For the third time in the event's history, the Finn European Championship returns to Warnemünde, Germany, this weekend as 2013 Open and Junior Finn European Championship gets under way on Friday 19 July. It has attracted a huge entry from across the world.
So the story goes, the marina at Warnemünde, where the 2013 event will take place, was originally built in time for the first Finn Europeans there in 1961. The second event was held shortly afterwards in 1969, so a third visit to the former East German sailing centre has been a long time coming. Those who know Warnemünde well, know it as an exceptional venue for sailing and by the end of next week, the Finn fleet will hopefully know the same.
Warnemünde is famous for its big stable winds, long waves and fabulous hospitality. The organising club for the championship is Akademischer Segler Verein zu Rostock eV, which is actually located close to Rostock, further up the River Warnow. However the venue for the event is located at the Warnemünder Segel Club, which overlooks the entrance to the River Warnow. The course area is just a short sail from the club to just outside the harbour mouth. The club is also just a short walk across the town bridge to the delights of the picturesque fishing town of Warnemünde, as well as its active nightlife.
That first event in 1961 attracted just 14 entries, but it was different regatta in those days with only one boat per nation allowed. The picture in 2013 is very different with a massive pre-entry of 116 boats from 29 nations and five continents, making it not only the largest entry ever for the Finn Europeans but also the largest entry for a Finn senior championship for 30 years.
The defending champion is Ioannis Mitakis (GRE) who was the surprise winner at last year's very light championship in Scarlino, Italy. Other former champions in attendance this year are Ed Wright (GBR) from 2006, Eduard Skornyakov (RUS) from 2007, and Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) from 2009 and 2010.
There are also 17 sailors with Olympic experience in the fleet and five who are past world champions or Olympic medalists. It is probably the strongest Finn fleet that has gathered together in one place for a long time. With a couple of exceptions, virtually all the top sailors will be present.
So far in 2013, British sailors have won all the major events in Europe. Giles Scott (GBR) won Palma, Andrew Mills (GBR) won Hyeres, Ed Wright (GBR) won Garda and then Mark Andrews (GBR) sailed a career best to win the next three events in Medemblik, Weymouth and Kiel. While Scott will be missing in Warnemünde due to America's Cup commitments, the rest of the team are entered and will undoubtedly be looking to continue their run of major events this year.
Numerically the German's unsurprisingly have the largest team with 25 entries. Despite being the largest Finn sailing nation in the world, Germany had not sent a sailor to the past two Olympic Games. However this time round they will be looking to put that right with several sailors starting to produce good results in the last quadrennial. After having missed out in 2012, Jan Kurfeld (GER) is making his comeback at this event. He was also instrumental in bringing the event to Warnemünde in the first place, having helped win the bid back in 2010. He said of the venue, 'I know that our sailing area is one of the world’s best and can compete easily with others.'
It's always hard calling favourites and tempting fate, and for this event in particular there's a long list of potential challengers. Furthermore, the form of many sailors is not clear as many have only competed in a few events this year and not always all together.
The British sailors are expected to be very strong, but it is unlikely they will be totally dominant. Several top sailors have been having some down time including the double European champion Kljakovic Gaspic, but is always a strong competitor and should be in the hunt. Pieter-Jan Postma (NED), Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) and Jonathan Lobert (FRA) are also expected to be among the favourites, while Tapio Nirkko (FIN), Deniss Karpak (EST), Piotr Kula (POL), Thomas Le Breton (FRA), Eduard Skornyakov (RUS), Josh Junior (NZL), Andrew Murdoch (NZL) and Rafa Trujillo (ESP) - and several others if it goes light - are capable of pushing the front.
Junior and Murdoch are still in their first Finn season and are already turning heads, most notably Junior, who picked up the bronze in Hyeres. They have been training hard since then, so this will be the first indication of any leaps made since April.
As well as the seniors the event also includes the Junior European Championship, which has 16 entries so far. The favourite here has to be Jake Lilley (AUS) who has just taken the silver medal at the Finn Silver Cup (Junior Worlds) last week on Garda. If Warnemünde produces its best conditions he could be hard to beat.
The sailing area of Warnemünde is one of the best in all Germany, if not Europe, and would have been the sailing venue for the 2012 Olympic Games had Leipzig’s bid been successful. Early forecasts are for unbroken sunshine, tempertaures in the high 20s and light to moderate onshore winds every day. You couldn't really ask for much more.
by Robert Deaves
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8:16 AM Thu 18 Jul 2013GMT
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