Team GBR at the Finn Master World’s
An 18 strong BFA squad enjoyed a good time this week at the Finn World Masters in what at times were trying and tricky sea breeze conditions.
The regatta started on Sunday in perfect conditions – 10 knots and sunshine, with your Chairman (GBR 61) leading the first lap of the practice race (peaked too soon!) That evening a colourful opening ceremony was held including tradional Greek dancing and the handing over of a Finn flag signed by all the 204 competitors.
When racing began in earnest on Monday, Allen Burrell (GBR 2) had a good first day, playing the far right side of the beat in the soft sea breeze and scoring a great 6th and 2nd to lie joint third overnight. Poor John Torrance (GBR 99) didn’t have such a happy time – rammed on the second start by one of the top Russian contenders that resulted in the hull/deck joint being split open. In true Finn community tradition everyone rallied round and the boat was repaired overnight and the Russian who declined to do his turns or retire was rewarded with a DNE disqualification that sank his podium bid. Sander (GBR 1) had a good day with a 12th in race two – proving what he can do when he tries!
The next day looked much the same wind conditions but for no obvious reason Al’s tactic of starting late at the Committee boat and immediately tacking right didn’t pay and saw him buried deep as the soft thermal breeze flicked left and right. John H’s slightly more middle right route had the same result with both recording their worst score of the series – ouch! However, Jean- Louis Simons (GBR 617) in his first World Masters managed to find some clear wind despite also staying right-ish and worked the shifts right at the front and hung on brilliantly to score an impressive 4th place.
Both John and Allen managed to bounce back in the second race of the day. The wind flicked left just before the start and racing to the port end the pair headed hard left as the fleet all stayed right. The breeze built from out to sea and reached the left-hand corner first and built to a solid 12 knots plus. John with a light air sail flying, was at his (short!) full stretch to keep ahead but was just crossed by Finn France President Marc Allain De Beauvais (FRA 99) at the windward mark who came in from the right. A great race ensued with the Russians moving up impressively and Walter Riosa (ITA 55) battling with Allen for 3rd spot.
Some of the favourites however were not enjoying the great conditions. Five times champion Mike Maier (CZE 1) was hit and his boat damaged, ending his title challenge. Another former winner and several times runner up Andre Budzien, (GER 711) also looked out of the running after picking up a 59 and 33 on the first day, recovering to his more normal form with a 2nd and 7th.
Wednesday was a single race day after the Masters AGM (talk of a new ‘Super Legend’s’ category for 80+ sailors…) and with the sea breeze better-established decent conditions were provided. Allen notched up another strong score with a 6th and Mike de Courcy (GBR 708) had his best race, passing Al upwind but then losing him downwind to finish just astern in 7th. Meanwhile, quietly chalking up some amazingly consistent results, considering the conditions, was BFA Secretary Martin Hughes (GBR 567) with a 15, 17, 19, 13, 24. Not far behind was another steady sailor, Will Patten (GBR 52) with a similarly impressive 17, 19, 17, 63, 11. International Finn class Scribe Robert Deaves (GBR 10), sailing a loan local ‘neo-classic’ sailed cleverly to drag it round in 17th, narrowly losing the photo finish with GBR 61. Howard Sellars (GBR 77) had his best day too, with a flying start and a 22nd as the reward.
That evening the hosts put on an impressive Finn dinner at a smart beach front venue, over looking the race course. More Greek dancing ensued from a troupe that inciuded some of the sailors partners who had been taking lessons during the week.
Kavala’s hot and sunny conditions disappeared overnight on Wednesday to be replaced by a cold wet drizzle and the patchiest wind most of us have ever experienced. Contrasting forecasts predicted either 2-6 knots or thunderstorms and 20 knots, leaving some sailors in a state of stress as to which sail to take and where to put the mast.
Race 6 was eventually started after several attempts as a weak southerly tried to establish its self but it was intensely frustrating, as a gust would seem to come towards you and immediately fizzle out. Negotiating the left-over slop as the wind built and then died was hugely challenging and frustrating as we picked our way slowly to the top mark. Dave Potter (GBR 65) managed it better than most thanks to a good start to claim his best race in 11th and Allen recovered from a bad first leg to record an 18th.
The second race of the day was to many a race too far for the Race Committee who had previously been diligent to abandon races with 20 degree shifts and start again. With the windward leg even patchier than the previous race progress was painfully slow but when the majority of the blue fleet was completely becalmed on the final run the race many called the validity of the race to question. With the yellow fleet finishing the final ‘upwind’ leg to the finish on a run they seem determined to let it go. The leaders of the blue fleet managed to scramble across the line before it died completely and the Committee boat hastily fled the scene, leaving a good 2/3rds of the blue fleet still becalmed on the penultimate leg!
A final race was attempted on Friday morning with a weak offshore breeze that lasted until the leaders approached the windward mark and then died, resulting in it being abandoned. The fleet sat around as the sun came out and killed off the gradient breeze as a fickle sea breeze tried to establish. With the clock ticking toward the 2.0pm Medal Race start the Committee eventually abandoned the race and headed back to shore to set up the Medal Race show down. Allen Burrell, lying in 6th was the sole BFA representative and lined up against the three Russians, two Italians, two French, UKR 21 and NED 881. A light breeze at the start soon died and the race was stopped and re-started in not much more, never really exceeding 5 knots. Few tactics were possible in such conditions and the race was not a great spectacle, with the sailors just trying to make progress upwind. The wind filled in from the other side to Allen, leaving him to play catch-up that was never going to happen in the conditions and so he slipped to 9th on the double points scoring. However the result does nothing to diminish his huge success in yet another top 10 finish – especially in a week when many stars had results that kept them out of the medal race.
The deserved overall winner Vladimir Krutskikh (RUS 7) is a 42 year old two times Olympian and apart from Allen most of the medal race fleet were either Olympians or had done Olympic selection campaigns, which underlines how high the bar is now placed. However there is still great racing throughout the depth of the fleet and I would thoroughly recommend the experience to all BFA sailors.
Overall it was a great week, racing in the hot sun with good organisation overseen by Masters President Andy Denison with technical & measurements matters in the hands of fellow BFA members Richard Hart and Rory Barnes. Special thanks must go to Ray New, who selflessly organised with great care and efficiency the container shipping of 8 of the British boats. The smooth running and attention to detail of the shipping arrangements meant that the boats arrived on time in perfect condition, allowing the sailors to concentrate on the sailing. Thank you Ray.
Next year the event is scheduled for Garda in Italy, so start your planning now!
See final results here:World Masters results
See photo gallery here: Finn Masters 2015
John Heyes – GBR 61
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