A number of the young Finn sailors competing at the 2014 Finn Silver Cup in Hoorn, The Netherlands are benefiting from the training facilities at the Dinghy Academy in Valencia, run by 2000 Finn Silver medalist Luva Devoti (ITA).
We spoke with two of them, Santiago Falasca (ARG) and Joe McMillan (AUS). They come from diverse sailing backgrounds, but both have committed to the intensive training in Valencia to improve their skills and reach their goals.
Falasca, aged 18, said, 'I started sailing the Finn in March at the Academy with Luca, with the support of the Finn Class through its FIDeS programme. I started because I knew some Argentinian and Uruguayan guys were sailing in Valencia so I thought it was a good opportunity to start a sailing career and have some progress in my sailing.'
McMillan told how he came to be there. 'I've been sailing the Finn for one year now and I started because I didn't really have a choice. My father sent me to Valencia. I wasn't really doing much with my life. I had quit sailing for two years and just wanted to get back into it. The training has been going well in Valencia. We've had 15 or so boats on the water every day, with a nice breeze every day. We do lots of racing together with Vasilij [Zbogar] and the others.'
Falasca gets some help through the Finn class development programme, FIDeS. 'The Finn Class is giving me help through Luca, accommodation in Valencia, a boat to train in, and some financial help to come to the regattas. It's a big help for me to do this and sail the Finn in Europe.'
There are a lot of sailors training in Valencia through the year. 'Here in Hoorn we have Joe McMillan, who is always in Valencia. Arkadiy Kistanov (RUS) comes to Valencia often to sail with us. Martin Robitaille (CAN) was sailing there a couple of months ago and he is coming back end of July. Also Simon Gorgels (GER) sailed with us for a couple of weeks.
It's great sailing because many people come there because we have good winds, good conditions and really good sailors.'
'I very much like the Finn since I started sailing, so I will keep at it. I have been sailing Laser since I was 14 and now I have just turned 18.' What attracted him? 'The challenge of the Finn, the opportunity to do an Olympic campaign. The fact that coming to Europe and sailing the Finn was much easier for training every day with good guys. That wasn't so possible in the Laser in Argentina. I am training every day in Valencia with Vasili Zbogar, with Zsombor Berecz, and with many great guys who know how to sail properly, so that's a really great way to improve my sailing.'
He decided to come to Hoorn after being denied a place at the ISAF World Championships in Santander. 'It's kind of a weird thing that there is not even one spot for Argentina. There were some problems but I don't know why I didn't win a spot. It's shame. But I still like to be here at the Junior Worlds because I think it's more exciting for sailing for me at the moment, just after six months of sailing the Finn. Here I can do some good races.'
'Hopefully I will be able to go to Takapuna (for the second Olympic qualifier in 2015) because now with the continental spots I might have a good chance, so I would like to take that chance. That's why I am training so hard in Valencia every day and I think I shall keep training this way and if things go right I will hopefully qualify for Rio.'
McMillan said, 'In Valencia, we do these little regattas each week, practising our racing skills. There are so many boats there you are always finding yourself in racing situations. We generally have six days on and then rest on Sunday and then do it all again, week after week. The improvements are mainly in boat handling, racing skills, but the big fleet racing is something I need to work on.'
'My biggest goal at the moment is just qualifying for the Australian Sailing Team, and trying to get some funding so I don't have to support myself as much any more. Just to get in the squad somehow. I need top 30 or 40 in Santander. I managed to get a space there as Brendan has pulled out as he decided to give up Finn sailing.'
'Finn sailing is great because you get to race all these other guys that go to the Games. I enjoy is a lot more than the Laser, The racing is more exciting, with downwind pumping.'
What does Falasca most like about the Finn, 'I like many things about the Finn. At first when I started and wasn't very fit and didn't like the free pumping but now I am starting to like it a lot. If you put in proper effort you can overtake many boats. I like the upwind much more than in the Laser even though it is harder, because I really like the way the boat moves through the waves.'
'In the Finn I have learned more about sailing than in all the other years I have been sailing. In these six months I have learned more than in all my previous sailing career because the Finn is a very complete boat, from rigging the boat, to materials, everything is very complete for sailing.'