Simpson wins race four at the Finn Gold Cup in Rio

There was only race yesterday in sunny Rio, where temperatures reached 32 degrees and by the end of the race, the conditions were just about perfect for Finn sailors. Andrew Simpson (GBR) scored his first win of the regatta, although he was subject to protest by the jury for failing to have the required equipment on board.

After an hour waiting in very sloppy waves and a fitful wind, race four finally started in 7-8 knots of breeze from the north-east. For the third day in a row the windward/leeward loop was sailed. However, it took three general recalls and a black flag to get the fleet away. Second overnight Jonas Hoegh-Christensen (DEN) fell foul of the black flag along with Sebastien Godefroid (BEL) and Jorge Rodriguez (BRA).

Waclaw Szukiel (POL) started at the heavily biased pin end and headed left inshore and rounded the first mark just behind Rafael Trujillo-Villar (ESP) who emerged from the mid left in the lead. These two were followed by Alejandro Colla (ARG), Bruno Prada (BRA) and Andrew Simpson (GBR).

The fleet split on the first run with most favouring the inshore side of the course to the right. By the downwind gate, Colla had moved into the lead followed by Trujillo Villar and Szukiel. Szukiel lost heavily on the second beat but the two front runners stayed the same. In the increased breeze, now blowing 10-12 knots, Simpson moved up into a close third around the windward mark followed by Prada and Anthony Nossiter (AUS).

It was all change on the final run to the finish. Simpson found speed and the right side to take the lead and win the race. He was later spot-checked by the jury and found to be missing a required piece of equipment. He was given one penalty point but the race stands. Behind him Mateusz Kusznierewicz (POL) put on a charge to move from 10th at the windward mark to 2nd at the finish. He had lost a lot on the second upwind after playing the shifts towards the left of the course, and fell down the fleet.

Rounding the windward mark alongside Ben Ainslie (GBR) the two split gybes and Kusznierewicz headed to the right of the course. Mateusz takes up the story: “I was sailing very fast down the last run, catching up many boats. After the disastrous second beat I decided to go my own way on the run and avoid the other boats as much as possible. I headed out to the right and found some clear air and nice waves and was really pleased to end up second.” Third at the finish was Trujillo Villar with Colla slipping to 4th.

At the half way stage of the regatta, the leaders were beginning to emerge, and it had all the signs of being a high scoring regatta. Mateusz Kusznierewicz commented: “The sailing here is really tricky, the current is confusing and today the waves were a real mish-mash. However, onshore the organisation is very good. All the people here are nice and it is a very nice city to be in.”

One rejuvenated Finn sailor competing here in Rio is Dean Barker, helmsman for Team New Zealand, who last sailed a Finn in 1996 before moving into the America’s Cup boats. Commenting on his performance (currently lying 28th), Barker said: “It’s certainly a challenge sailing the Finn again and is a bit different from sailing the America’s Cup boats! It can be very frustrating at times because you know you can do better. I started sailing the Finn again in November last year and sailed a bit with Clifton (Webb) and Peter Fox in New Zealand, but I’m still a bit fresh. But it’s great racing one on one with the other guys here.”

When asked about how things had changed over the past eight years Barker added: “Of course the equipment has moved on a bit since I last sailed them, the boats have become more standardised so there is no longer so much of a speed differences any more, and that makes for really good racing. However, downwind technique has changed a lot since I last sailed. It is much more refined now and has improved a lot.” On the future he said: “The New Zealand Olympic selection trials are in Palma and at the Europeans, so I am going home for a while before coming to Europe to try and qualify for Athens this summer.”

Two more races are scheduled for today.

Results (race 4 provisional)

1 Andrew Simpson GBR

2 Mateusz Kusznierewicz POL

3 Rafael Trujillo Vilar ESP

4 Alejandro Colla ARG

5 Anthony Nossiter AUS

6 Ben Ainslie GBR

7 Karlo Kuret CRO

8 Bruno Prada BRA

9 David Burrows IRL

10 Joao Signorini BRA

Overall (after 4 races – provisional)

1 POL Mateuesz Kusznierewicz 28 points

2 GBR Ben Ainslie 31

3 CRO Karlo Kuret 43

4 NED Sander Willems 45

5 CAN Richard Clarke 45

6 NED Jaap Zielhuis 58

7 IRL David Burrows 60

8 BRA Joao Signorini 60

9 DEN Soren Holm 63

10 CRO Marin Misura 65