The Finn World Masters is rapidly becoming one of the most renowned one-design dinghy regattas in the world. Wherever it is held these days it is attracting well over 200 entries, with sailors from all over the globe and from every age from 39 to 75...and sometimes more. This week, for the first time ever, the event is being held in Greece and with 204 entries it has exceeded all expectations on turnout. It's never about numbers but when that many sailors head for one of the furthest corners in Europe, there must be something special going on. And there is.
The Finn World Masters has been growing year on year for the past 45 years. From just a handful of entries for the first decade it really took off during the 1980s and then over the past 10 years has expanded to the point that it is getting harder to find clubs big enough to handle that many boats. In Kavala this week the class has taken over half the main street and quayside to accommodate more than 200 Finns, trailers, campers and gear. There is a massive logistical exercise underway that seems to involve the whole town.
Age is no determinant of determination or competitiveness in the Finn Masters fleet. In fact many Masters take the event very seriously and train hard in preparation. Some have already been there for the past week to acclimatise to the conditions and work out the wind. It is both an extraordinary holiday and no holiday - at least for some. It is always a hard fought for regatta that is attracting increasing numbers of former Olympians and Olympic campaigners who just can't let go of their fascination with the Finn. In addition many aspiring Masters are here coaching and providing support to the fleet.
The defending champion is of course Michael Maier (CZE), who last year set a record of six titles, the last five consecutively. This year could be his biggest challenge yet with a number of newer, and younger, faces competing for the first time. These include former Olympic campaigners Paul McKenzie (AUS), Martijn van Muyden (NED), Yuri Tokovoi (UKR) and Vladimir Krutskikh (RUS). Other names to watch for this week include former World Champion Thomas Schmid (GER), Karel van Hellemond (NED), Laurent Hay (FRA) and Allen Burrell (GBR).
Last year's Grand Grand Master Champion, Henry Sprague (USA) is back again, except this time he is a Legend. He has always been a legend of course, but now he is of the age to prove it. Placing 15th in last year's fleet, he has to be the favourite for the Legend title this year for the over 70s.
The defending Grand Master champion is Maier. His main competition from the past few years has come from three times Masters World Champion André Budzien (GER). Budzien normally does better in lighter winds, and if all the predictions are correct, Kavala should be a predominantly light wind venue, though the last few weeks there has been wind up to 20 knots stretching the sailors who arrived early.
Last year, to recognise the growing number of Grand Masters who were filling the top positions, a new Master category trophy was awarded to Aleksander Kuliukin (RUS), who placed third in the overall results as first Master. He promised the Russians would be even stronger in 2015, and they are again here in numbers with 18 on the entry list.
Equipment inspection and registration concluded on Sunday evening with 204 entries from 28 nations. After a delay for the wind to arrive, a light wind practice race was held late on Sunday afternoon – the good winds of the past week had gone. However it was a hot distraction from the on shore waiting and the first indication of form, such as it was in the fickle breeze.
The racing runs from Monday to Friday with eight races scheduled, including a medal race for the Top Ten Plus (top 10 plus those on equal points with tenth) as the finale. The first races are scheduled for 11.00 Monday.