Please select your home edition
Edition
Collinson and Co

London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition - Finn Class preview

by Robert Deaves on 16 Jul 2012
Fleet in 2008 - London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition Francois Richard ©
London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition first race for the Finn Class is now just 13 days away. The Finn fleet will consist of 24 sailors from five continents and is one of the most competitive fleets ever mustered for an Olympic regatta. The Finns are the first class to race, starting on Sunday 29 July, and finish on the first medal race day on Sunday 5th August. But before then there is a lot of sailing to be done.

It is a deep field of talent. The fleet consists of four Olympic medalists, six former World or European champions, and another seven championship medalists. In fact any of 14 sailors could arguably win a medal of any colour. There is also a healthy mix of youth and experience in the fleet with ages ranging from 19 to 48, while the average is 30.

Apart from GBR as host nation, the first 18 nations qualified for a place in Weymouth at the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships. These were AUS, BRA, CAN, CRO, DEN, ESP, EST, FIN, FRA, GRE, ITA, NED, NZL, RUS, SLO, SWE, UKR and USA.

Six more places were up for grabs at the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Finn Gold Cup in Falmouth earlier this year and five of these places finally went to: AUT, CHN, CZE, POL and TUR. Though Germany qualified, the German Federation decided not to make an entry into the Finn class, and the place was lost to the class.

Ten sailors are sailing their first Olympics, seven are sailing their second, three are sailing their third, and two are sailing their fourth and fifth Olympics. The only one sailing his fifth in the Finn is Masters World Champion Michael Maier (CZE), who has probably sailed more miles in a Finn than anyone else in history.

While Maier is the oldest by nine years, the youngest is 19 year old Jorge Zarif (BRA). Three years ago he won the Junior World Championship – the Jorg Bruder Silver Cup – and is hoping that the Weymouth experience this year will stand him in good stead for the 2016 Olympics on home waters.


Without doubt the favourite once again has to be Ben Ainslie (GBR). Though he has shown everyone the occasional chink in his armour over the past year he is still the man everyone needs to beat, and beating him will not be easy. If he wins in Weymouth he will go down in history as the most successful sailor ever at the Olympic Games, taking that accolade from another Finn great, Paul Elvstrøm (DEN).

Whatever happens, Ainslie will undoubtedly be the story of the week. He has already stated that anything else but Gold would be a disaster, so he is bound to make the headlines, winning or not. He reflected, '...a home Olympics makes it very special. I was in Trafalgar Square when they announced that London had won the bid for 2012, the atmosphere was electric and that’s when I decided I wanted to continue my Olympic career and be a part of it. It is the most important regatta in my life right now, but they were all important to get to this point. I guess I have had more time to prepare for it, and I have had to as the home competition has been tougher and the venue is also tough strategically.'

But with such a talented pool of sailors victory is not a given and he will have to work incredibly hard for it. More than half the fleet are quite capable of denying Ainslie a dream result and they want to be there just as much as he does.

One man who knows that only too well is the 2008 Silver Medalist Zach Railey (USA). He was the only man who could beat Ainslie going into the 2008 Medal race but had the door firmly shut in his face by a determined Brit. Ever the optimist Railey summed up the competition, 'These are the best Finn sailors in the world going head to head at their best and that is the exact situation I want to put myself into and see where I come out in the end. It is the ultimate test and I can't wait for it to begin.'

'I race every race from a clean slate. I do not worry about the end result until the regatta takes me there. If I am beaten by someone because they were better than I was, I can accept that, but I cannot accept beating myself. The athletes always get better and better and smarter and smarter. It is amazing the progress you see over just a four year period. You have to constantly keep making improvements or you get left behind.'

The other main challenges are expected to come from Pieter-Jan Postma (NED), who took bronze in the test event and silver at the 2011 world championship; Jonathan Lobert (FRA) who took silver at the test event and always produces his best in Weymouth; Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO), double European Champion and always hovering around the top of the fleet; and Rafael Trujillo (ESP) the silver medalist from the 2004 Olympics and the 2007 World Champion, though he has had an inconsistent season so far.

Double World Champion Jonas Høgh-Christensen (DEN) considers himself some thing of a dark horse, though he is anything but that. Although he hasn't won anything since returning to the class in 2011, he is clearly on the pace and gunning for a third chance at a medal. He described the challenge. 'I think the whole fleet is fitter, stronger and have improved their technique a lot. I don't have a lot of pressure as I am not one of the favourites to take a medal. Probably more a dark horse, but I think this could end up playing in my favour. I am fresh and really pushing hard all the way. But seeing the last 10 months hard work come together with me performing my personal best, that will be the biggest satisfaction. I am truly blessed to have gotten another chance to do well at the Olympics and I will do my best to make to most of it.'

Another strong challenge could also come from the double Laser medalist Vasilij Zbogar (SLO). Having moved into the class in 2010 he made an immediate impact, culminating in a silver medal at this year's Europeans. He has focussed on training rather than regattas since the early season, so remains a a bit of an unknown quantity in Weymouth.

Other potential race winners could include Hyeres winner Brendan Casey (AUS), Kiel Week winner Deniss Karpak (EST), Tapio Nirkko (FIN), Dan Slater (NZL) and Daniel Birgmark (SWE), while some of the youngsters such as Greg Douglas (CAN), Ioannis Mitakis (GRE), Piotr Kula (POL) and Alcian Kaynar (TUR) have all made their mark this year in one way or another and could upset the apple cart if things go their way.

Mitakis is the current European Champion, but is realistic about his chances. He said, 'I only started sailing the Finn in 2009 after realising that I became too big for the Laser, so it was really demanding to qualify both my country and myself in only two years. I would be quite satisfied with a place in top ten.'


One of the youngest is Greg Dougas (CAN) at 22, though he is sailing his second Olympics; the first was in a Laser for Barbados in 2008. 'It means so much to me to be sailing at the Olympics this year. I have been working very hard for this over the last three years. My goal is just to sail my best and show these guys what I can do. I am very excited for the event because anything can happen and it will be a great all round test of sailing.'

At 36, Florian Raudaschl (AUS) is finally sailing his first Olympics, following in his father's footsteps. [Hubert Raudaschl won Silver in 1968.] 'I tried it before [in 2004 and 2008] and was not sent because of our tough national criteria. I am very proud of my father, especially when I hear the different stories of him from other sailors. But to be honest when you sail yourself and try to do a good regatta you do not think of this at all.'

'My goal is basically trying to do my best at the Olympic regatta. For the first time I have spent nearly as much time training as the other sailors do. That feels very good and even when the weather and wind situation in Weymouth are not my favourite ones I really start liking the place. The whole Olympic atmosphere seems to come closer and closer and I try to enjoy this great time.'

Over the next three weeks we'll be bringing you more of the sailor's stories, the trials and tribulations, the emotions and the struggles. The full texts of the interviews with Ben, Zach and Jonas will be released over the coming week, as well as others. Tomorrow we'll look at all of the Finn sailors in a little more depth.

The Finn programme begins on Sunday 29 July and ends with the medal race on Sunday 5 August. Reserve days are scheduled for Wednesday 1, Saturday 4 and Monday 6 International Finn Class Association website

Lancer 40 yearsSouthern Spars - 100T Clewring - Generic

Related Articles

Rio 2016 - The Qualification Games - Part 2
Yachting NZ's refusal to nominate in three classes won in the first round of 2016 Olympic Qualification is unprecedented Yachting New Zealand's refusal to nominate in three classes won in the first round of 2016 Olympic Qualification is without precedent. Subject to Appeal, the Kiwis have signaled that they will reject 30% of the positions gained in the ISAF World Sailing Championships in Santander in 2014.
Posted on 22 May
Gladwell's Line - World Sailing changes tack after IOC windshift
Over the past year, we've given the International Sailing Federation (now re-badged as World Sailing) a bit of stick Over the past year, we've given the International Sailing Federation (now re-badged as World Sailing) a bit of stick. Every blow well earned over issues such as the pollution at Rio, the Israeli exclusion abomination plus a few more. But now World Sailing is getting it right.
Posted on 21 May
Rio 2016 - The Qualification Games - Part 1
Antipodean selection shenanigans aside, the Qualification system for the Rio Olympics appears to be achieving its goals Antipodean selection shenanigans aside, the Qualification system for the Rio Olympics appears to be achieving goals set in the Olympic Commission report of 2010. Around 64 countries are expected to be represented in Rio de Janeiro in August. That is a slight increase on Qingdao and Weymouth, but more importantly a full regional qualification system is now in place
Posted on 19 May
Taming the beast-a conversation with Stuart Meurer of Parker Hannifin
While AC72 cats were fast, they difficult to control, so Oracle partnered with Parker Hannifin to innovate a better way. If you watched videos of the AC72s racing in the 34th America’s Cup (2013), you’re familiar with the mind-boggling speeds that are possible when wingsail-powered catamarans switch from displacement sailing to foiling mode. While foiling is fast, there’s no disguising the platform’s inherent instability. Now, Oracle Team USA has teamed up with Parker Hannifin to innovate a better way.
Posted on 18 May
From foiling Moths to Olympic starting lines-a Q&A with Bora Gulari
Bora Gulari’s is representing the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics in the Nacra 17 class, along with teammate Louisa Chafee. Bora Gulari (USA) has made a strong name for himself within high-performance sailing circles, with wins at the 2009 and 2013 Moth Worlds. In between, he broke the 30-knort barrier and was the 2009 US SAILING Rolex Yachtsman of the Year. His latest challenge is representing the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics in the Nacra 17 class as skipper, along with his teammate Louisa Chafee.
Posted on 12 May
Concern for Zika at Rio Olympics is now deadly serious
Alphabet soup is one description that has thus far not been used for either Guanabara Bay, Alphabet soup is one description that has thus far not been used for either Guanabara Bay, or the Rio Olympics. Many others have, and they were apt, but things have changed. So here now we have a situation where one man, Associate Professor Amir Attaran, who does have a more than decent string of letters after his name, is bringing nearly as many facts to bear as references at the article's end
Posted on 12 May
The importance of being Alive
Since buying the stunningly pretty Reichel-Pugh canting keel 66-footer, and re-naming her Alive, Since buying the stunningly pretty Reichel-Pugh canting keel 66-footer, and re-naming her Alive, the team have lined up for a lot of things, won plenty and nabbed a record, as well. She’s presently in a yard in the Philippines having a minor refit in readiness for the Australian season. It will commence with the upcoming Brisbane to Keppel and then head sharply into this year’s Hobart.
Posted on 10 May
Zhik - The brand born of a notion, not its history
here is probably every reason that ocean rhymes with notion. Zhik’s tagline is officially marketed as Made For Water There is probably every reason that ocean rhymes with notion. Zhik’s tagline has been officially marketed as Made For Water, and this is precisely what the company has done for the last eight years before the succinct and apt strapline came from out of R&D and into mainstream visibility.
Posted on 8 May
Shape of next Volvo Ocean Race revealed at Southern Spars - Part 1
Southern Spars has been confirmed as the supplier of spars for the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race. In mid-April, Race Director, Jack Lloyd and Stopover Manager Richard Mason outlined the changes expected for the 40,000nm Race during a tour of Southern Spars 10,000sq metre specialist spar construction facility. A total of up to seven boats is expected to enter, but time is running out for the construction of any new boats.
Posted on 3 May
Will NZ's most successful Olympic Sailing event cop the Selection axe?
New Zealand qualified in all ten of the 2016 Olympic events at the first round of Qualifying in Santander Spain New Zealand qualified in all ten of the 2016 Olympic events at the first round of Qualifying in Santander Spain in September 2014. In two of those the RS:X Windsurfing event, New Zealand is unlikely to be represented in the Men's event, and in the Women's event, Natalia Kosinska would appear to be a borderline selection.
Posted on 2 May