Next week, the Finn class returns en-masse to La Rochelle, France for the 2013 Finn World Masters. To date some 307 sailors from 27 countries have pre-entered and if all show up it is destined to be not only the largest Finn Masters ever, but also the largest Finn event ever.
Last year's winner and winner for the last three years, Michael Maier (CZE) is back. He is undoubtedly the favourite to take a record equalling fifth Masters. Britain's Allen Burrell will be looking for a third successive medal, having been runner-up to Maier in 2011 and 2012.
While the seniors have held their European Championship in La Rochelle in 2004 (and will again in 2014), the Masters' last visit was way back in 1996, when it was held over the same week as the Finn Gold Cup. But the event has moved on a long way since those distant days when it only attracted a mere 120 boats, though a look at the results list from 1996 shows that many of the same names will be competing next week.
The fleet is split in Masters (40-49), Grand Masters (50-59), Grand Grand Masters (60-69) and Legends (70+). There are a record number of Legends this year, 27 in total, including the Legend champion for the past two years Howard Sellars (GBR).
There are also many new faces this year including some very strong and successful sailors from across the world. Including Karel Van Hellemond (NED) in his first Masters, Jorgen Svendsen the Danish champion and world number 1 in OK Dinghy and Karl Purdie (NZL), a double OK Dinghy world champion who stepped into the Finn the first time last year.
The age range of sailors is as large as the fleet size. The youngest is 39 (you have to turn 40 in the same year to qualify), while the oldest is 78 year old Gus Miller (USA). Surprisingly this is only Miller's second Finn Masters. He said,“The first was also in La Rochelle in 1996.” Miller finished 12th.
It's been a very sad few days, but the 300 or so Finn sailors arriving in La Rochelle are hoping to lift their spirits a little bit with a memorable week of friendly and competitive racing. Racing begins on Monday 20, May with eight races scheduled until Friday 24, May.
14 May 2013 12:27