It really does seem that - once a Finn sailor, always a Finn sailor - and that they just don't ever want to give up. Therefore three upper age categories were created to reward the more chronologically challenged. Grand Masters have to be 50-59, Great Grand Masters 60-69, and would you believe it, those 70 and over also have their own age category. They is quite aptly and simply called Legends. All Finn sailors aspire to become a Legend. To be a Legend World Champion must require something very special.
First sailed in 1970 when just 18 boats turned up, the Finn World Masters Championship has grown year on year and is regularly the highest attended Finn event in the calendar. This year is no exception, and with the event being held at the popular venue of Medemblik in Holland, an unprecedented and staggering 280 ageing Finn sailors have pre-entered to compete at the regatta. The Dutch organisers are as surprised about this as everyone else.
Starting a fleet of this size is always going to present problems, so the organisers have planned to run a group system with two starts. However, if all the pre-entries actually turn up, this is still 140 boats per start, which should prove some spectacle and an exciting challenge for the competitors.
However, the Finn World Masters is much more than just another regatta. It has become symbolic of the camaraderie and sportsmanship that the class is famous for. For many sailors, the Finn Masters is the perfect antidote to Olympic sailing and allows sailors to remain a part of the class, even if they only sail the one regatta a year – as many do. The program in Medemblik also includes after sailing drinks, cultural events and a ladies program. It aims to be a very inclusive and fun regatta.
Unsurprisingly the largest national fleet entered comes from the Dutch corner, which has more than 70 boats entered, while the other large Finn sailing nation, Germany, is fielding 64 entries. In total there are entries from 26 different countries represented including some new ones to the Masters scene. The pre-entry list reads like a who's who of Finn sailing from the past four decades.
The numerous previous winners competing next week include Walter Mai (GER) who won the event in 1984, Jørgen Lindhardtsen (DEN) in 1985, Kurt Schimitzek (AUT) in 1991, and Roland Balthasar (GER) in 1992 and 1994. The defending champion is Andre Budzien (GER).
Having placed second four years running between 2002 and 2006, he finally took home the massive trophy in 2007. Budzien is back again this year and will be one of the favourites for the title. The big favourite for the title would have been Michael Maier (CZE), the 2006 World Masters winner, but after a gruelling season so far he has chosen to take a rest after the European Championship in Scarlino, where he is competing this week.
Measurement and registration concludes and the practice race will be sailed on Sunday 11 May. Then the first of six group qualification races will be held between Monday 12 and Thursday 15. The final race, where the fleets will be split into gold and silver flights will be sailed on Friday 16 May. Whatever else happens, it is going to be an awesome spectacle of Finn sailing on the IJsselmeer.
Event website: www.finn-masters.nl
Class website: www.finnclass.org