The 2020 U23, Open and Masters Finn European Championship in Gdynia, Poland, concluded on Sunday with the three titles assigned. Zsombor Berecz, from Hungary, took gold without winning a race and with a race to spare. Giles Scott, from Britain, took the silver while Joan Cardona, from Spain, took the bronze. In addition Cardona won the U23 European Championship while Milan Vujasinovic, from Croatia, won the Finn European Masters. The race winners on the final day were Nenad Bugarin, from Croatia, and Facundo Olezza, from Argentina.
After a week that has tested the sailors in many ways, the final day brought yet another set of conditions to further challenge the fleet of 70 sailors from 27 nations. There were offshore winds from 10-18 knots, with huge swings in direction, as well as something that has been lacking all week, sunshine.
France’s Jonathan Lobert took the early lead in Race 9 and seemed to have it sewn up, however Bugarin had other ideas and passed Lobert down the final run to round the gate just metres ahead to lead into the finish, with Britain’s Henry Wetherell crossing in third.
With Scott and Spain’s Alejandro Muscat finishing in the 20s, Berecz had secured the title with a race to spare.
Race 10 belonged to Olezza and featured the biggest shifts of the week. He led round the top mark from Scott and Ondrej Teply, from Czech Republic, but Scott had the better first downwind to round the opposite gate just ahead. However a huge right shift on the second upwind left Olezza with a huge lead on the fleet while Scott dropped to eighth. Muscat moved up to second with Fabian Pic, from France in third.
In the U23 championship, defending champion, Cardona was never threatened. His only likely competition was expected to come from the three time and current U23 World Champion, Oskari Muhonen, from Finland, but Muhonen never even broke into the top ten, while Cardona was challenging for the overall win as well. Cardona ended up third overall compared to Muhonen in 18th. The bronze went to Estonia’s Taavi Valter Taveter in 27th overall.
Likewise, Vujasinovic was always the favourite for the overall Masters title, normally sailing in the senior fleet and finishing in 13th overall, while Filipe Silva, from Portugal, the defending Finn European Masters champion, had a great last day to take second, with Olof Lundqvist, from Sweden in third.
In the Grand Masters, for those aged 50-59, Felix Denikaev, from Russia had a tight battle with Andrzej Romanowski, from Poland, while Stefan Sandahl, from Sweden took third.
The Grand Grand Masters looked to be a runaway for Marc Allain des Beauvais, from France but a miserable fourth day left it wide open. In the end he won by a single point from from Vladimir Skalicky, from Czech Republic, with Greg Wilcox, from New Zealand, in third.
The one and only, and incomparable Legend (over 70), taking part was Flemming Bender Jensen, from Denmark, in 66th place.
Berecz said the week had been exhausting, “I am 34 years old. After this week I feel like 60. This was one of the hardest regattas I can remember in my career Every day shifty, most of the wind was changing, it was very challenging but I made history by winning this title and I am over the moon.”
He is the first Hungarian to win the Finn Europeans.
On his traning group, “Definitely we have the strongest training group now with the Spanish and Nenad [Bugarin]. And on this regatta see you can see that in the results. We did a pretty good job. As soon as we could train together we started training in Palma. And every day we were getting better, and we came here ready and we showed them that we are capable of winning and taking medals home so I am very happy for myself as well as the team.”
His coach is the 1996 Finn gold medallist, Mateusz Kusznierewicz. “He is a legend. He was the first guy I think that made us believe that everything is possible. He won the Olympics at such a young age and he’s inspirational for me. He’s a very good coach we have a very good communication and relationship together and I am looking forward to continue working with him, because we can achieve more.”
Scott rued his missed chances. “We have had a very tricky week. The conditions here have been challenging to say the least and we have had a lot of racing in offshore, super shifty winds and really hard to manage. The key to it as ever is consistency and unfortunately today in the first race I just got the wrong side of a 40-50 degree shift and that was it, and that was enough for the Hungarian to walk away with the win.
“So I have to settle for second this week.”
On his preparation. “I think the training has been going OK considering how tricky it has been to get too much done. We have done a reasonable amount of sailing over the past eight weeks but only the two of us, so good to see that Henry and I are going well and I suppose ultimately everything is now about what happens in 10 months time.”
Cardona was euphoric after taking the bronze. “Today was a very difficult day again, but I managed to make one of my best days on the water with a 5 and 6 so I am very happy to perform like that under so much pressure and I am super happy with the bronze medal. Of course I want to keep pushing to gain a spot in the Olympics.
“This is just confirmation that we are doing the right things with Muscat. We did a really nice job over the winter and summer after quarantine and we will fight very hard for the spot for Spain.
“It’s very nice to win the U23 European Championship again, but of course I am just thinking about the bronze medal in the open championship. That makes me the most happy.”
It has been a challenging week in Gdynia, not just the effort to make it happen and for everyone to get here in these rather challenging times. After weeks of summer conditions and reliable winds, the week of the Finn Europeans was plagued by rainstorms, fitful winds and huge wind shifts. It’s fair to say that the fleet had a bit of everything, though most would have sold aged relatives to get a bit more sunshine and warmth.
Full credit must go to the Polish Yachting Association and its dedicated staff who have been tireless in making sure the event happened and as many sailors as possible could get here. Some couldn’t get here but to get 70 Finn sailors to Poland during these weird times was a remarkable success and makes a fairly strong statement, demonstrating the strength of the class and the devotion of its sailors.
Next year the U23 and Open European Championship takes place in Hyeres in April, while the Finn European Masters returns to Tihany on Lake Balaton in September.
1 HUN 40 Zsombor Berecz 53
2 GBR 41 Giles Scott 61
3 ESP 26 Joan Cardona Méndez 61
4 ESP 7 Alejandro Muscat 71
5 NED 89 Nicholas Heiner 76
6 TUR 21 Alican Kaynar 78
7 ARG 1 Facundo Olezza Bazan 82
8 CRO 1 Josip Olujic 83
9 CRO 10 Nenad Bugarin 84
10 SUI 1 Nils Theuninck 85
Full results here: https://events.pya.org.pl/2020-open-finn-european-championship,e23
– Robert Deaves