There were triple celebrations for British Finn sailors who closed out three podium results at the European Championships in Marseille on Saturday (13 May).
Ed Wright secured silver with bronze going to Ben Cornish, while young talent Henry Wetherell took the under 23 European crown as well as sixth place overall at his first Europeans in the men’s Olympic heavyweight class.
Gold went to the host’s Jonathan Lobert, who led Wright and Cornish across the finish line in the five-boat ‘winner-takes-all’ trial finals format used for this regatta.
“A medal here is really exciting because it’s my first event back, apart from Hyeres which was a warm up event last week,” said Bournemouth’s Wright.
“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 paid off.”
“My biggest goal was just to medal so halfway through the [final] 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,” said Wright of his final race. “But I managed to end up with the silver medal luckily.
“The reason for that is so I can be in a good position for the Worlds later on in the year, less pressure. It could be potentially quite a tricky regatta at the Worlds, so I wanted to be quite relaxed in that environment, so it all worked, and what a wonderful day’s sailing!”
While Wright is no stranger to the Finn European or World Championship podium, Cornish’s bronze was his first medal at a Europeans, and he also feels his performance has set him up well for the World Championship later in the year.
“It’s a good day, that! I came here with the intention of trying to win a medal and as it plays out I have done, 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.
“The British fleet is particularly strong and seem to be dominating on the world series which is good, and I think everyone constantly raising the bar means we keep moving through and there are young guys coming through punching in to the top ten as well, which is great to see,” the Exmouth sailor added.
The Finn fleet had been experimenting with a new race format which gave rise to a tense final day, which started with a tenth opening series race after which the top three in the overall standings would automatically progress to a five-boat, winner-takes-all final.
The sailors ranked fourth to tenth after the opening series then had to fight it out for the two remaining spots, and three British boats were firmly in that battle.
Wright ended the opening series in fourth, Cornish in ninth and Wetherell in tenth, but the points table was wiped clean for the semi-final showdown and whichever two sailors crossed the finish line first would earn the remaining finals berths.
The British Sailing Team led that semi-final battle from the front, with Cornish taking the gun, followed by Wright and with young gun Wetherell just missing out.
But the Snaith sailor, who transferred into the Finn from the Laser just under a year ago, was happy with his performance.
“It’s really good to win the under 23 European Championships,” he explained. “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’s my first Europeans in the class and I’m feeling pretty good about the whole thing and quite comfortable in the boat.
“On the last downwind I just got into a little bit of a hole,” recalled Wetherell of his semi-final race. “There wasn’t much breeze where I was and I just got passed right at the end by Ed which was a bit frustrating, but I’m happy with sixth.”
At the RS:X Windsurfing European Championships, held out of the same Marseille venue, the British Sailing Team’s Tom Squires and Izzy Hamilton were happy with their performances, with Squires fifth in a week which included his first ever international race win, and Hamilton as seventh European (tenth overall).
“It’s been a tough week and we’ve had everything thrown at us weather-wise – max wind, no wind, shifty…” said Squires. “It’s been a great test of a well-rounded sailor and I’m super happy to have been up there and to see how far I’ve come. [Coach] Dom’s been great and has helped me out so much.”
Hamilton explained: “I feel really happy actually – we had a really tough week of racing and really different conditions. One day was about 30 knots and the next was three! It was a really intense final series and I’m glad I came out of it with a reasonable result.”
“I would love to do the quarter-final again,” she added. “Unfortunately I had to do a 360 [penalty] at the windward mark when I was about fifth at the top. If I could do that race again and not make that mistake and get a penalty that would be fantastic.”
Meanwhile in Monaco, a windless final day at the 470 European Championships put paid to Amy Seabright and Anna Carpenter’s hopes of breaking into the medal positions.
The duo was poised in fourth place going in to the final 10-boat race after a steady week amid changeable conditions, but in spite of both the men’s and women’s finalists leaving the dock for the competition area, racing proved impossible and they were denied the opportunity of an upgrade.
"Overall the event went really well for us," Seabright explained. "It was a light, tricky wind event, with the exception of one day. This is a condition we have felt weak at in the past, so we are really pleased with our improvements and will continue to move on as we are far from being the finished article in this stuff."
"[We were] in fourth going in to medal race day but there wasn't enough wind for enough race," she continued.
"We were completely gutted that we didn't get a chance to fight it out for a medal, especially with the added disappointment for finishing fourth in Hyeres. But we feel in a good place going forward and have plenty to work on, which is an exciting place to be."
Finn European Championship results
RS:X European Championship results
470 European Championship results
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