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Global spread, equipment longevity and youth appeal

by Robert Deaves 27 Oct 01:02 PDT
Global spread, equipment longevity and youth appeal © Robert Deaves

As the following brief glimpse of Finn class activity reveals, there are a growing number of nations and record level entries in many events across the world.

2018 has been another epic season for the Finn class. At a time when sailing is reported by many to be in decline, the Finn class is continuing to expand. It provides a level of performance, accessibility and ambition that is hugely attractive across the age range and across many nations. Not only are the senior fleets as deep and competitive as they have been for a generation, but there is continuous growth in youth appeal, and exponential growth in Masters fleets across the world. Love for the Finn is as strong as ever.

The Finn remains the longest running equipment used at the Olympic Games and while there have always been calls for change, this long association has more advantages than disadvantages. It provides stability for MNAs, sailors and manufacturers, giving them confidence to invest in equipment and develop sailor's skills and expectations. It is a solid and stable platform that nurtures sailors on the tough journey they face to navigate the choppy waters of international competition and of life.

The long history of the Finn has also meant that equipment has become very refined and reliable, with many builders around the world producing high quality Finns and Finn equipment. The Finn is one of just two measurement-controlled classes still in the Olympic programme and that is important.

Throughout the class's history one hull builder has often dominated the top end of the class; this is not a disadvantage, but ensures consistency, reliability and confidence in a proven product.

Furthermore, the biggest advantage to be gained in a Finn is not in the hull, but in the choice of rig, and the fleet at all levels have masts and sails made from many different builders across the world. Any Finn sailor worth his salt will tell you the rig is far more important than the hull.

Investment in Finn equipment is just that – an investment. It is not a cost. There is no need to buy 10 hulls and 50 masts just to find the one that is the way you like it. You buy one of each and it comes from the builder the way you like it. It also retains most of its value for many years, as well as remaining competitive. Indeed it will last for several campaigns and still hold much of its value until such time as the investment can be cashed in.

This has huge relevance for developing grass roots Finn sailing around the world, as there is always a source of economic, reliable and quality equipment for the incoming youth and the vast number of club and Master sailors, who support the class and develop Finn sailing worldwide. There is a structure, if you like, and a pathway, from the smallest club to the Olympic gold medalist that keeps the class healthy and prospering.

Indeed it could be argued that these advantages are because the Finn is a measurement-controlled class. This provides a focus on quality and reliability and, as we all know, manufacturing tolerances are often tighter with measurement-controlled classes than with manufactured controlled one-design classes.

Of course the Finn has always been the equipment of choice for the larger sailor and with many studies showing the natural evolution towards larger, heavier men, there remains an even more important need to cater for this demographic within the Olympic programme. There is also a strong case that these sailors should be given the opportunity to helm.

Results of past surveys have frequently backed up these arguments, with the range of top Finn sailor body weights ranging from around 87 kg to more than 100 kg, compared to the helms of all other current Olympic equipment, where actual body weights top out at 87 kg.

The Finn not only caters for the larger sailor, but it also remains a hugely attractive option for many sailors across the world, with unsurpassed levels of athletic ability and sailing skill required to win on the biggest stages. It is the compete package, with unequalled heritage and a solid class administration producing a foundation of stability and constancy.

Towards Tokyo

The 2018 season is all but over, but much of the fleet now head down under for training and regattas before all eyes turn to the all-important 2019 season.

The Finn class's long-standing emerging nations programme has given countless sailors from many nations a step up towards international competition. In 2018, in particular, eight sailors received assistance to compete in Aarhus, including many new and returning nations such as Cuba, Hong Kong, Iran, Namibia and South Africa. We look forward to seeing how many of these perform as they prepare for the coming season, with the second Olympic qualifier in Marsala in Sicily in May, before the continental qualifiers fill the remaining places for Tokyo 2020.

Also in 2019, the Masters head to Denmark and Germany and the U23s head to Italy, at an old favourite, Anzio, while the season will come to a fantastic conclusion at the Finn Gold Cup in Melbourne in December. It has all the ingredients for another epic Finn year in the making.

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