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Adrian Finglas - An unending smile and enduring passion

by John Curnow 13 Dec 2020 19:07 PST
Adrian Finglas - smiling at London 2012 © Photo supplied

You know it’s still funny. After all these years, and the number of times I’ve written his name, you still simply type in, Aidz. The nickname is as synonymous with the man, as that smile, and his faultless dedication to task. And he is certainly not offended by it, for he writes on his own messages, ‘Your little mate Aidz.’ Q.E.D

Alas, things have changed, and Aidz has left the building, as such, which is to sailing’s loss. Not just to those he is coaching now, but to all the younglings to come, who would have benefitted from his guiding principle to just let them go out and have some fun on the water.

“I just want to go back and enjoy sailing again. It’s the sport I grew up with, and my initial goal now is to have fun with my mates. I’ll go and sail a Sabre on the Mornington Peninsula at McCrae or Blairgowrie, and in January I’ll go home to Brisbane to pick up my brand new VX One. I reckon $40k on a trailer with covers is a terrific way to get back into OD sailing”, said Finagles.

In a complete change, Finglas moves over to construction, having tried before he bought as it were, all courtesy of Victoria’s COVID lockdown. David Williamson from the Royal Brighton Yacht Club sails a VX One and RS100, as well as running Balustrade and Handrail Technology. “I’m going to be installing the gear, so I’m on the tolls and we’ll see where it all goes from here. A few people have asked for some help with their Junior Programmes, and I’ll always be there to help the youths, just as was done for me back in the day.”

It was towards the end of his career in sailing that Aidz became so well known as a coach and youth development specialist. First it was at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, then Andrew Plympton inspired him to come to Victoria and operate out of the Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club, before he moved over to the reinvigorated Royal Brighton Yacht Club.

Yet like most dedicated and celebrated individuals, there is a vast history to highlight when you get to do a piece such as this. Aidz started in the Sabot and won the Australian Championship in 1983. A 420 title followed in 1986, and in the same year he won the Australian Youth Nationals and placed sixth in Greece in the 470 thereafter.

Then in 1989 he won firstly the Taser Nationals, then the World title in Yeppoon. In 1991 he added another Australian title to his tally, this time in the 470, and was part of the pre-selection for Barcelona, but did not go, for we did not field a crew in 1992, to which Finglas just says, “…big disappointment”. In 1997 he added a Five Oh Australian Championship to the scoreboard.

As for coaching, well he kind of got into early and it helped supplement his pathway, remembering that in that era there were no full time team positions as such. It was one of the Doyens of WA sailing, Syd Corser, who kicked him off after seeing him in Belgium in 1986 in the 420, and arranged for him to assist the WA 420 Association.

You can see where Finglas got his determination to try new things out when you reflect on how after 1992 he went and gave triathlons a go. He was pretty handy in it too, going on to represent Australia at the World Championships in Manchester, which makes him a dual sport representative for our country. Naturally, this is something he is particularly proud of.

Sailing hooked him in again later on when he got involved with the One Australia/Sydney 95 America’s Cup programme on the Gold Coast that was run by Fluid Thinking. He was the port trimmer, but broke his collarbone in a bike accident, and therefore did not race. “You had Grant Simmer, Rod Davis and Iain Murray all there. It was like going to Uni for sailing, and it certainly reignited my passion for sailing.”

Finglas dabbled back in the 470, just as the great Victor Kovalenko came to Australia, but he was chasing big boats, and did all the coastal races and won the Hobart as part of the Bumblebee team. There were Farr 40s too, and he supplemented his sailing income with coaching, becoming full time in 2007. Very quickly he was part of the top end, and took the Yngling crew of Krystal Weir, Karen Goynich, and Angela Farrell to China. Yet it was Dan Fitzgibbon and Rachel Cox in the Skud 18 who collected a Silver Medal that would be the highlight.

Busy times for sure, but it just meant that they cranked it up even more in Queensland on his return, and our current Finn legend, Jake Lilley, is a product of this era. Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch taking Gold at the London Paralympics, and not much longer after that ‘Plymo’ managed to get Finglas to Victoria, and here we are.

Of course there are many crewmembers and other important souls who were there for the Finglas’ achievements. People like Kim Alexander in the 420, then Australian sailing demi-gods Adam Beashel and Mark Bradford in the 470. Also 505 Australian crewing gurus Simon Gorman, and Sam Heritage, as well as Dave and Don Hewitt in the Sharpies. Aidz has sailed alongside so many great people and would like to thank them all.

As the chapter closes, Finglas reflected and said, “It’s been a fantastic journey and apart form the thousands of sailors and fellow coaches I have been fortunate enough to spend time with, these people were such a big part of it. Mum and Dad. Tom Verdon who taught me to sail. The Sandgate Yacht Club and especially Wallace Bishop who totally fostered my love of sailing, Bishop even bought seven or eight 420s back in the 80s to help kick it all along.”

“Then there is Mike Fletcher who is simply the guru. John Fergusson at RQ who was the Olympic Team Manager for Seoul and personally organised funding for me. I must also make special mention of Philippe Kahn from Pegasus Racing who really showed me the massive work ethic that successful people have. Then underneath it all he has a kindness and humility, and is a super generous man.”

In a way that last point probably sums up both Aidz and his legacy in our sport. He is deeply satisfied with his efforts to help all the young lives he’s been able to help and then watch them grow in magnificent Australians, no matter whether they stay in sailing or not. Aidz has made a real contribution to our nation, and for that we can all be very thankful.

Cheers to you little mate!

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