymouth Bay South course, with a rest day on Wednesday.
- www.finnclass.org International Finn Association website