The long wait is almost over. Three years of planning for one of the most important Finn sailing events ever held in the UK is about to become reality in Falmouth, UK. The JP Morgan Asset Management Finn Festival combines the Open UK National Championships from 5-7 May and the Finn Gold Cup, the class world championship, from 13-18 May.
The UK Nationals has a pre-entry of around 90 boats, while the Gold Cup has, so far, 95 registered entries. There will be more details on the Gold Cup next week, but this weekend the event focusses on the UK Nationals with a very deep and very large fleet in attendance. While some of the international sailors are skipping the nationals, it has attracted 50 boats from the domestic fleet, a sign of the good health of the class in the UK.
Falmouth is about as far west as you can go in the UK but one of the reasons it was selected as the venue for these regattas is because of its similarity to conditions at the Olympic venue in Weymouth. Many sailors are already based in Weymouth in the run up to the Games in August, and many are using this regatta as crucial training before June's Skandia Sail for Gold regatta in Weymouth, and to get as much time as possible getting used to the conditions.
The UK Finn National Championship dates back to 1956 when Vernon Stratton persuaded the Sunday Times to donate an old pigeon-racing cup to the class. The Sunday Times Gold Cup has been a central focus of the British Finn class ever since. The two favourites for the title are sailing against each other in a UK Nationals for the first time ever. Ben Ainslie won back in 2002, while Giles Scott, won in 2007 and 2008.
Last year’s open winner Rob McMillan (AUS) and national champion Allen Burrell are also back, but will have a hard time retaining their titles against the Skandia GBR Finn squad, and the very strong international contingent that has entered. Mark Andrews is another former champion who will be competing in Falmouth this weekend.
Other favourites for the open title include 2004 Olympic silver medalist Rafa Trujillo (ESP), double world champion Jonas Hogh-Christensen (DEN), double European Champion Ivan Kjakovic Gaspic (CRO), the runner up at the 2011 Olympic test event Jonathan Lobert (FRA) and winner of last week's Hyeres regatta, Brendan Casey (AUS).
Many of the competitors are using the Nationals as a training regatta to select equipment to use at the following week's Finn Gold Cup, as well as to get used to the conditions in Falmouth’s waters. The UK has borne the brunt of a long run of bad weather recently, with strong winds, heavy rain and low temperatures, and this has been forecast to continue through May. Sailors that turned up early to train have been treated to torrential rain and winds touching 50 knots - a stark reminder of what the great British weather can do.
However, the forecast for the weekend ahead looks a little more pleasant with moderate winds, sunshine and showers. It could still be a tough regatta weather wise, but the Finn sailors love to stretch their muscles a little bit, so the racing is going to be both competitive and a bit of fun before the main event the following week.
Roger Thompson, Head of UK, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, commented, “J.P. Morgan Asset Management is proud to be title sponsor of the Falmouth Finn Festival. We’re looking forward to watching the very best Finn sailors battle it out to be crowned World Champion. To add to the excitement this is one of the last opportunities to see potential Olympic champions in action with a number of sailors competing to qualify for London 2012.We’re passionate about sailing as it allows us to support values that are important to our business. To be successful at sailing you need excellent teamwork, innovative thinking, leadership and passion, just some of our key values. Huge amounts of work go on behind the scenes and the event simply wouldn’t have happened without the professionalism of the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club. A huge thank you to everyone involved. On behalf of us all at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, we wish all the sailors the very best of luck and hope you enjoy the Festival.”
Racing gets under way on Saturday 5 May, with two races scheduled. Three more races are scheduled for Sunday with the final two on Monday. Then there are five days of measurement and registration before the Finn Gold Cup races start on Sunday 13 May.
Daily reports and photo galleries will be released but you can also keep up to date with the results and news at www.falmouthfinnfestival.com.