For the first time in history, the Finn Masters World Cup is being sailed in non-European waters.
This year, the fleet is dipping its hulls in North American waters, as Sail Kingston plays host to the five-day event.
While sailing was to begin Sunday, May 27, a lack of wind saw many sailors from about nine countries trying their hand at golf, many for the first
But the famous Kingston winds were up Monday, May 28 as the fleet scored two races with 45-year-old Canadian Larry Lemieux of Burlington, Ontario scoring a pair of bullets.
In a chilly southerly breeze of 10 to 15 knots, Lemieux admits to have gotten off to a bad start. "Being over the starting line early, I had to go back" he admits. "I immediately turned and went back. With 30 boats ahead, there wasn't much clear air. I didn't take any chances", he said. "On the second (upwind leg), the race committee shifted a mark to the right and most of the fleet followed suit. I know in Kingston, with the way the wind is, with a shift like that, it comes back before it settles in. So I went left."
It was the perfect maneuver, moving him ahead in the fleet. It wasn't until the second last leg he was able to take advantage of mistakes made by the
lead boats, and sail into first place.
The three-time Finn Masters champion is no stranger to sailing in Kingston. It is because of Lemieux that the Finn Masters Worlds are there.
According to Finn Masters rules, the winner can choose where the event will be held, Lemieux says. While he finished second last year, he's watched the class of sailors aged over-40 grow. I thought it would be good to have it in North America. It was a bit of a fight, and a quantity of North Americans who said they'd be here didn't show up.
Some of the protesting Europeans wanted it in Italy where it's warm and nice.
Kingston was chosen, he says because of days like this. The only other venue would be Toronto, but the wind isn't consistent enough there.
While sailing is the reason the Masters, aged 40 to 66, are still participating in the Olympic-class fleet, there is much more to their regattas.
"The Finn class is thought of as being so physically demanding and tough", Lemieux says, "In the masters, people take it easy. Nobody is expecting to go to the Olympics, although many of them have been there."
It's just a lot of fun, he says. With one race a day on tap (unless there are no races scored on other days), there's more time to go play.
Many of the sailors are traveling in motorhomes with their wives and a large contingent from the Netherlands plans to travel Canada before returning home.
"They're here for all the right reasons", Lemieux says. "They want to have fun."
The Canadian Olympian is no stranger to the world stage. In 1980 and again in 1990, he won silver medals at the Finn World Cup, their World Championship. He was also fourth overall at the Finn North Americans in 1999.
He's up for some stiff competition, however. Also at the regatta is [Super] Henry Sprague, of Long Beach, California, who won gold at the 1974 World Cup, and silver at the 1970 World Cup, while he was ninth at the 1999 Finn North Americans.
David Branch of High Point, North Carolina, placed seventh at the 2000 Finn North Americans and Janusz Purwin who was 11th at the same regatta, are also on hand.
Race Chair Ross Cameron says the fleet may be small in numbers, with 32 registered sailors, but it's a high quality fleet.
Because it is the Masters fleet's first year in North America those numbers were expected. "It will only grow in future years", Cameron says.
Awards will be presented on Thursday, May 31 in three categories: Overall; Ages 50 - 59; Ages 60 and up.
Competitors come from Canada, Croatia, Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden and the United States.
The Finn Masters mark the first of three World Championship regattas and a huge North American championship regatta being staged by Sail Kingston this summer.