2008 Finn European Championships
Scarlino - Italy
Reports by Ken Dool

Saturday May 10. Medal Race Wrap Up.
Well it all came down to the Medal Race, just like they are designed to be. Unfortunately today's medal race had some unbelievable shifts and velocity differences early on that dictated much of the outcome. That being said, the same cards are dealt to everyone, and a champion is still crowned.

The question starting the day was how would FRA's Guillame Florent, deal with GBR's Ben Ainslie. Ainslie in a relatively new position for him was not leading heading into the final day, was it time for the defending Olympic Gold Medalist and World Champion to go down? Not so, Ben was the aggressor at the start hounding Florent mercilessly, unfortunately Ben was tagged with a flag and had to exonerate himself, no damage done though as he completed his circle with plenty of time to re-engage for the start.

Off the line, it was the North American duo of Chris Cook and Zac Railey that looked to hold the upper hand, they broke right from the boat in more pressure and heading towards a building wind line. Then things got squirelly, first they sailed into a vortex of breeze, a downdraft of 14 knots hit the left side of the course, and figuratively it was all she wrote for the Cooker and Railey. Meanwhile Ben got a jump on the fleet and controlled from there on a beat that saw dozens of auto-tacks and 50 degrees of wind range. What a medal race!

Ben ultimately lead wire to wire and secured the title as Florent could never get untracked and wound up 7th in the race, making matters worse for the Florent was that Ivan Gaspic of CRO had wiggled his way into second and ultimately 2nd in the championship, thus relegating Florent of France to the Bronze medal. Meanwhile the fight was on for positions with Cooker gaining much needed space but unfortunately not overhauling Florent on the final run, finishing the gun fight 9th, and 6th for the championship on even points with Christensen of Denmark.

If there was any question about Medal potential at the games any nay sayers can slink into the shadows, the Cooker is the real deal and has proven consistently he can duke it out with the leaders. Some solid training lays ahead and then the real show down of the quad gets underway in August, at this event most of you have probably heard of the Olympic Games.

Thats it for now from Scarlino, Italy.


Friday May 9
After 8 races.
Well the show down is now set up, Scarlino presented a great day with an on time start in a building SSW breeze. After a couple of recalls the show got underway in 8-10 knots. With much on the line and many sailors toting big scores, the black flag start was somewhat tentative for many. Big shifts and a huge race course created much leverage which was ultimately exploited by those deep in the left. The majority of those duking it out with the exception of Spain's Rafa were playing the middle right in a fierce battle.

With the majority of the players sitting between 20th and 40th there was there was some new found intensity in this section of the fleet. As was bound to occur the players started their march towards the front of the fleet, big movers included GBR's Ben Ainslie and Denmarks Jonas Hoeg Christensen, would drove themselves respectfully to the front of the fleet eventually ending up 9th and 10th respectively. Canada's hopeful Chris Cook found the battle a little more testing, after rounding the final windward mark in 26th Cooker put in a clutch downwind clinic winding up in the mid teens and saving big points on the scorecard.

Although the final scores are not yet up there are bound to be tons of fireworks in the Medal Race, France continues to lead on 32 points, Ainslie of GBR is second with 41 points, CRO is 3rd with 43 points and the Cooker in 4th on 50 points. There are a series of dogs nipping at everyones heels with 5th at 51 points and sixth on 53 points. All in all it is shaping up for an exciting final battle. Stay tuned for tomorrows challenge.

Thursday May 8
After 7 races.
Well what a change a day can make, the front runners remain pretty much unchanged but the round about way to get there certainly has made things interesting. GBR, Ben Ainslie showed us two things today, he can still kick everyones butts at times but also is human. His two bullets on the day were impressive, what was not so impressive was the altercation with Canada's own Chris Cook at the start of the 2nd race on the day, which ultimately lead to a double disqualification for the combatants. On the positive the bullet taken off the board for Ainslie was far more painful than the drop race Chris had sailed. Message sent, well I think so, we are all here to win this thing and decide it on the water, sailing outside the rules to gain advantage is not part of that, enough said, the gauntlet has been laid down and now the true battle is set up for the remainder of this event.

France's Guillame Florent continues to lead sitting on 20 points with a 12th his worst score, things after that get interesting, Ainslie of GBR is 2nd on 32 points and now has a DSQ to drop, similarily the Cooker sits 3rd on 34 points with a DSQ in the drop column, CRO is next on 37 points and has a DQ as well, rounding out the top 5 is Zach Railey of the USA on 42 points. With a single race remaining before the all important medal race things are going to be interesting. Think about the scenarios…… well ok I am not going to write them all out but take my word for it things are going to be challenging for all involved.

On the feel good side of things, Matt "Stiener" Johnston and Abe "Abby" Torchinsky had great days today, soaking up the exposure to the Worlds best and upping their respective games as the event develops. The future is bright in Finn land! Stiener sits 38th overall having scaled the leaderboard with a 22 and a 26 today, equally impressive, Abby the transplanted Laser sailor, who has sailed like 5 days in a Finn is improving daily, with a regatta best 27th in the final race, did I say the future is bright in Finn land…..?

Stay tuned for tomorrows action, it has the makings of what sail boat racing is all about.

Wednesday May 7
After 5 races.
What a day for Canada, Chris Cook lead the charge with a 3-1 on the day vaulting himself into 2nd overall one point in arrears of Guillame Florent of FRA. Chris put on a dominant display of calculated sailing taking advantage of quality starts, patience in playing the conditions. His consistency thus far is only bettered by the French man who appears that he can do no wrong.

Matt Johnston had a career first beat in the second race rounding in 20th amongst the top dogs in the fleet. A jubilant Stiener hung tough and put up his best score of the event. His improvement has been impressive over the course of the event, as he looks towards developing into a Canadian contender for the future.

At the front of the pack things are bound to get interesting over the final three races of the opening series, the points amongst the leaders are close and the conditions have demonstrated that anyone is suspect to a big score. Racing continues tomorrow with 2 races scheduled, followed by a single race Friday and then the Medal race showdown.

Cookers determination and focus is second to no time previous in his campaign. His singleminded approach and commitment to process has lead him this far and he only seems to be growing in confidence in his ability to execute successfully amongst the worlds best. All boding well in the final preparation stages for the real test of the Olympic Games. Much more to come and a great many challenges lay ahead both in this event and for the future, but for today all Canadian sport followers can be proud of his efforts.

Tuesday May 6
Day 2

Patience pays off both for Race Committee and the Cooker. Can you say long day on the water, after a dock out at 10:45, a couple of recalls just for warm up, some postponement time, and then 1/2 a race sailed which was finally abandoned, the day had not started off so well. After what seemed like an eternity on the water the seabreeze finally won the battle with the persistent offshore system wind. For Canadians in the cheering sections it was worth the wait!

Race one on the day was hosted in a building 6-8 knot westerly, which once materialised all be it at 3:30 was a decent breeze. The shifts were plentiful on the first beat with more than one boat auto tacking in the random developing conditions. The Cooker found these conditions to his liking, winning the pin at the start and following that up with a solid display. It all ultimately lead to a hard fought third place finish.

Race two on the day was held in a strengthened 11-12 Westerly with gust to 14. Cooker won the boat and controlled much of the first windward leg, ultimately rounding 4th as a lefty carried a few beyond his grasp. Not to be outdone he sailed a remarkable run rounding the bottom mark second and setting up a duel with PJ Postma of the Netherlands. The two extended on the fleet finishing 1-2 in the race and a solid start to the event for Cooker, his 2-3 on the day was matched by only Gasper Vincec of SLO who leads in the overall standings with 10 points on a 6-1-3 scorecard. Frances Guillaume Florent is second also on 10 points with a 2-2-6, and the Cooker is next with 19 points counting a 14-3-2.

With 5 races remaining in the championship everything remains completely up for grabs but the solid start to the event bodes well for Chris. If these type of conditions persist, patience, confidence and solid execution will be required to avoid the big numbers on the scoreboard. Stay tuned to this thread for all the breaking action.

For full details on the event visit, www.etruscamarina.it

Monday May 5
Race 1
The 2008 Europeans got off to a slow start for all invovled. Persistent rain showers and a total lack of wind saw the fleet abandoned ashore. Finally the clouds broke and the sun returned all be it fleetingly, and with it a whisper of breeze.

The docks were vacated by 1400 hours and what we are all here for was underway, well almost.... After a further on-water delay race one was started in a light 4-5 knot breeze. Over the course of the race there was an ebb and flow in velocity and some significant shifts to make it that much more entertaining. A big persistent lefty on the first beat launched a handful of the front runners including eventual race winner Ben Ainslie of GBR who left little doubt that he was here to claim this crown as well. Ben's dominating wire to wire race win has certainly laid down the gauntlet for all competitors.

Canada's Chris Cook, got out of the gates well and looked to be among the early front runners. Unfortunately for the Cooker the steady left hand swing on the first beat recovered much for many but left him battling in the early 20's. Ever game Cooker stayed on task throughout the race, making ground steadily and ultimately putting up a 15 on the day. A definite keeper if we encounter many more days like today.

With the breeze slowly shutting down the fleet made its way home after the solitary race. Two races are scheduled for tomorrow, with a total of 8 races scheduled for the opening series and a medal race to wrap things up on May 10th. Lots more to come, so stay tuned to this thread for breaking news from the Finn European Championships.

Ken Dool

Last night the event was officially started, after a week of solid training, a thorough measurement process and a wonderful opening ceremonies the 2008 European Championship was officially declared open. The opening was hosted in a local Medival castle situated above the "old town" of Scarlino, this castle is first recorded in history in 973 so to say it is old is an understatement. Local children from the sailing program here paraded into the grounds carrying the country flags, it was a wonderful opening and done in good style, including a buffet of local fare following the ceremony.

Canada for the first time in recent memory has 3 entries in the championship. We are lead by Chris Cook, with his cohorts in crime being Matt Johnston of RCYC and Abe Torchinsky of RVYC. Matt has been an active member of Cooker's winter training program and is looking forward to his first taste of European action. Abe most of you will recognize as a Laser sailor, to his credit he jumped at the opportunity to try his hand in the Finn, and by all accounts in training will fare just fine.

The fleet is loaded with the usual suspects and as this event represents the last of the "majors" before the Olympics we are bound to see a good show. The favourite until beaten remains Ben Ainslie of GBR, but that being said Ben had his hands full at the recent World Championships and all of the top dogs are gunning for a piece of him.

Stay tuned