The official opening of the 2014 Finn Senior and Junior European Championships in La Rochelle, France, on Friday evening, was marked by the defending champion Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) handing over the trophy he won last year to Claire Fountaine, the President of the host club Société des Régates Rochelaises (SRR).
With nearly 100 Finns entered for the championship a competitive week ahead is expected. The opening ceremony was attended by Catherine Leonidas, the councillor in charge of sports at the Town Hall, Maryline Simoné, from the Region Poitu-Charent, and the London 2012 Bronze medalist Jonathan Lobert (FRA).
Mrs Fountaine opened by saying, "We welcome you to La Rochelle. We are very pleased to see 100 entries from 30 countries. On behalf of the SRR we hope you all have a good week's sailing. We are very pleased to see Finns in La Rochelle once again after the Europeans in 2004 and the Finn Gold Cup in 1996. We would also like to thank the local authorities from the Town Hall and the regional council, and the other authorities who look after the interests of sailing."
Jonathan Lobert said, "I am very pleased to have you all in La Rochelle." Referring to the weather, he said, "It's a little bit like Weymouth, but but I hope the weather will get better. I am sure we will have great racing. You will see it's nice to come back very tired and come ashore and have to climb back up the ramp. It's good training. I hope we have a great week and I hope you enjoy your stay in La Rochelle."
Ms Simoné also welcomed the sailors. "We are very pleased to see lots of sailors in La Rochelle again, especially the Finn class. We hope it won't be 10 years before you all come back for a Finn Europeans, but if you're coming earlier there's plenty of things to see and do in La Rochelle."
Ms Leonidas completed the speeches from the organisers. "La Rochelle is a very famous city for going sailing and I hope you will be very happy to be here for the next week, so welcome to you all."
The last welcome was from the Balazs Hajdu (HUN), President of the Finn Class, "First of all, thank you to the organisers for hosting us here this week. Unfortunately I am old enough to have sailed both previous championships here, and both times we had a very good time in La Rochelle. It is very rare for an opening ceremony in a sailing event that the average height of the competitors is 180-185 cm. Look around. There are many tall people and young people and this is what the Finn is about. It's very athletic, one of the most athletic classes from today's Olympic programme."
He closed, "Thanks to everyone again and I wish all of you good winds, fair sailing and results which are well deserved."
After that Zbogar handed over the Finn Senior European Trophy to Mrs Fountaine and the ceremony continued with the buffet and drinks. With a sumptuous fare of local produce and delicacies, the competitors were treated to a wonderful spread, including plates of local oysters. As usual, when food is placed near Finn sailors, it doesn't last very long.
Registration and measurement continues through Saturday and Sunday, with the practice race on Sunday afternoon. The first race of the championship is scheduled for Monday 11.00. 11 races are scheduled, including the medal race for the top 10 and the final race for the rest on Saturday 10 May.
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