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As reported earlier today, World Sailing’s AGM confirmed the inclusion of a new Mixed Two-Person Keelboat event to replace the previously agreed Mixed One-Person Dinghy at the Paris Olympics in 2024.

The International Finn Association has released a statement on the decision, which for now means the removal of the Finn class (indicated at the male equivalent in the Mixed One-Person Dinghy) from future Olympic Games after Tokyo in 2020.

Details have yet to emerge as to what boat will be used by those competing in the new mixed keelboat event, and evaluations may to be concluded by the Equipment Committee by next summer’s Mid-Year Meeting.

However, the development has already sparked interest — if not necessarily a desire to take part — among Irish keelboat sailors at the highest levels.

Thomas Dolan said he has the Paris Olympics squarely in his sights “especially as I should have a few years’ Figaro behind me by then”.

But the mixed keelboat news came as a surprise to the solo sailor, who had thought the idea to be a “dead duck” before last week’s announcements.

Meanwhile, David Kenefick admitted that he has “never had much desire” to go the Olympic route — though “if there was a Moth that might change”.

He added: “It would also be interesting to see what an offshore Olympics class would be like.”

However, Kenefick cautioned that as much as it’s an idea he would like to see, “I think it would be very expensive and with a low attendance" for 2024 at least.

Published in Olympic

The Finn class has been part of the Olympics since 1952. It is an undeniable and integral part of the history and culture of the Games and has created more stars of the sailing world than any other class.

It is not only the last bastion of the ‘great’ Olympic classes but also one of the most popular, refined and challenging dinghy classes in the world. It is immediately attractive because it reminds everyone of the countess heroes who have passed through the class and won medals at the Olympics.

Following Friday’s Council meeting, the Finn class is very disappointed by the choices made and the way Submission 37 was introduced and seemingly steamrolled through. The class not only feels very dismayed by the whole process over the last year, but also that the Olympic classes decisions are moving in a counter-productive direction.

This reaction has been shared by thousands of Finn sailors and shocked sailing supporters across the world since Friday's decision. In decisions of this nature, it is never going to please everyone, but this has caused huge concern across the sailing world.

Dinghy sailing has been the mainstay of the Olympic regatta since the 1980s, after most keelboats were gradually dropped because of the huge expense involved. In 2012 and 2016 there were seven dinghy classes. In Paris 2024, under the current proposed slate, there will be just five dinghy classes – half the total slate. Aside from the massive change and expense for sailors and MNAs to invest in new equipment, the slate is moving away from the core of the sport. In the 2018 Youth Olympic Games there were no dinghy classes. The pathway for a developing grassroots dinghy sailor is getting narrower and narrower.

The pinnacle that so many great small boat sailors have aspired to for generations, the Finn, may no longer be an option, so sailors over 85 kg have no pathway to the Olympics and that would be a huge loss to the sport.

To say a Finn sailor should sail a keelboat, or even switch sport to kite surfing is at best, misguided. Only a very few will be selected or have support for the vastly expensive keelboat programme. Most will be overlooked, as nations will choose their offshore heroes in preference.

Whatever way you look at it, the keelboat will be hugely expensive; potentially as much cost to an MNA as all the other classes put together and will limit participation to a very select few sailors and nations. The dreams and hopes of hundreds of young Finn sailors across the world will be dashed.

So this is an impassioned plea from Finn sailors to save the Finn, and probably the 470 as well, as the only measurement-controlled classes left in the Olympic programme.

At the AGM on Sunday, MNA delegates will have a choice to sign off the Council recommended slate of events and change the face of Olympic sailing forever, or it can ask whether this is actually the best decision for the sport?

While the Finn Class acknowledges that the Mixed One-Person was a step into the unknown, so is the Mixed Kite, and even more so is the Mixed Keelboat.

With the Mixed Keelboat, the costs are unknown, the logistical, media production and security problems are unknown and the overall viability is unknown. The sheer cost of mounting a campaign is so far beyond most of the smaller nations that it immediately limits participation and becomes a rich-man’s game – the same reason that many of the keelboats were dropped in the past. Do we not learn from the past?

Further, along with the Lasers going to sea trials, equipment for seven classes will only be decided by November 2019, which is only two and a half years before the first Paris 2024 Olympic trials. MNAs should delay the decision for 2028 and use the little time ahead to test all the new chosen equipment.

In addition, at a time when World Sailing has not completed its own anti-trust review programme and is under investigation by the European Commission for possible anti-trust infringements, would it not be prudent to delay further decisions until that review is completed?

There is another choice open to delegates at the AGM – a vote for no change at the present time to keep the 2020 Olympic sailing events for 2024. We would urge all delegates to seriously consider whether losing the Finn is in the best interests of the sport.

Please think of the sailors.

Published in Tokyo 2020

#Finn - The International Finn Association (IFA) has spoken out over World Sailing’s unexpected decision to replace the Mixed One Person Dinghy event with a two-person keelboat class for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

The 11th-hour change was made on the eve of the 2018 World Sailing Conference in Sarasota, Florida this week.

It overturns a previously agreed submission from this past May that had confirmed the mixed class — with the Finn indicated as the male equivalent — as a new event for the Paris Games.

In a statement, the IFA said the last-minute switch “is further driving our sport into expensive elitist Olympic events which will result in the decrease of universality and participation in Olympic sailing.”

The full statement by the Finn class can be read HERE.

Ireland has two Finn sailors — Fionn Lyden and Oisin McClelland — vying for a spot at what looks now to be the final Olympics for the class at Tokyo in 2020.

Published in World Sailing

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
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