Open Europeans 2011 - Finns set to start

Flags at the Open Europeans 2011
While Helsinki basks in a summer heatwave, the 2011 Finn Europeans is all set to start as part of the Open Europeans Helsinki 2011 with racing beginning on Saturday, 9 July. There are 74 Finns registered including 19 juniors competing for the Junior European Championship.

The Open Europeans Helsinki 2011 has combined six of the Olympic classes in two weeks of racing off Helsinki's scenic city front. However, the Finns will mainly be racing up to five miles offshore. While the last few days have suffered from lack of wind, it returned on Friday and with 8-12 knots forecast for the coming days, and temperatures in the high 20s, the racing should get off to a good start.

All but five in the top 20 of the world ranking sailors are here, though several top sailors such as Ben Ainslie (GBR) and Zach Railey (USA) have preferred to focus on preparations for the London 2012 test event in a few weeks time in Weymouth. However the field in Helsinki is about as deep as any major regatta so far this year with large entries from Poland, Germany, Sweden and Russia, so it will be a tough battle to become 2011 Finn European Champion.

The Finn class is lucky to have Peter Reggio return as the race office. Having been race officer at the 2008 Olympics and many other major events in recent years, he is a favourite PRO of the class and works well with the sailors on and off the water.

Finns waiting for the competition - Open Europeans Helsinki 2011

The defending champion, and also winner in 2009 is Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO). Though he has yet to win a major event this year, in the lighter winds forecast this week he has to be one of the firm favourites. Then of course there is Ed Wright (GBR), the new world number one, current World Champion and also the European Champion in 2006. Wright has also won Delta Lloyd Regatta and Kiel Week this year. Usually he prefers stronger winds, but is also the most medalled sailor here in recent years so will undoubtedly present a very strong challenge.

Meanwhile Giles Scott (GBR) is also one of the main favourites, though he is still looking for his first major title. He has improved enormously over the past year and is very consistent across the wind range, winning Sail for Gold in 2010 and Miami earlier this year.

Other favourites would have to include Rafa Trujillo (ESP), the 2004 Olympic silver medalist and 2007 World Champion, Jonathan Lobert (FRA), Thomas le Breton (FRA) and Pieter Jan Postma (NED), while a number of others such as Marin Misura (CRO), Daniel Birgmark (SWE), Deniss Karpak (EST), Andrew Mills (GBR), Rafal Szukiel (POL), 2007 European Champion Eduard Skornyakov (RUS), Vasilij Zbogar (SLO), Johan Tillander (SWE) are all capable to top 10 finishes and race winning performances. If the wind remains light during the next six days, the competition could be very close.

In the large Junior fleet the defending champion Ioannis Mitakis (GRE) is now too old to be a junior, but is competing very well in the senior fleet. Of the 19 young sailors here, it is hard to call a favourite as they are all improving fast, but expect to see Josip Olujic (CRO), Julian Massler (GER), Egor Terpigorev (RUS) and several others challenging for the title.

Two races are scheduled each day from Saturday 9 July to Wednesday 13 July, with the medal race for the top 10 and the final race for the rest on Thursday 14 July.

Open Europeans website