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NZ Finn Masters: Impressions from the fleet - top sailors shifting to the Finn

by NZ Finn class/S-W NZ 4 Aug 12:52 PDT
Close upwind racing - Waiuku Finn Masters Regatta © Gary Morse

Some of the stars of the fleet provided a few comments from Waiuku Yacht Club's 2020 Finn Masters' National Championships, to offer further insight into their experience.

Following the successful 2019 OK Worlds in Auckland, several top sailors have stayed with both the OK Dinghy and its Olympic sister, the Finn class.

Their first real competition was in the 2020 NZ Masters Championship in Auckland.

Here's their perception of the event and the transition to the bigger, heavier boat.

Rod Davis

Both Dan Bush and Mark Perrow invited me to try sailing a Finn while we were previously competing at an OK regatta. Never having been in a Finn before, and hearing it was the most physical of all the Olympic classes, I was wondering if this was a good idea or not. But what the hell, “do something that challenges you” and learn something!

I found that the Finn while being a much bigger and heavier boat than the OK, was sailed fundamentally the same. More physical for sure, with all the pumping downwind, and slightly different ‘go fast’ techniques, but the Finn was a real pleasure to sail.

The fleet sailors, to a man, helped this novice Finn sailor with all the techniques - put the board all the way back, mast rake here, end of the boom on the rail, further out in more wind. They got me to 90% there on the beach, and that was enough to get on the water and race.

With each day of the Master’s regatta, I was getting better, and by the end, I was feeling pretty competitive with the top group, until I rolled the boat over on a run. That put me in my place!

It was a regatta that basically fell into place for me, thanks to Bushy for the boat, and everyone else who answered my questions on how to set the boat up. They made sailing a Finn a lot of fun and something that I will make happen again soon. Where are those Nationals again?

Tom Dodson

Even though it was the middle of winter, that was one of the most enjoyable weekends sailing I can remember, and I finished mid-fleet. After 39 years out of a dinghy, I was pleasantly surprised how the Finn looked after me around the course in gusty shifty conditions. I was unpleasantly surprised at how out of practice I had become at picking my way upwind through the shifts and other boats. This is something I look forward to honing.

Regarding the new equipment, I sailed a 42-year-old woodie in the first six races which still felt great but was a challenge performance wise then a new boat in the last three races which was stunning.

I cannot imagine why the Finn is still not in the Olympics because I don’t think another boat exists that rewards good starts, strategy, fleet management, boat handling and strength and fitness at this level. I wouldn’t be surprised if the class continues to flourish as a result of being out of the games.

Dan Slater

It was great to get back into the Finn after eight years since I last raced a regatta. The body has changed a lot in that time, and I forgot how physical the boat allows you to be. My brain thought It was ten minutes ago, but the reality was ten years - not quite the same! With such a great turn out it was neat to go Finn racing again and catch up with old and new faces in the class. The free pumping I would say is still the hardest part of the class. One particular downwind run when the Oscar flag was up to pump I gave it my all, which wasn’t quite what it used to be. At the finish, I was completely spent and even felt the need to feed the fish after crossing the line.

Waiuku provides a perfect sailing venue as its super shifty, flat water and the racing time is limited by the tide so its all a good level playing field for equipment, body and brain. Alan Dawson (who lent me his boat )and the Waiuku Club again were fantastic hosts and made the weekend a really good time. Thank you.

Paul Bamford

After reading many Facebook posts and seeing photos, I thought it was time to come up and experience the NZ Finn Masters at Waiuku for the first time -seeing that this year was my second ever Finn nationals in 30+ years! Cam Doig from Blenheim also made the trek north and sailed. One of the great things about the NZ Finn class is everyone is really friendly and willing to share their knowledge to help you out. I am indebted all those who have helped me out – from our local Finn team at Lyttelton- to everyone else who has been encouraging and happy to provide advice.

The legendary Alan ‘Dawsy’ Dawson loaned me his boat to use and getting on the water in Waiuku in mid-winter is definitely warmer than Lyttelton Harbour at the same time of year. Conditions were shifty with just the right breeze, so we were actually hiking - and a 20 boat fleet was great.

Accommodation overnight in the clubhouse was pretty comfortable and great way to keep costs down.

Looking forward to a great Finn Nationals 2021 at Naval Point in Lyttelton.

Final consensus on the Finn Masters - I’ll be back!

Alan Dawson - Regatta PRO & Organiser

As a current Finn sailor, I was disappointed not to be out there competing in this series.

But having the chance to PRO the three-day, nine-race regatta after a training injury was a great way of having the best front-row seat ever. With the help of Waiuku yacht club member Dave Allen and Finnster Dan Bush made sure that good courses were set and accurate finishes times recorded. A bonus for me was having my three Finn in the fleet of 20 boats and of course Olympian Dan Slater sailing my 2014 classic. What more could I ask for?

The Waiuku yacht club based at the most southern waters of the historic Manukau Harbour is a great leveller for Finn sailing. With tricky wind and tide conditions. Many of the older boats and former Finn sailors - along with the newbies to the class - had their moments at the front of the fleet with the guns in most of the nine races.

Congratulations to Karl Purdie for taking out the masters trophy with some very close racing and tight finishes.

To our Legend Finnster Kevin Stone, great to see you and the Vanguard boat sailing again. It’s always a pleasure to catch up with the boys from the Soth Island and once again giving the thumbs up for a return next year. Finn sailing and camaraderie go hand in hand as this regatta showed. Great sportsmanship on and the water was a highlight for me. Hats off to all that entered and enjoyed the three-day regatta. Spread the word for next year- the more, the merrier.

Lastly a special thanks to The WYC for hoisting the event and to all those that made it possible, sailors and helpers.

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