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Ireland has two Olympic class Finn sailors in action at Kiele Woche Regatta, Germany this morning, an important build-up event before August's Sailing World Championships in Denmark where a quarter of Olympic places are up for grabs.

Both Fionn Lyden and Oisin McClelland are eyeing up the single Tokyo 2020 berth in the Finn class in two year's time.

Reports from the Baltic Sea race course this week indicate McClelland, from Donaghdee in County Down, is 'going very fast' in strong winds so the forecast for wet and windy conditions look set to suit the 100kg heavyweight. Baltimore's Lyden, on the other hand, will be hoping for lighter winds, conditions that enabled the West Cork ace to produce the under–23 bronze medal at the European Championships in Hungary last August.

Fionn Lyden finn sailingBaltimore's Fionn Lyden

Published in Tokyo 2020

In the tradition of strong wind Finn racing that transcends and inspires generation after generation of young sailors, the on-board videos that have been published over the past few days from the medal race at the 2018 Finn European Championships in Cádiz have held viewers mesmerised writes Robert Deaves

The medal race line up was impressive by any standards. Among the sailors were four world champions, three European champions, two Olympic medallists and an America’s Cup winner. It was exalted company to be in and the conditions provided a supreme test of supreme sailors and athletes.It was a not only a spectacular show, but a spectacular race with the gold medal changing hands, close boat on boat racing, impressive boat handling skills, and the emotion of defeat and victory. 

The Finn class fitted each Finn with a stern mounted rack and a GoPro action camera and the results are about as spectacular as any dinghy footage you have ever seen with a social media global reach of already more than a quarter of a million.The wind speed that day was averaging 24 knots with gusts to 31 knots. Combined with huge 3-4 metre waves, there was no escape. You got it right or you got it wrong. The videos show this inescapably.

Ed Wright, a former Finn World and European champion, who has been at the top of the class since before many of the young sailors in Cádiz even started sailing, has worked harder than anyone in recent years and remains one of the fittest sailors in the world. His third major Finn title is a fantastic reward for all that effort. This video was seen more than 70,000 times in the first few days after posting.

It was sailing at its rawest – tough, exciting, thrilling and challenging – in the best traditions of Elvstrøm, Kuhweide, Mankin, Bertrand, Coutts, Percy and Ainslie. It was everything that young sailors aspire to, and most of all it represents an achievable and relevant goal.If sailing needs heroes and legends to remain relevant, then here were ten of them – ready made. The Finn is a breeding ground for heroes and legends. If sailing needs better presentation, then it needs heroes and it needs thrilling conditions. The 2018 Finn Europeans in Cádiz provided both in ample measures.

Nicholas Heiner, the relative newcomer, in only his second full season was dominant in the early races during the week, but the Finn is also the great leveller and he found cracks in his repertoire during the medal race that perhaps he didn’t even know were there and which for sure he will be working on in the coming weeks and months, to come back stronger.

If sailing needs more youth participation, then it needs relevant equipment and venues that inspire young sailors.Of the 90+ sailors at the championship, over one third were under 23 years old. The young sailors of today clearly find the Finn still relevant and attractive. And they are getting better and better and will be the heroes and legends of the future. The Finn educates and matures a sailor’s skills in many ways, and that is why so many top sailors across the world’s major sailing events such as the America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race did their time in the Finn. 

Max Salminen, the current world champion and the 2012 Olympic Star class gold medallist is proving to be one of the fastest and most consistent Finn sailors in the world at this time. He needed a result to secure the bronze and despite the extreme conditions he is seen full on racing rather than just surviving. The downwind overtake from 55 seconds in is truly impressive and he even had time to throw in a red flag at the end of the run. From deep at the top mark, he crossed in second place to secure the bronze – a world-class performance.

There is something completely captivating about watching an elite sailor at the top of their game, fighting against the worst the elements can throw at them. These ten Finn sailors are some of the very best sailors in the world, across any class and any genre. They are big, strong and super-fit and undeniably relished the opportunity to challenge themselves and their equipment in such conditions. In doing so they have attracted the respect and admiration of much of the sailing world.

In his first major Finn event since the Rio 2016 Olympics, and since winning the America's Cup, Josh Junior narrowly missed the bronze medal after winning the medal race in these extreme conditions.

If you have not seen the videos yet, then please watch them. They are impressive and extraordinary. Held in what for many would be survival conditions, most of these athletes were still racing full on, looking for any advantage they could. It was no time to be shy and hold back. The only way to dominate the conditions was to dominate the boat.

Ride the rollercoaster downwind in Cádiz with Caleb Paine. Paine placed third in the race to end the week in fifth overall in his first major championship back in the class since taking the bronze medal in Rio. Ride with Caleb from the top mark to the bottom, and hang on...it's going to get rough.

Video highlights have produced for all 10 Finn heroes in the medal race and they can all be found, together with all the other videos from last week, on the Finn class TV channel here: finnclass.org/finn-tv

Published in Tokyo 2020

Oisin McClelland, Ireland's solo participant in the Finn European Championships, in Cádiz, Spain, finished 34th overall in his 91–boat fleet, a very satisfactory overall result, but a black flag disqualification in the final race on Friday will have been a disappointing conclusion for the Ulsterman in his bid for Tokyo 2020.

Ed Wright won his second Finn European title on Saturday, in Cádiz, after a spectacular medal race in high winds and huge waves that nearly resulted in the race being cancelled. Nicholas Heiner, from the Netherlands, had led all week, but several capsizes and a last place left him with the silver, while Max Salminen, from Sweden did enough to take the bronze, after placing second.

The Final Race for the rest of the fleet was cancelled with sustained gusts well over 30 knots and huge seas. This meant that Nils Theuninck, from Switzerland, won the U23 European title, from last year’s winner, Henry Wetherell, from Britain, and Ondrej Teply, from Czech Republic in third.

The medal race started with an average windspeed of 24 knots gusting to 29. With the huge waves it was on the limit, but the Finn sailors wouldn’t have it any other way. The race was on and they loved the extreme challenge of survival against the elements.

 

Results after medal race (medal race in brackets)
1 GBR 11 Edward Wright 57 (5)
2 NED 89 Nicholas Heiner 60 (9)
3 SWE 33 Max Salminen 71 (2)
4 NZL 24 Josh Junior 73 (1)
5 USA 6 Caleb Paine 73 (3)
6 GBR 91 Ben Cornish 92 (6)
7 BRA 109 Jorge Zarif 97 (DSQ)
8 CRO 1 Josip Olujic 99 (4)
9 FRA 112 Jonathan Lobert 101 (7)
10 GRE 77 Ioannis Mitakis 110 (8)

Full results here.

Published in Tokyo 2020

Donaghadee Sailing Club's Oisin McClelland opened his Finn Europeans Championships account with a 14th after a first day of big waves and light winds for the Ulsterman in Cadiz, Spain.

McClelland is the only Irishman in the 89–boat Olympic class fleet following the withdrawal of Baltimore's Under–23 Finn Bronze Medalist, Fionn Lyden, due to illness.

Nicholas Heiner, from The Netherlands, won the only race possible on the opening day. Caleb Paine, from the USA, and Facundo Olezza, from Argentina are joint second.

With 30 U23 sailors, it is the largest youth fleet at the Europeans for some time. 2015 Junior World Champion, Ondrej Teply, from Czech Republic leads from Joan Cardona Mendez, of Spain and Guillaume Boissard, of France.

A three metre swell, left over from the storm that caused Sunday's practice race to be abandoned, made for an interesting day in the Bay of Cadiz, but the light and patchy winds meant that only one race was completed, with the second race abandoned near the end of the first upwind.

Defending champion Jonathan Lobert said, "It was a tricky day with big waves and light winds. The waves were much bigger then the wind. I had a wonderful start and was leading by miles on the left side of the course and I don't know what happened but fifty metres before the top mark I suddenly lost all my lead, but then I managed to survive to finish fourth, so not too bad for a day like today."

Three races are scheduled for Tuesday, with the forecast showing stronger winds and rain. The first warning signal is scheduled for 11.00

Results after one race:
1. Nicholas Heiner, NED
2. Caleb Paine, USA
3. Facundo Olezza, ARG
4. Jonathan Lobert, FRA
5. Oliver Tweddell, AUS
6. Josh Junior, NZL
7. Alican Kaynar, TUR
8. Piotr Kula, POL
9. Edward Wright, GBR
10. Ondrej Teply, CZE

Full results here.

Published in Tokyo 2020

Ireland has two sailors among the ninety-six Finn sailors from 33 countries counting down the days to next week's Open and U23 Finn European Championship in Cadiz, Spain. 

Oisin McClelland from Donaghdee Sailing Club and Fionn Lyden from Baltimore Sailing Club are both contesting the championships as part of their campaign towards Tokyo 2020. See the entry list here.

UPDATE: Fionn Lyden is no longer taking part due to illness.

Many of the Finn sailors involved have been training for months at the venue for the first big test of the year as the fleet gears up for the first Olympic qualifier in Aarhus, Denmark in August.

The high-calibre fleet includes 12 Rio Olympians, three former world champions and three former European champions. The defending champion is Jonathan Lobert, from France, the London 2012 bronze medalist, who took the gold in Marseille last year, the sailing venue for the 2024 Olympics.

Some of the biggest threats for Lobert's title defence are likely to come from current World Champion, Max Salminen, from Sweden, last year's second and third placed, Ed Wright and Ben Cornish, from Britain, Rio bronze medalist Caleb Paine, from the USA, Australian, Jake Lilley, and Alican Kaynar from Turkey.

Kaynar won last week's Andalusian Olympic Week and has shown steady improvement since the Rio Games, including a bronze in Miami earlier this year.

The championship opens on Friday 9 March, with a series of 10 races from Monday 12 to Friday 16 March, followed by the medal race for the top ten on Saturday 17 March.

More on the event website HERE.

Published in Tokyo 2020

Ireland has always played a role in the affairs of World Sailing, formerly ISAF, formerly IYRU. The peak of Irish representation was in the years from 1998 to 2004, when Dubliner Ken Ryan served as Vice President.

Today, the representation isn’t at such a high level, but Irish Sailing is involved in key World Sailing Committees and maintains its place on the World Sailing Council. While Irish Sailing has nominated most of those listed below, Commissions are appointed by the Board and some have been appointed by the International Class they are affiliated with. Currently listed as IRL on World Sailing Commissions and committees are:

Council Marcus Spillane
Sailor Classification Commission David Meagher, Donal McClement, Jamie Wilkinson
Equipment Committee Cathy MacAleavy
Equipment Rules sub-Committee Curly Morris
Events Committee
Match Racing sub-Committee Michael O’Connor
Oceanic and Offshore Committee Paddy Boyd
Race Officials Committee Bill O’Hara
International Umpires sub-Committee Bill O’Hara
Race Management sub-Committee Con Murphy
Racing Rules Committee Bill O’Hara
World Sailing Classes Committee Curly Morris (Equipment Rules rep)

The World Sailing Annual Conference takes place later this week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Attending World Sailing's Mexico Conference from Ireland is Bill O'Hara, Marcus Spillane, Paddy Boyd, Con Murphy and Cathy MacAleavey. 

Much of the focus at World Sailing Conferences is on the equipment that is chosen for Olympic Games. While the 2020 Games will use the classes that were used in Rio, the battle is on for selection for Paris 2024.

Bill O haraBill O'Hara of Belfast Lough

The final decision on this will not be taken until the 2018 Conference, but the debate is well under way, with the ”at risk” classes already lobbying to avoid the chop. World Sailing is seeking to align its Games strategy with the IOC’s Agenda 2020, so this November the discussion will be of a strategic nature considering the questions of gender equity (required by 2024), mixed classes, multi-medals (without increasing the quota) and evaluating new disciplines such as team racing, match racing and offshore events.

Four of the ten events will be reviewed in 2018, which four to be determined at the May 2018 meeting. The final decision on the events and the equipment used in those events will be made by the end of 2018, most likely at the 2018 November Conference. Currently, the men’s heavyweight event (Finn), is the only event not populated by both genders and as such will be under pressure.

The 470 is also coming under scrutiny as a dated class with one-design control issues, while the RS:X is also under threat as the equipment doesn’t enjoy popular appeal.

Removal of current events paves the way for consideration of an offshore two-handed mixed discipline, but the debate will also look at a more innovative approach, such as creating a team or match racing event amongst the athletes already selected, improving the medal count without increasing the total attendance.

Elsewhere on the agenda, amongst the usual governance issues, there are a couple of interesting proposals. One is to create a “Champion of Champions” event for World Champions in keelboat classes, similar in concept to Ireland's own 'All Irelands' competition.

In another initiative, the World Sailing Board is proposing to host an Offshore World Championships, two-handed, mixed gender in one-design boats. This is seen as a move to have IOC consider this discipline for future Olympic Games. it is most likely to be under review next year.

The World Sailing Annual Conference runs from November 4 to November 12, 2017.

Published in World Sailing

#Finn - Fionn Lyden and Oisin McClelland both secured a top 50 finish at the 2017 Finn Gold Cup, which came to a close in Hungary yesterday (Sunday 10 September).

Baltimore’s Lyden, at 40th, finished seven places ahead of Donaghadee’s McClelland, his chief rival for a coveted spot for Ireland in the Finn class at Tokyo 2020.

Max Salminen from Sweden claimed his first Finn world title in a close and intense medal race between the top 10 sailors yesterday, one that sailed despite a persisting light breeze.

For the Irish, however, the competition was decided by day four, with lack of wind seeing racing cancelled on Thursday 7 and Friday 8 September.

McClelland, who was competing in his second Finn Gold Cup, is one of three sailors receiving support through the Finn Class Development Programme (FIDeS), which includes part-funding to train at the Dinghy Academy in Valencia.

The Northern Irish prospect has already spent most of 2017 training in Valencia with the new group that has formed there.

“We got some pretty good training in over the summer,” he told the Finn class’ Robert Deaves. “After the European Championship [in Marseille, in May] I felt that I had made a big step forwards in boat speed and set up.”

Though he fell short of his goal of a top 30 placing in Hungary, McClelland is confident that continued training and experience in big events with tricky conditions, such as those the fleet dealt with last week, will see the desired results.

“There has definitely been glimpses of speed and getting where I’d like to be,” he said, noting one highlight was leading the fleet round the first mark in the first race of the series.

“The FIDEs funding has been a big help this season, giving me a more stress-free time to train and not worry about the money.”

Next for McClelland is a solid winter of training in Valencia. “I think this season was a lot of building,” he said. “I learnt a lot, made some steps and next year I just have to put it all together and move forward.

“Obviously the goals are a bit higher next year, but the progress is still there. I am still making progress every day I am on the water.”

McClellan also spoke highly of his rival Lyden, who came into the Finn Gold Cup on the back of a bronze ay the U23 Worlds at the same venue on Balaton.

“With another competitor from the same country, it’s going to make you wake up better in the morning. When you are feeling a bit groggy in the morning it’s definitely great motivation.

“We get along well and we are making plans to train together next season as well.”

Published in Tokyo 2020

#Finn - For the more veteran sailing enthusiasts, Johnny Durcan’s recent brush with death may have brought to mind a similar incident in Dun Laoghaire during the 1970 Finn Europeans.

“I was completely waterlogged. My lungs were full of water. I had given up,” says Gerardo Seeliger of that fateful day on Dublin Bay when his Finn came a cropper in high winds.

However, much like Australia’s Simon Hoffman and Spain’s Santiago Alegre went to Durcan’s rescue, Seeliger owes his own life to Hungarian Finn sailor György Fináczy — who had spotted the Spaniard’s upturned hull and abandoned his own race to pull him out of the water.

Back then, Hungary was behind the Iron Curtain, placing restrictions on its citizens’ travel abroad. That meant Fináczy was unable to receive the special prize for good sportsmanship from the Spanish Olympic committee as nominated by Seeliger.

However, sailing competitions were an exception — prompting the inaugural Palamos Christmas Race, which started with just Seeliger and Fináczy but soon grew into one of the world’s premier Finn class events.

It’s 47 years since that dramatic day in Dun Laoghaire, and both Seeliger and Fináczy have since become legends in their class. This week they met for the first time in 30 years at the Finn Gold Cup in Hungary, where Baltimore’s Fionn Lyden and Donaghadee’s Oisin McClelland, at 44th and 49th respectively overall, are battling for position going into day five.

Published in Tokyo 2020

Fionn Lyden of Baltimore Sailing Club, who initially drew attention as an immediate star of university sailing in his first year at College in Cork in 2015, may only have become active in the demanding Olympic Finn Class in December. But his progress in it has been rapid, and last month’s 2017 U23 Finn Worlds on Late Balaton in Hungary saw him taking the Bronze Medal in a style which impressed the most seasoned observers of this special and demanding class, and has made him Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for August 2017.

This week sees the 21–year-old Lyden in the maelstrom of the 124-boat Finn Gold Cup – the Worlds – at the same venue. The Baltimore SC and UCC–supported rising star goes into it with extra confidence on the strength of his showing in the U23 series, and Ireland has an emerging talent who is attracting remarkable levels of international interest.

An obviously able young sailor who shows a refreshing interest in the highly-technical aspects of his specialised boat, Fionn Lyden bears a passing resemblance to the young Bruce Springsteen, and has shown he can sail with the best of them in the quintessential Olympic class. As the old saying would have it, what’s not to like?

young bruce springsteen2Fionn Lyden’s alter ego, the young Bruce Springsteen in full performance mode

Published in Sailor of the Month

Another long day of waiting for wind was rewarded with two late races on Day 4 of the U23 Finn World Championship in Balatonfüred, Hungary. Oskari Muhonen, from Finland, won the day to now lead the fleet by five points. He very nearly won both races. Baltimore Sailing Club's Fionn Lyden had a stellar day to climb to third.

As reported earlier by Afloat.ie, the UCC engineering switched from the Laser to the Finn last Christmas and has been training hard ever since. The Top Irish youth sailor is only seven points off the lead.

Facundo Olezza, from Argentina, had a day to forget and dropped to second.

The long postponement was lifted just after 15.30 when a light southerly established itself on the lake following a day of zero breeze and sweltering temperatures. By race time it was 6-8 knots and the best breeze the sailors had seen for three days.

Lyden led round the top after favouring the left from Henry Wetherell, from Britain, and Joan Cardona Méndez, of Spain. Lyden still led at the gate but a crazy second beat let Wetherell through to the lead. He looked to have it sealed but Muhonen caught him downwind, and was ahead at the gate, but on the outside. Wetherall just crossed the finish ahead, but overlapped with Muhonen, with Lyden a comfortable third.

Three of the top 10 picked up a UFD starting penalty, including regatta leader Olezza.

Race 6 was started without delay to make best use of the breeze and this time Lars Johan Brodtkorb led at the top but he infringed Muhonen, who took the lead and sailed away for a huge win. The next boat was not even round the leeward mark as he crossed the finish.

Lyden controlled second place all the way with Jack Arnell, from Britain, moving up to third on the second beat, but was then passed by Brodtkorb on the final downwind.

As the fleet finished, the wind was still in place, albeit lighter, and the race team tried to get a third race in but after two false starts they called it a day with the setting sun spreading its golden light across the usually green Lake Balaton.

Lyden said of the day, “I thought we were done with sailing today, but then they sent out which was good. Both starts were very pin end biased and I managed to get away quite nicely. I was good both top marks and from there I just tried to cover the fleet as best I could to protect the left hand side, which seems to be good here.”

He said he is enjoying his first Finn regatta. “It’s good so far. It’s a really friendly and nice class, and I am looking forward to the Gold Cup as well next week.”

“I love sailing the Finn. I love the more technical side to it and the downwind with free pumping.”

Muhonen moved from sixth to first overall after his day’s work and is now where he wants to be.

“After the bronze in the youth Europeans this year I was thinking about the gold here, as well as getting some good training before the gold cup, but I would just be happy with a medal.”

Muhonen has only been in the class for just over a year. “I came into the Finn because I got to big for the Laser.” Before that he sailed Optimist, Europe and Laser. He won a few National titles in the Europe, and was 10th at the Laser youth worlds.

On Friday’s racing he said, “It was a pretty good day. Not as shifty as the first days.”

On the race win, “I got a pretty good start in the middle and let the Irish guy cross me and went for the left and the pressure. And then I was first at the top mark and pretty much stayed there.”

He trains a lot with his fellow Finn sailors Mikael Hyrylainen and triple Olympian Tapio Nirkko, as well as Max Salmimen from Sweden. “We also get a lot of help from the Federation, so that’s good as well.”

At the Europeans this year he finished as top Finnish sailor. He has his sights firmly set on the long term goals. “My long term goal is definitely Tokyo; and Olympics after that as well.”

He says the most attractive part of Finn sailing to him is the downwind. “Downwind sailing is pretty great, with free pumping and the physical aspect. It’s definitely a good boat to sail.”

“Also the social side of the class is great. Especially this regatta, which has been very well organised.”

He feels he is having a good regatta so far. “It feels good to be leading now, definitely. Two more days to go.”

If today shows anything it is that Balaton still has a lot of surprises in store, and no one can rely on anything. Day 4 produced lots of high scores throughout the leader board and lots of lessons learned. There are still a maximum of six races left to sail, so the championship could be considered only half way through, with just two days to go.

Results after 6 races
1 FIN 8 Oskari Muhonen 20
2 ARG 48 Facundo Olezza 25
3 IRL 22 Fionn Lyden 27
4 GBR 71 Henry Wetherell 30
5 NOR 9 Lars Johan Brodtkorb 41
6 USA 91 Luke Muller 46
7 CZE 5 Ondrej Teply 48
8 SWE 11 Johannes Pettersson 50
9 GBR 96 Hector Simpson 52
10 FRA 9 Guillaume Boisard 52

Published in Tokyo 2020
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