Ben Ainlsie wins the Finn Gold gold for the fourth time in a row
Eighteen months ago in Rio, Ben Ainslie (GBR) made history by winning the Finn Gold Cup for the third time in a row. It was only the second time in the event’s 48 year history that this had been done. He equalled the record set by Jorg Bruder (BRA) between 1970 and 1972. Yesterday in Moscow, Ainslie has made his own record, winning the Finn Gold Cup – arguably one of dinghy sailing’s hardest and most coveted trophies, for the fourth time in a row.
With a light northerly wind in the morning, the fleets set sail for the final race of the 2005 Finn Gold Cup. The temperature had dropped to 3 degrees overnight so those sailors who had only brought summer sailing gear found the day rather cold. In fact the Gold fleet sat around for over two hours before a race could be started. The wind changed from one minute to the next and was varying by over 70 degrees. So the race committee waited around in the cold air for it to stabilise.
Finally at just after 1300, the postponement came down and the fleet got underway. Series leader Ben Ainslie said: “In these conditions I was going to try to control Emilios [the only man who could beat him] from the start.” At the four minute signal, the two were locked together in their own match race. Ainslie succeeded in delaying Papathansaiou’s start, but picked up a penalty himself. “I wasn?t sure if our boats touched, but I did the turns anyway to make sure.”
The two boats started well behind the fleet with Papathanasiou banging the left hand corner in a bid to find a large enough shift to get him back to the front. Ainslie played the shifts and looked ahead half way up the beat when the wind died again and the race officer admitted defeat and abandoned racing. “It was a huge relief when they abandoned,” Ainslie admitted later. “With the wind we have had here this week anything could have happened.”
So Ainslie makes history in being the only sailor to win four Finn Gold Cups, and these in successive years. He won in Athens in 2002, Cadiz in 2003, Rio de Janeiro in 2004 and now Moscow in 2005. His coach David Howlett commented: “Ben’s outright professionalism is the key to his success.”
Ainslie concluded: “The organization is great, I liked the sailing centre but the race conditions were very difficult. I am very happy that I could cope with the wind and win.”
Second placed Papathansaiou scores his best Finn Gold Cup result to date, but is still looking for that world championship win that continues to elude him. Third placed Chris Cook (CAN) wins his first major championship medal after being one of the few sailors here to find any sort of consistency.
Meanwhile the silver fleet sailing on course two further down the lake – had just enough wind to start a race at 1130. The race was characterized by large shifts and flat patches and the left hand side was made more interesting on the third beat with the arrival of a cruise vessel trying to get down the lake. The lead changed several times and it was a surprised Alexey Lavros (RUS) who found himself leading the fleet. He eventually finished 4th with the lead finally going to Class President Balasz Hajdu (HUN) to lift him to third in the fleet. A good 3rd place from Edward Greig (GBR) lifted him to second in the silver fleet, while the ever consistent Giedrius Guzyz (LTU) posted a 6th to win the fleet by 13 points. Full credit must go to the slick race team who managed to change the marks for each and every leg of the race as the wind performed circles around them.
The Junior Finn World Championship was won by Ivan Klakovic Gaspic (CRO) in 18th place, beating defending champion Tapio Nirko (FIN) bu just 8 points. Third placed Norbert Wilandt (POL) finished in 38 place, 58 points behind Gaspic.
Interestingly, Ainslie is one of many America’s Cup sailors taking time out of their AC dayjobs to sail the Finn. In fact five of them have won races here. From 39, Rafael Trujillo (ESP), Andrew Simpson (GBR), Chris Brittle (GBR) and Antony Nossiter (AUS) have all won individual races. In addition, both Ainslie and Kevin Hall (USA) – who finished 20th – are with Emirates Team New Zealand.
Before the regatta, ISAF World Ranked No 1, Jonas Hogh-Christensen had commented, “Sailing against Ben is like biking against Lance, playing basket against Jordan, driving against Schumacher or playing golf against Tiger. More and more when you look good in a race you start looking around to see if Ben is close to you, if he is not, be ready to get a big shift not going your way. Ben is allready a legend in sailing and he will probably be the biggest ever. But bare in mind that legends get beaten. I think Ben looks unbeatable because he has the highest ground level in the world. The rest of us just have to turn it up a level or two, to beat him. If we didn’t think that he could be beaten we should start doing something else.”
Finally a big thank you to Moscow, Moscow Sailing School and the literally hundreds of helpers, staff and officials who have made this championship possible. While the sailors expected difficult sailing conditions, the magnitude of the welcome and the organisation took them completely by surprise. Moscow Sailing School have a first class facility here, and have excelled in running a fabulous regatta, to which the Finn Class has been honored to be invited.
Next year’s Finn Gold Cup in in the beautiful town of Split, in Croatia. Will Ainslie turn up and try to make it five in a row? Watch this space…