NORTH SAIL'S NIGEL YOUNG REPORTS FROM THE RECENT FINNISH MELGES 24 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
I am currently flying back from Finland having taken part in the Melges 24 Finish Championships. We were invited to take part approximately 2 months ago and with a little friendly persuasion from Tomi Hakola and Ari Bloom we made the easy choice to attend.
The Finnish Melges fleet is still in its infancy and the event was run in a very friendly manner with all the competitors really enjoying the sailing as much as the racing of the Melges.
The event was held in the holiday resort and town of Naantali in the southern part of Finland. The racing area was ideal for the small but quality field of sailors, with a choice of race area's, one five minutes from the marina and the second only 15 minutes from the marina. The close proximity of the marina, yacht club and the accommodation gave the whole regatta an exceptionally friendly feel.
For us Ari Bloom made the trip so very easy, thank you Ari from all of our team. We took our boat to Harwich on the East Coast of England and from there Ari arranged transportation directly to Turku which was only 10 miles from the regatta site.
We took the easy route of a flight to Turku and then spent the Thursday cleaning the boat and preparing for the regatta which started on the Friday.
Top Finnish Melges sailor Kenneth Thelen was regatta favourite before racing started. Kenneth sailing with his brother Henrick, Jari and Kim have been top competitors in the class for a number of years. I have raced against them for the past 5 years and knew we were going to have a tough fight on our hands.
Racing got underway on the Friday in the lightest of breezes, we thought we were over the line at the start and went back around the ends. This gave Thelan a clean break and we never really got into the race. 4 laps of a very short course made gaining ground very tricky, 5th place was as good as we could get back to.
Race 2 was a little better but unfortunately for us Kenneth won again with us second, we were making things too easy for him! What was also very apparent was that the Fins are not slow! If you found yourself back in the pack at the top mark you had to work exceptionally hard to escape.
Day 2 started with a move to the bigger race area and with a 10-12 knot breeze and flat water conditions were perfect for the scheduled 4 races. An average start from us meant we were in the pack at the top mark and once again Kenneth was free to win the race by an impressive margin, 2nd again was not really good enough if we were to have any hope of winning the regatta.
Meanwhile some really close racing was going on behind the top two boats. The chasing pack was never far behind and it was easy to be drawn into them if you let your guard down for a second. Anti Niiniranta from North Sails Finland was putting together a very steady score as were the other two boats from Team Marinel. The Swedish entry sailed by Claes Rojning winners of the previous ranking weekend were also looking very strong. New to the class these guys will certainly be a team to watch once they have spent a little more time in the class. It looks like interest in the M-24 is growing in Sweden and we can look forward to some serious growth in this area over the next few seasons.
Race 2 of day two saw us finally getting our act together! We managed to win race 2,3 and 4 to the surprise of Kenneth and his team which meant we were equal on points once the discard was taken into effect, the stage was set for a great final day.
Unfortunately the wind was not playing ball on Sunday and the day started with zero wind. The racing was to be held on the smaller course as there was about 3 knots of wind on this one and nothing on the outside race track.
Starting with the crew all to leeward made racing very tricky and the light and shifting winds did not suit us to really fight for the event. Kenneth mastered the very light conditions and won the shortened race by a small margin, once again we were 2nd but their result was enough to give Kenneth and Team Suunto the Championships. We finished second by one point and Anti was third.
All in all it was a fantastic regatta, well organised in a friendly and professional manner. A creative race management team ensured we got 7 races in, which made the event for us. Thank you to every one involved, we had a great time and will be back next year, hopefully we can bring along one or two more English boats to this great event.
1st Kenneth - Thelen "Suunto"
2nd Jamie Lea - "White Seal"
3rd Anti Niiniranta – "Marinel Patu"
4th Esa Harjulahti – "Marinel Thunder"
5th Claes Rojning – "Rojning & Co"