Ben Ainslie overcomes an eight-point deficit going into the final medal race to claim victory 12/5/08
Ben Ainslie overcame an eight-point deficit going into the final medal race to claim a sensational 2008 Finn European Championship title at Scarlino, Italy on Saturday.
With Frenchman Guillaume Florent having led the Championships since day three, Skandia Team GBR’s five-time World champion Ainslie knew he needed at least four boats to be between himself and Florent at the end of Saturday’s medal race if he was going to claim his fourth European title.
With clinical efficiency the Lymington-based double Olympic champion sealed a dramatic final race win meaning the destiny of the title was unfolding behind him and with Florent finishing eighth, the gold medal was Ainslie’s while Croatia’s Ivan Gaspic took silver and Florent was forced to settle for bronze.
A delighted Ainslie said: ‘I had a game plan that I had discussed with my coach, Jez Fanstone, to have a bit of a match race with Florent in the pre-start and to try to put him off his game plan.
‘I managed to force him into making a mistake and by halfway down the first beat I could see he wasn’t going so well so I decided to pull the throttle to try to get as big a lead as possible and hope he didn’t pull through.
‘This does rank amongst one of my more satisfying victories; it is always nice to win when you have been behind going into the last race. It was really difficult conditions, the wind was really shifting and the medal race was delayed by a couple of hours too.
‘The Worlds and Olympics are my big goals for the year but the Europeans are an important event and it was important to keep the impetus going in what was my last big event before Beijing.’
In an incident packed week, Ainslie, who took gold the last time he competed at the Championships in 2005 having also sailed to glory in 2002 and 2003, got off to a perfect start taking victory in the only race of day one.
But having picked up an ultimately discarded 16th and a fourth on a long, hard day two, and a second and eighth the following day, Ainslie trailed Florent by seven points at the halfway mark.
The Brit thought he had pulled himself even further back into gold medal contention after posting two bullets in races six and seven but his Championship hopes took a hit when, following a protest for a pre-start infringement involving Canadian Christopher Cook, Ainslie was disqualified from race seven.
An eighth for Ainslie and a discarded 20th for Florent on the penultimate day of racing left Ainslie knowing exactly what was required to make it a 2008 World and European Championships double and once again in the face of pressure, he rose to the challenge to claim the top prize.
2008 Finn European Championship, Top Ten:
1st GBR Ben Ainslie 42
2nd CRO Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic 47
3rd FRA Guillaume Florent 48
4th SLO Gasper Vincec 59
5th DEN Jonas Hogh-Christensen 66
6th CAN Christopher Cook 68
7th SWE Daniel Birgmark 74
8th NED Pieter-Jan Postma 75
9th USA Zach Railey 83
10th ESP Rafael Trujillo 92