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Heavyweights reassessing Rio 2016

by Matthew Pryor on 13 Oct 2013
Finn fleet during the 2013 Semaine Olympique Francaise © Breschi / FFVoile / SOF 2013 http://sof.ffvoile.com/
Leading up to the 2012 Olympics in 'windy' Weymouth, the future of the Finn looked like the land of the giants. It was not just the rise of the huge Estonian Deniss 'Two Metre' Karpak, the whole fleet were getting taller. It took the brilliance of a bulked out Ben Ainslie to hold back the tide. With three years to go to Rio 2016 has the landscape changed?

'I think actually over the next four years people are going to get smaller,' the 6' 5' Giles Scott says. 'There are a lot more tall guys in the fleet now, you go back eight years and it was shorter, broader guys. Now it seems like, I don't know if it's by chance, but there are a lot more tall guys in the fleet like myself. I'm 6ft5in, I range between 95kg and 103kg. With Rio being light you'd predict everyone is going to go lighter, so I'd imagine over the next couple of years guys getting leaner, because they're not going to get shorter.'

Does that raise the spectre of some of the skeletal sailors of Beijing 2008? A 15 metre walk in the boat park in Les Minimes port in La Rochelle in to the Laser class finds a different perspective from Britain's Nick Thompson.

'I've just come back from Rio, I did a trip there this summer, sort of Games time and I don't think it's going to be as light as everyone is thinking,' Thompson says. 'I really think there could be few a races where it's a bit breezy, a bit like China, it turned out the medal races were quite windy. It could easily be a venue where we have no wind at all but I really don't think it's going to be like that, fingers crossed. I think it's just going to be shifty and really tricky. I'm 79 or 80kg, I might go down to 77kg or 78 kg but maybe not, I'm already one of the lightest in the fleet, some of the other guys are more towards 90kg.'

Thompson's trip and his report have been music to ears of the 6' 6' Mark Andrews, part of Britain's Finn squad. He's looking lighter than usual but that was not part of his training programme. 'I had my tonsils out three weeks ago and I've lost a lot of weight through not eating,' Andrews said. 'I lost 6kg and put a bit back on now.

'Weymouth was a windy venue and we have looked at slimming down a bit, I'm 6ft6in and 96kg. The Finns haven't been out to Rio but from what Nick (Thompson) has said it can be 15 knots. You've got to wait until you see it and then you can focus. For sure it's not going to be 20 knots everyday so you're not going to be massive. But it's not going to be a China drift-off I don't think and even then there was wind at the end. It's a week-long regatta and the way the scoring system is at the moment, you've got to be good in everything.'

Matt Howard, Britain's Finn coach for the last five years concurs. 'Like most Olympics it's pretty high risk to go really bespoke with your bodyweight and equipment,' he says. 'High risk can mean high reward, but if you go too bespoke with stuff and then you don't get those conditions then you get the eternal event quote of: 'it's not normally like this here.' The Olympics is over two weeks so it's quite a lot of days to get different conditions.'

Looking ahead to Rio is all very well, but as Poland Finn sailor, Piotr Kula, points out, you have to get there first.

'There's a couple of new guys who are a little bit smaller than the average, but I think you can't only look towards the Olympics because to get there you need to get to Santander next year, you need to need to go to New Zealand (for the world championships) in two years and both of them are windy,' Kula says. 'So, first of all you need to get to Rio and to do that you need to gain some muscles.

'You can lose weight, in four or five months you can lose 15kg, that's easy. But there was a situation with the Olympics in Korea when the sailing was in Busan and everybody was thinking that it's going to be really light and there was one week of super strong winds. I think if you're fit, if you have optimum weight, it's OK.

You need to have some weight, you need powerful legs in the Finn. If you look at the top seven guys here, Deniss Karpak is two metres high, the same goes for Mark Andrews, I feel really small when I'm close to them. I'm 1.90m (6' 3'), when they're close I think I'm some kind of midget, (his barrel chest rolls with laughter) no, maybe don't write this.'

Do not expect the giants to be that lanky in Rio.

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