Jonathan Lobert seals first major Finn title after solid week in Marseille
After a fabulous finale to a challenging week, Jonathan Lobert of France won his first ever major title in the Finn class. Ed Wright and Ben Cornish of Great Britain, both survived the Semi-Final to meet Lobert in the Final and secured silver and bronze. Henry Wetherell made it three medals for Great Britain by winning the U23 European Championship. Arkadiy Kistanov of Russia took silver and Oskari Muhonen of Finland won the bronze.
Like the rest of the week, it was a long day with three races to get in. It started windless and with a long postponement onshore before the final race of the Opening Series could be sailed. Despite the earlier light forecast, it turned out to be one of the best races of the week, with nice waves, 10-15 knots, and sunny skies. Though the regatta leaders had already qualified for the Final, they both elected to sail the race. Anders Pedersen of Norway led all the way round for a huge win, to take the overall lead, while Lobert struggled and dropped to second overall.
Nicholas Heiner from the Netherlands, finished second, which boosted him into the top 10, while Wetherall secured the U23 title with a seventh place finish to also make the top 10. This meant that two of the three Croatians, who had all sailed an excellent week, dropped out of the top 10.
Wetherell said, “It’s really good to win the under 23 European Championships. It’s been an up and down week. I started off well, had a little dip mid-week and then had a good last race today and just managed to squeak into the top ten.”
“It was a really close race with Arkadiy. Up at the top mark it was really close and the bottom of the run we were still close and rounded opposite marks and then I had a better beat.”
On the competition. “It’s really tough. There are a lot of older guys here so it’s a real experience. Everyone knows what they are doing and everyone is quick. It’s good fun because no one ever really takes a race off. Everyone is always on their game.”
After a short wait for protest time, the Semi-Final was sailed just off the harbour entrance in a reasonably steady 10-15 knots. Wright broke away out of the start and crossed back ahead of the fleet. However the next shift favoured the right again and Wetherell rounded first from Cornish and Heiner. Cornish took the lead on the downwind and was never headed, while Wright looked out of the race. However he recovered on the second beat and then drew level with Wetherell and Milan Vujasinovic of Croatia. It came down to the last few pumps to the finish line with Wright crossing second by less than a boatlength.
So Cornish and Wright proceeded to the Final. The wind dropped off for a while and it started to look doubtful a race could be started, but then the sequence got underway and the breeze returned to 10-12 knots at the top mark.
Pedersen was forced to tack away out of the start and was never again in contention as a big left-hander came in. The disaster struck Zsombor Berecz of Hungary when his halyard lock broke. He stopped to fix it but trailed at a distance for the rest of the race. Lobert owned the pin end of the line and was clear ahead when he tacked back, extending throughout the race for a big win. Wright was a clear second while Cornish held off Pedersen for third.
It’s interesting to note that the top four sailors all wore the yellow leader’s bib at some point during the week. However, the best sailor on points was Pedersen, and he was beaten by the format and went home empty handed.
Cornish said, “I came here with the intention of trying to win a medal, so that's obviously a really good result. It's nice to be going away from the first big event of the season with a bronze.”
He nearly didn’t even make the Finals. In the final fleet race, “I found myself trying to climb back through the fleet and ended up making my way into the Semi-Final. That was a good race for me, and then I progressed on to the Final with Ed. For me the priority switched and it was about winning a medal and so the risk management went down massively.”
On the fleet race Wright said, “There was a lot of pressure on the first race because I was in a position to be in the top three. I didn't manage to beat the Hungarian in that race so I had to go into the Semi-Final sail-off.”
“The Semi-Final was just a pump off on the last run. On the last downwind I managed to pass Henry, which got me into the Final. That was a really exciting part of the race actually; he was a little bit ahead of me at the top mark. I managed to try and cover him a little bit on the run and then to have the starboard advantage. Basically in the last 100-200 yards my winter's fitness training paid off and I was able to really just push the limits on the line and just pip him. It was quite exciting, and quite exhausting.”
In the Final, “Halfway through the race I decided to cover Anders and let Cornish and the French guy get away and do whatever they needed to do, I just needed to be top three. But I managed to end up with the silver medal luckily. A medal here is really exciting because it's the first event back, apart from Hyeres which was a warm up event last week. I'm sailing probably better than I have done ever at the moment. I'm fast upwind and downwind in all conditions and that's really exciting. The winter has paid off.”
He paid tribute to Pedersen, “He’s had an amazing regatta, he was in the top ten every race, ery consistent, sailed very well, and it's seems such a shame.”
Lobert is the first French sailor to win the European title since Serge Maury won two titles in 1975 and 1976, and only the second French sailor to ever lift the title. He commented, “This morning I was not sure about sailing the final race, but then when I saw the weather forecast I was very uncertain. Then breeze kicked in and I was very tense and I knew I could lose everything from the work of the week.”
In the final, “I was really looking to have a line where I could keep on going if I wanted because I saw there was pressure coming but I was not sure if it was the right or left, so I want to make sure I could stay and wait the next shift, so that’s why I was really pushing to save the pin end and go on starboard as long I could. Then I got the shift and I was in front.”
“Winning the Europeans means a lot for me because, first, it’s in France, so I am very happy with this, and for once I am winning a championship. I have been many times second or third, so since I am on the top of the box I am very happy and the funny thing is I am in front of two British. So it’s nice as it’s always the British winning, so for once it’s someone else.”
The main conversation point this week has been the running of new format trials tested here this week. It was the second such test, with the first being in Palma earlier this year. It remains controversial and contested. Hopefully, following the survey that will be carried out next week the class will get a clearer insight into the feelings and thoughts of the class as it moves on to future regattas.
Results after Final 1 FRA 112 Jonathan LOBERT 2 GBR 11 Edward WRIGHT 3 GBR 91 Ben CORNISH 4 NOR 1 Anders PEDERSEN 5 HUN 40 Zsombor BERECZ Results after Semi Final 6 GBR 71 Henry WETHERELL 7 CRO 69 Milan VUJASINOVIC 8 GRE 77 Ioannis MITAKIS 9 TUR 21 Alican KAYNAR 10 NED 89 Nicholas HEINER