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Finn - Aarhus heats up

 
Most Finn sailors have one focus this year, the Hempel World Sailing Championships in Aarhus, Denmark in August. Giles Scott and Ben Cornish -

Nothing else really matters apart from those first eight, almost tangible, places on the starting line in Tokyo in 2020. In terms of events this year, the road to Aarhus is half way over for the Finn fleet.

The fleet has had an exceptionally competitive start to the year with a range of winners and a range of conditions. Is it too early to start predicting form for the first Tokyo qualifier that begins in less than three months time? Perhaps not.

There are not many events left before the showdown in Denmark. The World Cup Final in Marseille – the sailing venue for the 2024 Olympics – will have a limited entry of just 20, while the Medemblik Regatta has only attracted a small entry so far.

For those training hard for Aarhus, there are precious few big regattas left to race. The one big event left should be Kiel week, which should provide similar conditions to Aarhus, and is expected to attract a large entry.

It is just five weeks before the world championship begins in Aarhus.

World Sailing Championship Form

One sailor has been sticking his bow out from the pack on a regular basis, and has just been rewarded by becoming World No. 1 for the first time.

Nicholas Heiner - Click image for a larger image

Nicholas Heiner’s three silver medals could easily have been two golds and a silver, but don’t remind him. It’s something he is trying hard to rectify. He is still learning, and there is surely still a lot more to come from this former Laser world champion

Giles Scott is provisionally lined up for the Marseille World Cup Final, so we may get a better indication there of his form against the rest of the fleet, but he will undoubtedly go into the Aarhus event as the favourite, having not been beaten since Palma in 2016.

But of the rest, who are the challengers?

Of the other Brits, Ed Wright is European champion, while Ben Cornish shows signs of brilliance, but both failed to perform in Palma and Hyeres.

Ed Wright - Click image for a larger image

Alican Kaynar has two bronzes this year and is rapidly becoming one of the medal race regulars. He said in 2016 that Rio was just training for Tokyo, and you get the impression that he is more focused than ever.

Jorge Zarif's win in Hyères was his first major win in Europe since 2013, when he became the only sailor to win the junior and senior world titles in the same year.

He has been maturing nicely as an all-round sailor and it will be fascinating to watch what he does next. Zarif is one of only two sailors who have made the medal race at all four major events this year.

The other is the current world champion, Max Salminen. He spent the winter training in Australia and thinks that sharpened him up ready for the early starting European season. It paid off at the Europeans, where he took the bronze medal.

Max Salminen - Click image for a larger image

The tight Kiwi training group, and America’s Cup winners, Josh Junior and Andy Maloney, have spent some time at the front of the fleet this year, but lack consistency.

Junior placed fourth at the Europeans, but then struggled to get back to the front in Palma and Hyères. In contrast, Maloney took a medal in Palma and made the medal race in Hyères.

Jonathan Lobert, the 2016 European Champion also looks dangerous much of the time but has not really been consistent enough to take a medal. However, he has made all three European medal races and that is where everyone wants to be come Aarhus in August.

Ioannis Mitakis has also made three medal races so far this year and now sits at a career best of World No. 4.

The Australians are mixing it up with Jake Lilley’s fourth in Hyères the stand out result. Anders Pedersen’s three race wins in Palma perhaps foretells greater things to come. And there are many, many more . . .

Many sailors still have a lot of work do do over the next three months if they are to mount a worthwhile challenge for one of the eight Tokyo places in Aarhus, and those who have found the front so far know very well they are not safe. Complacency is brutally punished in the Finn class.

One thing is clear though. With 100 Finns from 44 nations in Aarhus, it’s going to be the toughest competition of the year. We can’t wait.

Hempel Saling World Championships Aarhus 2018 from July 30th to August 12th 2018.

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