World champion takes lead at high scoring regatta in Hungary 7/6/07

Only one race was sailed yesterday at the Finn European Championship. The race win went to Walclaw Szukiel (POL) after a close battle with Dan Slater (NZL), but the current world champion, Jonas Hogh-Christensen (DEN) takes the lead of the regatta with a 16, 4, 17 scoreline.

Wednesday dawned colder and cloudy on Lake Balaton, with more light winds providing very tricky conditions. Course 2, the double return loop was sailed again. However, conditions were more challenging with a fickle 4-6 knot breeze that turned some sailors race into a game of dice.

After two general recalls, race three started under a black flag. Most of the fleet immediately tacked off to the right, however at the top mark, Walclaw Szukiel (POL) emerged from the middle to lead by a considerable margin. Behind him were Anthony Nossiter (AUS), Rafal Szukiel (POL), Joao Signorini (BRA) and Stefan de Vries (NED). Both downwind legs proved to be decisive. Those who stayed in the middle lost places while those who sailed the angles down the outside generally gained places.

At the end of the leg, Szukiel had retained his lead with Gasper Vincec (SLO) moving up to second and Dan Slater (NZL) moving from the mid-teens to third. Again most of the fleet tried the right hand side of the beat, although this time more conservatively. By the final windward mark, Slater had moved up to second and was challenging Szukiel for the lead on the downwind to the finish.

For many the final leg changed everything. Szukiel said, “Half way down the final downwind, Dan came across me to the left and passed me in more pressure. I nearly followed him but then saw Johan sailing down the right side in more pressure as the wind filled in. I sailed more to the right and found enough wind to sail past Dan again and win the race.”

With the wind dying slightly on the right, and the pack in the middle blanketing each other, those on the right made large gains. Johan Tillander (SWE) moved from the 20s to third, while Brendan Casey (AUS) who was about 80th at the first mark, took another 20 places to finally finish 8th. Vincec held onto 4th, with Rafal Szukiel in 5th and Michael Maier (CZE) in 6th.

The race officer tried for over two hours to start a second race, but wind the wind swinging to a new direction, dropping and generally not being co-operative, he sent the sailors ashore to wait. After some sweet onions on bread was served by the club, he finally called it a day at 17.00 with very little sign of wind on the lake.

This event is looking like being a very high scoring regatta. After just three races, Jonas Hoegh-Christensen moved from 5th to 1st after scoring at 17th today. Slater’s second place moves him up to second overall, while overnight leader Eduard Skornyakov (RUS) drops to third. The highest placed British sailor is in fourth place. After a 19th today Nick Craig (GBR) moves up two places to 4th overall with Brendan Casey in 5th and André Budzien (GER) in 6th. In the juniors, Marko Kolic (ITA) is in 29th place, only 4 points ahead of Ian Cook (USA) who placed 11th today. Third placed Junior is Frederico Melo (POR). With the seemingly random results of some competitors, it is hard to make any sort of prediction for the rest of the regatta.

The depth of the fleet here is a major challenge to competitors. With 27 nations competing, and 91 boats on the water, getting anywhere near the front is very tough. Currently, there are 16 nations represented in the top 20. Interestingly, the Dutch and the British teams both have three boats in the top 20. Highlighting how tough it is to stay consistent here, the winners of yesterday’s races finished 47th and 76th respectively.

One distinctly non-European competitor sailing here this week here is Joao Signorini (BRA). Having campaigned a Finn for the Athens Olympic regatta in 2004, where he finished 10th, Signorini took some time out of his Finn to sail in the Volvo Ocean Race on board ‘Brazil 1’

Two races are scheduled for tomorrow, again at 10.00, again wind permitting.