Finn Gold Cup preview
The 2010 Finn Gold Cup is about to get underway in San Francisco. With 95 pre-entries from 28 countries and five continents it is set to be the largest Finn World Championship in the USA for more than three decades.
The focus is turning to the senior championship after the conclusion of the highly successful Junior Finn World Championship for the Silver Cup last Tuesday. The reliably solid wind patterns here should produce a tough and challenging series, starting Monday, with the breeze regularly hitting 18-25 knots in recent days and little signs of change in the near future.
Picking favourite's is as always a difficult task. The defending champion is Jonas Høgh Christensen (DEN). Having won in Denmark last year after almost stopping sailing for a year, the big question was whether he could he do it again, having only sailed Kiel in the last 12 months. However fate played a cruel hand as the Dane inexplicably broke a finger while out training this week and he is now all bandaged up rethinking his expectations. A pirate's hook wasn't an appealing prospect to the reigning world champion.
Ed Wright (GBR) is still hunting for his first World title. After taking the Europeans in 2006 and the bronze at the worlds the same year, he came closest last year and recently won the ISAF Sailing World Cup for Finns for the second year running. However he recently fell victim to one of the UK's fastest rising stars, Giles Scott (GBR). Scott won the recent Sail for Gold in Weymouth against some formidable opposition including the double Olympic Finn champion Ben Ainslie (GBR) and this may well have given his confidence such a boost that his lack of consistency becomes less of a problem. In fact, any of the four strong Skandia Team GBR sailing here are potential race winners, so expect to see at least two or three in the top 10 by the end of the week.
Double European Champion Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) is also likely to make a strong challenge. He has won two of the other major events this year and has been on the podium at all those he attended. However he tends to prefer the lighter winds, being one of the lightest sailors in the fleet, and San Francisco Bay is famous for its stiff winds.
Another sailor to watch for is Jonathan Lobert (FRA). Having medalled at two major events this year, including silver at Sail for Gold a few weeks back, Lobert is having his best season ever, and, together with sparring partner Thomas Le Breton (FRA), these two are increasingly featuring in the top 10 by the end of regattas.
The local favourite has to be Zach Railey (USA). The 2008 Olympic silver medalist probably knows these waters as well as or better than any other sailor here and has won races at most major events this season. However he has a strong fight ahead of him to be top dog this week with Bryan Boyd (USA), Caleb Paine (USA) and newly crowned world Finn junior world champion Luke Lawrence (USA) more than keep to upset the pecking order.
Also keep an eye on Pieter-Jan Postma (NED), Finn Gold Cup 2007 silver medalist; Daniel Birgmark (SWE), 2010 European bronze medalist; Dan Slater (NZL), 2008 Finn Gold Cup silver medalist; Rafael Trujillo (ESP), 2007 world champion; and Gasper Vincec (SLO), 2005 European bronze medalist; and back for another go is three time Olympian Anthony Nossiter (AUS). Another 10 to 15 sailors have race wining potential.
Added into this mix are a number of great sailors including former Laser world champion Nik Burfoot (NZL) and former Star world champion crew David Giles (AUS). The event is also set to become something of a Coutts family gathering with Rob Coutts (NZL) sailing alongside his nephew Matt Coutts (NZL), in his first Finn world championship. The last time a Coutts raced a major Finn event on the USA west coast, in 1984, he won Olympic Gold. That of course was Russell Coutts (NZL), Rob's brother and Matt's uncle.
The last time the Finn Gold Cup came to the US west coast was 1974, 36 years ago. In 1974 it was held in Long Beach and the winner there, Henry Sprague (USA), is also sailing this year, a most definite 'old hand' of the class. Another old hand, Gus Miller (USA), has spent the last week driving the 5,000km from his Rhode Island home with a new Finn on the roof because, “I gotta be here, it's the Finn Gold Cup,” At 75 he is the oldest competitor here, though maybe one of the youngest at heart.
Over the coming week, we'll be talking to all these sailors, and more, to bring their stories and their exploits in the Finn Gold Cup to the world. Some will be winners on the water and some will be winners in spirit, but they all take pride competing against some of the best sailors in the world, in this supreme test of physical and mental ability. After 54 years, the Finn Gold Cup remains one of the hardest trophies to win in the sport of sailing.
While the Silver Cup was based out of St Francis Yacht Club and sailing took place between the stunning backdrops of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, the Finn Gold Cup is being sailed on the Berkeley Circle, some six miles away. To save our tough sailors the long sail to and fro the event is actually based at Marina Bay in Richmond, just a short reach from the Circle.
Measurement and registration runs from Friday 27 to Sunday 29, with a practice race scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
Racing commences on Monday 30 August with two races scheduled each day at 12.00 each day until Friday 3 September. The medal race for the top 10 and the final race for the rest will be on Saturday 4 September.