The Finn Senior and Junior European Championships kicks off on Monday at 11.00 in La Rochelle, France. Registration and measurement are now complete with 101 boats from 30 nations entered for the event.
Training has been tough with, until Sunday, generally strong winds, low temperatures and changeable conditions. The forecast for the coming week predicts some improvement, and that was evident on Sunday with clear skies, lighter winds and sightly warmer temperatures as the last boats were measured and the practice race took place.
Giles Scott (GBR) is one of the favourites to take the title this week. He has been almost unbeatable in the last few years, winning eight of the 10 events he has competed in, including the 2011 Europeans and World Championship. He spent a week here training with the rest of the British squad in April, and has been back since Thursday getting in a few more days training as well as preparing his boat for the championship ahead.
He said, 'We came here a week after Palma ended for 10 days, and did seven days sailing. It was actually pretty light. We didn't really see over 10 knots, but the forecast for this week is a bit more than that. But the training was good. It was quite nice to have a break from the regattas and do some good tuning.'
What will he be expecting this week? 'There is a lot of tide here, being on the Atlantic coast, so that will play a relatively big factor depending on where they put the course. Generally if we are out to sea then there's not much of a difference in the tide. It's either one way or the other. But if they come closer to the shore I think it will get quite tricky. Other than that it's just going to be dependent on what systems are coming across the Atlantic. In that way it's quite a lot like England. It can be very windy, or it can be very light, we'll just have to wait and see.'
The strong tide was very evident in the practice race on Sunday afternoon, which attracted around 45 boats. In spite of a strong adverse tide, the fleet still needed a general recall to get the race away.
The 8-12 knots wind was very patchy, with many puffs and lulls, including a large left shift up the first beat that split the fleet. Jake Lilley (AUS) got to top mark in the lead, and then along with most of the fleet headed back in without completing the second lap. As usual no one finished the race, saving their energy for the challenge ahead.
The International Finn Association AGM on Saturday was well attended with around 50 sailors representing 25 countries present. Before moving to the decision making part of the meeting, the sailors heard about the continuing good health of the class, both in financial terms and in areas such as growth and development. It was pointed out that the class has invested considerably in both media and development. This includes supporting sailors through the Dinghy Academy in Valencia.
The President Balazs Hajdu (HUN) highlighted that the Finn now represents the only Olympic class for sailors more than 180 cm tall and who weigh over 90kg, and that the class is attracting these tall, heavy sailors in greater numbers, as evidenced by the 101 sailors here in La Rochelle, a lot of them new to the class. Fleets of 100 or more sailors are also now becoming commonplace rather than the exception. He added that now the Olympic status of the class is assured up to at least 2020, there will be added emphasis placed on equipment and measurement, to make sure the class rules, measurement policies and related human resources remain at the forefront of Olympic classes, by investing in measurement tools and training international measurers. There will also be further focus on the junior fleet as well as continental spread.
The key part of the meeting was voting for the 2016 events with bids from Gaeta, Italy, Barcelona, Spain and Quiberon, France. Probably the cold conditions in La Rochelle influenced the sailors as they voted for the 2016 Finn Gold Cup in Gaeta and the 2016 Europeans in Barcelona.
At the close of the meeting Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) presented Mike Maier (CZE) with a gift from all the Finn sailors present as he celebrated his 50th birthday. Everyone then enjoyed some food and beer on the deck of the club, with the cold beer served directly from the cockpit of a Finn.
The opening races for the 2014 Finn Junior and Senior Championship begin Monday at 11.00. The opening series of 10 races between Monday and Friday will be followed by the medal race for the top 10 and the final race for the rest on Saturday 10, May. Each race will be covered live on Twitter. There will also be video summaries each day.