Lobert and Pedersen through to Final at Finn Europeans

France’s Jonathan Lobert, the 2012 London bronze medalist, has taken the lead at the top of the Finn European Championship in Marseille, France after a near perfect performance on the fifth day. Anders Pedersen of Norway, remains in second despite his worst day on the water so far, while Hungary’s Zsombor Berecz moves up to third.

Both Lobert and Pedersen have already qualified for the Final on Saturday – the top three from the Opening Series progress straight to the Final. One more place in the Final will be decided in Saturday’s final Opening Series race, while two more will come from the Semi-Final, which will be a race off between the next seven boats in the Opening Series.

Both the Semi-Final and Final are first across the line formats, with all the points across the previous six days wiped out for the final two short races.

Friday was another very tough day in the would-be Olympic venue with four races again sailed in easterly winds varying from 10 to 20 knots, though like Wednesday, only three races were valid, after the third race was abandoned in the closing stages due to a drifting mark.

Deniss Karpak, of Estonia, was the fastest to the top mark in Race 7, leading up the middle but he just let Alican Kaynar slip inside him at the top mark. Max Salminen of Sweden rounded third. There was no change at the gate but several changes at the second top mark. Lobert was up to third at second top mark after a strong left hand side came in, and together with Nicholas Heiner, from the Netherlands, sailed a fast run to pass ahead and they rounded the final mark overlapped. But Lobert had the inside track and won his first race from Henier and Karpak.

Race 8 started in much the same conditions with the wind rapidly building up the course and Oscar was raised at the top for free pumping. Milan Vujanisovic, from Croatia, led round from Krzysztof Stromski of Poland and Oisin Mcclelland or Ireland. Vujanisovic led through the gate but Facundo Olezza of Argentina, was close behind and took the lead on the second upwind. There was a big wind gradient again on the run with much less wind at the bottom of the course, but on the final downwind Berecz came through at the last mark to take the win from Olezza and Max Kohlhoff of Germany.

The final race of the day, Race 9 in the Opening Series, was sailed in two parts in a still increasing wind. The first attempt was led by Lobert and Ed Wright of Great Britain but despite a great race, the Race Committee abandoned it on the final leg because the spreader mark at the top had drifted out of position and they were getting incorrect information fed down the course. The sailors were not happy at all, but the race was restarted soon after and again Lobert was in front, to lead at every mark and take his second (or third) win of the day. Thursday’s star performer, Piotr Kula of Poland crossed second after a great race, with Pedersen third.

Many sailors suffered through the race abandonment, including Wright, Heiner and Peter McCoy of Great Britain who had sailed a great race in third place, only to see it evaporate within sight of the finish line. There were five requests for redress against the Race Committee for the abandoned race, all of which were later dismissed.

Last year’s bronze medalist, Vujasinovic is up to fifth. He said, “We had four races again out of three scheduled so it’s a bit frustrating I suppose for most of the fleet. The wind was again very crazy and from all sides and you had to be very patient and just keep your focus to the end, and that’s what I did.”

“In two races I had a solid result in the top 10 and in the third I think I finished about 20, which was OK considering I was one of the last ones in the first upwind.”

The silver medalist last year was Berecz, now up to third.

“It was another exhausting day. The wind was shifty and it was strong. It was supposed to drop in the afternoon but it went up again, and the last race was the strongest wind we had, so it was exhausting.”

“The first one I finished ninth and the second one I managed to win. I was sailing good lines, but I was lucky as the wind was super shifty.”

Lobert said, “Today was a nice day on the water, nice racing and super shifty, up and down. I am very happy with my day because I managed to win the first race. I had an OK second race and then I was winning the third race and they had to cancel it just before the end. I was very disappointed, because I don’t think there was anything wrong with the mark moving away. But it’s like it is and I was trying to reset and get back in the game for the last race and I was really pushing and was winning it again.”

“My goal was to try to be in the top three before the final day. I think today I was very happy it was breeze on, because I am usually a good sailor in the breeze but now I am able to be fast in every condition. For sure I like those winds when it’s tricky and windy. I like to use the shifts and try to play as much as I can with the wind and today I was in a good mode.”

“Tomorrow will be a little lighter and a bit shiftier – it’s always shifty in Marseille anyway.”

While Lobert and Pedersen do not have to sail the final Opening Series Race, the forecast for Saturday afternoon is not very promising. If there is no Final in the afternoon, then the results from the Opening Series stands. While Lobert and Pedersen cannot drop in the Opening Series they can change places after Race 10 tomorrow. So the permutations are not as simple as they first look. Of the rest only Berecz had guaranteed his place in the Semi-Final or Final. The rest still have some work to do.

The format being used here is a simplification of the format used in Palma last month and has generated a lot of discussion. After this event a survey will be carried out to seek opinion among the sailors and media.

Henry Wetherell of Great Britain still leads the U23 European Championship, though his lead has narrowed to eight points after a late charge from the 2015 champion, Arkadiy Kistanoc, from Russia. Oskari Muhonen of Finland is now in third.

The schedule for Saturday is:

10.00 Final Opening Series Race (Race 10)
Not before 13.30: Semi-Final Race (places 4-10 in Opening Series)
Before 17.00 Final (places 1-3 in Opening Series and 1-2 in Semi-Final)

Results after 9 races
1  FRA  112 Jonathan LOBERT  38
2  NOR   1 Anders PEDERSEN  47
3  HUN   40 Zsombor BERECZ  63
4  GBR   11 Edward WRIGHT  64
5  CRO   69 Milan VUJASINOVIC  81
6  CRO   52 Nenad BUGARIN  86
7  GRE   77 Ioannis MITAKIS  86
8  GBR   91 Ben CORNISH  91
9  TUR   21 Alican KAYNAR  100
10  CRO   1 Josip OLUJIC  102

Full results here