no greek bailout
There was no Greek bailout last week in Tuscany as Ioannis Mitakis coolly took the 2012 Finn European Championship out of nowhere. Never even remotely considered to be a favourite for the title, race by race he kept his nose clean and rose to the top, took the overall lead on day five and then amazed everyone by leading the medal race from start to finish.
The championship was sailed in the Gulf of Follonica from the Club Nautico Scarlino on the beautiful Tuscan coast, in a week of snakes and ladders in unseasonable light winds. Mitakis has twice been the winner of the Finn Junior European Championship but has now taken his first major title at the age of 23.
Apart from a mediocre first day the young Greek was the only sailor producing any sort of consistency, and it was this consistency that led him to becoming the surprise package of the championship. He displayed a cool and unflappable composure throughout the event that left many of his more experienced rivals shaking their heads in disbelief as he achieved five top 10 positions in a row – something that no one else even got close to. He went into the medal race with a six point advantage.
In second place overall was Vasiliy Zbogar from Slovenia. Twice an Olympic medalist in the Laser class, he switched to the Finn three years ago and has made steady progress ever since. He was the only sailor in Scarlino to win more than one race, but struggled in some of the really light conditions mid week. He is undoubtedly going fast though and fully deserved the silver medal.
Third was the double European Champion Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic from Croatia. In the deciding medal race, Gaspic was the preferred favourite of many to snatch the title. In a medal race six points can disappear very quickly but Gaspic made a few crucial errors. Thinking the wind was increasing in strength, he changed up to a medium wind sail during the pre-start and this maybe cost him a slight speed advantage as the wind started to falter almost immediately after the start.
This worked in Mitakis’ favour as he was clearly faster in the light, and he gradually pulled through to leeward of the front bunch to force them to tack off. When the moment was right he pounced, crossed the entire fleet and never looked back.
Gaspic then got into trouble at the top mark, fouled the Estonian Deniss Karpak and dropped back. He was out of the medals for a while. But then on second beat he was himself fouled by the Italian Gorgio Poggi, gained a place, and was right back in the fight for the bronze.
Mitakis had already sailed away for a stunning victory, against all expectations, and to the absolute joy of Greece. Zbogar crossed third, behind Karpak, to secure the silver to the whoops of the Slovenian TV crew who turned up to witness the final confrontation. Gaspic, meanwhile, valiantly fought back to sixth to take home the bronze.
It was a long tough week for the 69 Finn sailors, more of a mental challenge than a physical one but nevertheless it still produced a very worthy champion. The week will not only be remembered for its unusually light winds, but primarily for the speed and cool composure of Ioannis Mitakis.-Robert Deaves.