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An interview with Roland Fournier on the 2022 U.S. Finn National Championships

by David Schmidt 17 May 08:00 PDT May 20-22, 2022
David Terrol - 2021 Finn World Masters © Robert Deaves

When it comes to singlehanded One Design sailing for bigger athletes, the Finn class has reigned supreme for decades. The boat was created by Swedish designer Rickard Sarby in 1949, ahead of the Helsinki 1952 Olympics, were it debuted as the one-person heavyweight dinghy event. (Sarby, it should be noted, earned a bronze medal at those Games in his own design.) The boat featured prominently in every Olympic Games through the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This impressive track record makes it the longest-serving dinghy in Olympic circles, while also endearing it to countless sailors.

Sadly for Finn enthusiasts, the design was dropped ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Paul Elvstrom (DEN) and Sir Ben Ainslie (GBR) may be the class’s most famous sailors, but other big names include (but are not limited to) Iain Percy (GBR), Giles Scott (GBR), and Sir Russell Coutts (NZL).

The U.S. never earned a gold medal in the class, but U.S. athletes (Peter Barrett, John Bertrand, Brian Ledbetter, and Zach Railey) managed to earn four silver medals at the 1964, 1984, 1992, and 2008 Games (respectively), plus two bronze medals (John Marvin and Caleb Paine) at the 1956 and 2016 Games.

The gravity of the Olympics may be gone, but this athletic class (read: unlimited pumping and rocking in airs over 10 knots) is still popular with bigger singlehanded sailors. Take, for example, this year’s U.S. Finn National Championships (May 20-22) is being hosted by the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club in Long Beach, California, which has attracted 37 sailors from multiple Western States. I checked in with Roland Fournier, event chair of the 2022 U.S. Finn National Championships, via email, to learn more about this exciting One Design event.

Can you please tell us a bit about the Finn class, its culture and competition levels, and the kinds of sailors that one can expect to encounter at this year’s U.S. Nationals?

[The] SoCal Finn class locally has some great sailors and are willing to share their knowledge to the newbies and whoever will listen. 2022 Nationals entry list is deep, [and] has a past Finn Olympic Gold medalist, and a very enthusiastic fellow that just sailed a Finn for the first time a month ago, and all types of college All-Americans and seasoned veterans [aged] 15 to 75 with a good size group of U23’s.

There have been clinics, coaching and a flurry of new sails being purchased. We are expecting a very competitive group.

Has the class changed a lot since it lost its Olympic status? If so, how does this change (or changes) affect the class’s competition levels since 2016? What about the class’s overall culture?

The class locally has been growing very quickly—the current culture is extremely competitive on the water but when on land there is a lot of sharing of information and libations, embracing of any newbies. There is even a Finn band, The ‘BluFinns’ a group of San Diego Finn sailors, they will be playing Friday night for the group.

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing this year? Also, are there any notable geographical concentrations to this entry list?

We have 37 signed up so far, about half from SoCal [and] then all across the country

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter off of Long Beach in mid-to-late May? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

Long Beach is known for the spring/summer afternoon SW breeze of 12-18, sometimes in the 20s. We have the option to sail behind the break wall or outside in the waves, which the PRO will decide on each race day.

Do you see local knowledge playing a big or small role in the regatta’s outcome? Can you please explain?

Some say go right in Long Beach, but [that’s] not always the case, [you] need to keep eyes on the water of that lefty…it can really produce some good results.

Do you have any entrants that you’re eyeing for podium finishes? What about any dark horses who you think could prove to be fast, once the starting guns begin sounding?

There are a lot of excellent people entered. The local crew here at ABYC have been doing a lot of training so they will be fast – tough to make a prediction.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add, for the record?

The sponsors—[this event] would not have happened if they didn’t step up, and the great staff and volunteers at ABYC.

Gladstones (

Buley Investments (

North Sails (

Allen UK (

Dorgan Yachts (

Tom Walker Photography (

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