Working within a tight group of like-minded sailors is a great model for success within the Finn class, and if hard work equals success then the German Finn team has a successful future ahead of it.
Under the ever-watchful eye of their coach Per Baggøe (DEN), Phillip Kasüske (GER), Max Kohlhoff (GER) and Simon Gorgels (GER) are competing in the Finn Silver Cup in Valencia this week. The other team member, Eike Martens (GER), is now too old to compete.
The levels of financial support in Germany are quite complex. As the most accomplished sailor within the group Kasüske gets the majority of the funding and this allows the group to have Baggøe as coach during the year. His recent results have also meant they get a team car to use for the year.
Baggøe explains, “Because of his results, Phillip is the only one getting extra money from the German Sailing Federation; the only one wearing the Audi shirts. He needs to be top 35 in the Europeans and then he will get money. This year he was 26th. It’s not much but now we also have a team car from Sailing Team Germany, a VW T5 for the year. The DSV also pay for me and provide the trailer so we are set up for three boats, which is ideal for here. We also have Finn Team Germany supporting us and the Heinz Nixdorf fund. Phillip is also in the military, and he gets money from them and also from his club in Berlin.”
Finn Team Germany is an independently funded group that supports young German Finn talent. Finn Team Germany also supports Lars Haverland (GER) who joins in at the regattas.
On the team’s progress Baggøe said, “This year we have been racing all spring since we started training in Palma. Since then we try to learn new equipment – new masts and sails – and get a lot of time on the water. Progress so far has been OK. Last year as newcomers they actually did quite well but the expectations for the next year couldn’t be the same.”
The team had a successful Kiel Week, which finished just before the Silver Cup, with Kasüske and Kohlhoff making the medal race. “Kiel week was pretty close. Philip was fourth the whole time and then got overtaken by one point and ended up sixth, so he’s up there, but so far this year he has not been doing that well. Max also had some good results also in Kiel with two seconds and a first, so he’s there with the speed. So I think we are comfortable with our equipment, we just need more hours on the water and that’s why we had to sail Kiel., otherwise we would have come before and done some training in Valencia.”
Kasüske described the advantages of working in a close group. “Working together as a team is really important because it’s a lot easier to get different opinions on things with four boats on the line when we are training. Four boats is the ideal number because if it gets too big it’s hard to get all the boats to regattas.”
“We share all our knowledge. If someone gets some special information from outside we always share this and try to find out as much as possible. We do all the gear development ourselves, though we get some information from David Howlett (GBR) who has joined the German team as head coach, so we can talk with him about some things.”
Baggøe is confident their approach is working. “Our strength is that we are in group and this group is getting better and better and getting to know each other so they can work better together, because if we don’t have this group and we can’t train all the time in Kiel together then we wont be able to beat anybody. However they are young, they are not experienced and you see that when they go into a European championship they make some mistakes. They are only 20-22 years old and they have to learn all the time, which they do, but sometimes they learn the hard way.”
He said they are also sharing training with the Danish team. “It’s definitely Danish philosophy that we are doing it this way. That’s why we are training with them. We understand each other very well. They are young also and if we are training in a group then we will all get stronger together. We sail a lot and think we’re good but it's good to measure it with others in the group where you can trust the equipment, sails and information."
Kasüske said, “Training this year was difficult, harder than last year because it is harder to improve if you get better, but we try to keep improving. We tried a lot of things with new materials and sails and I think so far my season went pretty OK. I reached all my goals so far.”
“My target is top five at the Silver Cup. It’s important for me to get a good result in the juniors and maybe also to redo the results from the Junior Europeans where we had the same guys as here and I was fifth. So hopefully I can do the same or better here."
With Rio looming ever closer what is the focus of the team long term? Kasüske said, “For the Germans it’s really tough to get to Rio because the German qualification is so hard. First, though, we have to get a national spot in Takapuna [at the Finn Gold Cup in November]. So we will go for that first and then we’ll see if we can make the German selection.”
Baggøe added, “It’s possible. It’s a long time until Takapuna. We have four or five months to go so we could still do a lot of training in Germany. Now we have no regattas, so we are doing training camps with the Danes and Norwegians. We are in Arhüs twice and then we will do some in Kiel when they come to us.”
“For the long term planning we are looking at 2020, and learning all the time and sailing with the other juniors here and listening to all the sailors and trying to be in the regattas where the good sailors are and hopefully we’ll get enough money to go to Takapuna to learn even more.”
As the Finn Silver Cup reaches its conclusion, Kasüske has recovered from an indifferent start and now sits in sixth overall, just one place and three points from his goal for the week of fifth. Kohlhoff had the best start, including a huge race win in race 4, and is in seventh after eight races, just four points behind Kasüske. Gorgels is 13th after a pretty consistent week. Just three races remain in the series, which concludes Sunday.