With the European sailing season about to begin in earnest with the 42 SAR Princesa Sofia MAPFRE Sailing World Cup event in Palma, the Finn class is looking forward to another record breaking year in 2011 as pre-entries outstrip previous years after a ongoing period of growth within the class.
For Palma, entries even had to be turned down as the class received 92 against a quota of 80. Eventually the organisers settled on 85 entries from 25 nations making it the joint second largest class at the regatta. These figures are unprecedented and show the positive result of worldwide development programmes within the class as well as increased interest in the Finn at all levels of competition. There is a similar ‘problem’ for Hyeres with 88 entries so far, and no doubt more to follow.
The class at Palma will include both the current Olympic champion Ben Ainslie (GBR) and the current World Champion Ed Wright (GBR), but not the world number one Ivan Klakovic Gaspic (CRO), as the Croatian team have decided to start their season in Hyeres. Apart from the Croatians, all the top 20 world ranked will be present and it will be the most competitive regatta since last year’s world championships in San Francisco, and for many the start of a long road for Olympic qualification.
Also in contention in Palma will be the winner of the Rolex Miami OCR, Giles Scott (GBR), the 2008 Olympic silver medalist Zach Railey (USA), and the 2007 World Champion and the runner up at the worlds last year Rafa Trujillo (ESP), and the winner at the Perth International Regatta Jonathan Lobert (FRA). Other names to watch for include Brendan Casey (AUS), Thomas Le Breton (FRA), Dan Slater (NZL) and the two other British sailors Andrew Mills (GBR) and Mark Andrews (GBR). All of these are capable of winning races and gaining top 10 placings overall.
The fleet in Palma includes a notably large Italian team, which is starting its selection process for 2012, as well as new faces from Lithuania and Slovakia. There is also an impressive 12 boat team from Russia, highlighting the exponential growth there in recent years. An interview feature on the Russian situation will be released shortly. Come Hyeres, the fleet will be joined by a four strong Chinese team, the first time a Chinese sailor has competed at a Finn major since the Olympics.
Looking further afield the World Masters are heading to Italy in June for what is expected to be the largest Finn event off all time. Two years ago the event broke all records with 268 entries. To date 234 entries have been made for 2011, with the organisers expecting closer to 300 Finns to finally turn up at the PuntAla Camping Resort in Tuscany, for a week of idyllic off the beach racing on the warm waters of the Mediterranean.
In early July, the senior fleet heads to Helsinki for the Open Europeans, closely followed by the world junior championship for the Silver Cup in Moscow at the end of July. The year ends with the Finn Gold Cup in Perth, Australia, at the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships where the first country places for the 2012 Olympics will be decided. It will be a long hard season of racing for many, and a crucial one as well.
International Class President Balazs Hajdu commented on growth of the class and the large numbers sailing the boat, "These figures are self explanatory and show the strength and depth of the international Finn fleet. To our satisfaction the fleet is not only large but includes a number of new athletes in the class as well as new countries and a strong junior / young senior fleet which are all inevitable ingredients for a healthy Olympic class. There are also new and promising challenges ahead. Support requests came in recently from Argentina, Israel, Macedonia and the Philippines and the opportunity to bring Finn sailing to these countries is a big asset to our class."
Once again the Finn class will provide in-depth media reports from all the events, bringing the battles and the struggles of the sailors to life through interviews, photographs and videos on every step of their journey.