Finn Gold Cup 2008
Reports by Ken Dool

January 29 Final

With the top 10 established the Medal race was all that remained for the 2008 Finn Gold Cup. GBR's Ben Ainslie once again showed his "medal" placing 2nd in the Medal race and securing yet another Finn World Championship. NZL Dan Slater remained on good form after leading the majority of the event but hung on for the Silver Medal. DEN, Jonas Hoeg-Christensen benefited from NED JP Postma's OSC in the final race and grabbed the Bronze Medal.

Chris Cook, battled gamely all week but came up short in the Medal Race. A tentative start saw Chris dig himself a small hole that he could not recover from. Although "game" as always Chris was unable to claw back and thus dropped one place in the standings to finish 6th overall. Lets keep that in perspective, a 6th at the World Championship is something to be proud of and a solid stepping stone forward during the Olympic Year. Chris proved throughout the championship that he is among the elite in his class and provides Canada with a legitimate podium performer heading into the Games.

The focus for the majority now shifts to the Spring European circuit with the first major stop being Palma, ESP in March. Thats all for now from Melbourne, but stay tuned to these threads as Canadian athletes prepare for the Olympic Games in Qingdao.

January 28 Down to the short strokes

The medal race looms as the remaining challenge of the 2008 Finn Gold Cup. The battle lines have been drawn with GBR Ben Ainslie showing his remarkable form and once again sitting atop the leader pile as we enter the final days racing. A 4th place in Mondays lone race place Ainslie 1 point ahead of NZL Dan Slater who had lead the event from the outset. The difference is a mere point so with the double point medal race to come it is a winner take all scenario. Althought the focus will undoubably be squarely on these two competitors, NED PJ Postma and DEN Jonas Hoeg Christensen both remain within striking distance of the title sitting 8 and 10 points arrears of Ainslie respectively. All in all this will set up an outstanding showcase for the finally of the event.

Canada's Chris Cook is next in line sitting 5th entering the Medal race, with a shot at mathematical shot at 4th and two competitors breathing down his neck. The final series race was again delayed by light and fickle breezes that finally gave way to a moderate seabreeze that built from 5 knots at the start to a solid 14 knots for the races final downwind to the finish. Cook showing grit and impressive downwind speed sped from a 16th place windward mark rounding at the final weather mark passing up 9 boats on the final leg for a well earned 7th. With the competition heating up in all regards, the front runners as they often do broke free in the building breeze to make the final run in unlimited pumping conditions a display of fitness and technique as they all stormed to the front of the fleet. Ben Ainslie (GBR) the mulitple medallist and 4 time Gold Cup champion showed his form scrambling to a 4th place finish one place ahead of Dan Slater of NZL and thus securing a slim 1 po int lead heading into the final day.

The event has been a quality start to the final push towards the Beijing Olympic Games for Cook, he has demonstrated strong form to solidify himself amongst the contenders for the Olympic title. In challenging conditions across a variety of wind strengths Cook continues to show improvements and is amongst the elite in all aspects of his game.

The final is set, the forecast calls for moderate conditions, but has been the case all week the competitors will need to deal with what they are dealt in terms of wind. The first show down of the 2008 season will certainly provide an inspired start in the push towards the Olympic Games.

January 27 Getting down to the wire

It was one of those days, the wind seemed more than adequate for quality racing but upon closer inspection the velocity was all over the place and the direction was even more squirelly. The Race Committee set up for a 210 breeze, wise postponed mid sequence to reset, 235 was the new call, before marks could be relocated a steady stream of numbers from all over the compass rose came in back to 210, then 180, now 165, finally settling in and strengthening slightly in the 170 - 190 range with 7-9 knots. If this was what was in store for the day there was going to be some excitement.

Sure enough the first race had people coming in from the left the right and even the odd man from the centre. Cooker battled gamely at times looking to be among the leaders and equally as often looking mid fleet. A 36th a the top mark wasn't really in the plans but was a reality, nothing a solid downwind leg could not remedy, well the remedy was in place and then the jury struck, a yellow flag less than 100 meters from the bottom mark, after a 720 the massive gains were a thing of the past and now it was a scramble for a keeper. Long and short, Cooker put up his throw out race, but not all was lost as many of the players had struggled in the swirling morning breeze.

Race 2, the wind had kicked in a solid 15-19 knots across the course with big old waves. Nice in that it took away some of the variables tough in that it also narrows down the top end of the fleet. Jonas Hoeg Christensen of Denmark lead the way, wire to wire, the majority of the key players battled gamely between the front runners and the early 20's. Cooker was amongst that group, never quite able to break away, but always hanging on.

Now it all boils down to two races - a fleet race on Monday and the Medal race on Tuesday, the event is wide open, for sure there are those that are advantaged but to a man there are big scores on the score sheet and the conditions to date have been anything but predictable - the ability to put up a big score a very real factor. More from Melbourne later this week.

January 26 Lay Day

January 25 A huge day for Canadian Sailing Fans

Chris Cook continues his climb up the leaderboard! With a 1-2 on the day Chris has faulted himself further up the results sheet as we pass the mid-way point of the Finn Gold Cup. Sitting in 4th overall after his outstanding day Chris is readying himself for the challenges of the second half of the event.

Conditions were picture perfect today with 8-10 knot seabreezes prevailing throughout the two races. Although the variability in the conditions remainded a factor Chris sailed two conservatively agressive races to put himself in the thick of things. Race one was as close as one can come to a perfect 10 - from a dominant start to some experience in managing the fleet from the front Chris sailed an outstanding race. Race 2 was much the same, a solid first leg, was followed up with a devasting performance downwind to see Chris round on the heels of only Ben Ainslie of GBR. Hanging tough for the remainder of the race Chris scored a solid 2nd place and moved himself into striking distance for a podium performance.

With much challenging sailing still to come Chris looks forward to taking a shot at winning the second half of the event, and battling it out with the Worlds. More to come so keep your eyes on this thread to follow Chris throughout the remaining races of the Worlds and in his preparation for the Olympic Games.

January 24

Light and variable conditions greeted the sailors for a single race today. With overcast skies the "typical" Melbourne seabreeze did not materialise with much punch resulting in a trying day in 6-9 knot conditions with a significant sea running. The conditions were compared to Qingdao, less the ever present current factors of China. Much of the preparation for the event has been based in building seabreeze conditions, as such the variability of the first three races has produced mixed results atop the leader board.

Canada's Chris Cook sailed a solid race today, using his excellent downwind speed to his advantage and combining that with well executed decision making in the shifty light airs. His 5th vaulted him up the leaderboard to 9th overall with a scant 13 points separating 4th to 9th place. Dan Slater of NZL continued his solid form with a 4th place finish securing himself a 12 point lead over GBR Ben Ainslie who worked his way through the fleet today to secure the race win. Florian Raudaschl (AUT) was the class of the day leading wire to wire and at times having what seemed to be an insurmountable lead only to see Ainslie finish overlapped with him at the finish. Unfortunately for Raudaschl all was for not as he was one of a large handful of finishers that were tagged with an OCS on the black flag start.

The unsettled conditions look to continue for Fridays racing with overcast skies and variable breezes again projected.

More to come, lots of opportunities abound, and without doubt a further shuffle in the leaderboard just around the corner as two races are scheduled for Friday which will bring the drop race for the event into play.

January 23

The Finn Worlds started with a bang, for some it was a resounding bang of twin victories on day one, witness Dan Slater's (NZL) performance with a 1-1 on the day, for others it was the bang of one's fist against the deck in frustration - caught out on the wrong side of one too many shifts or pinned outside a wind line - and watch as the first day turned to misery. For Canada's Chris Cook the day was somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Chris, ever the game competitor battled back from difficult first legs in each race to rescue his day with a 15 - 19 on the day and a 12th place overall standing, not all so bad when you consider weather mark roundings of 40 and 60 respectively in the two races, or if you study the fleet scores and find perennial top 10 finishers haven eaten a couple of big scores on the day.

The conditions presented many challenges, race one was held in 7-10 knot SSE breeze with 30 degree shifts and varying wind lines creating havoc on the course. Chris looking solid out of the blocks saw the right side of the course cave in on him and struggled to round in the top 30, solid performance for the remainder of the race saw Chris pull out a 15th place finish including a fantastic final run that was only a couple lengths short of a top 10 finish.

Race 2 saw increasing breeze, but no less variability with winds peaking at around 15 knots but for the most part ranging between 11-13 knots. Undone by the right in race 1, Chris along with some formidable company including GBR's Ben Ainslie and current World Champion Raffa of ESP, worked the left side of the course, there was no joy for that group and he battle to sail a keeper was on. All three athletes ultimately made it back into the top 20, but not without some mounting frustration.

Meanwhile Dan Slater of NZL sailed a memorable day, although beset by his own issues Dan was among the leaders all day. Using solid speed and good course positioning he put together the type of start to an event that most only dream of. With much racing ahead there will certainly be many more challenges to face and stories of what could have been. Racing continues with one race scheduled for Thursday, and two races scheduled on Friday before a scheduled day off to celebrate "Australia Day". Actually that's not what the day off is for by ironically they do coincide.