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5 July 2009, 10:55 pm
Battle Lines Drawn Up At Finn Gold Cup
Action from the practice race
Action from the practice race

Finn Gold Cup 2009
Vallensbæk, Denmark

Despite the unusual heat, the final day of measurement and build-up prior to tomorrow's start of the Finn Gold Cup, culminated in a short practice race, held in little wind under an overcast sky.
The entry for the 2009 Finn Gold Cup, to be sailed off Copenhagen's Vallensbæk Sailing Club, is now finalized at 89 from 31 countries, but with so many full time sailors competing, many of the big names were taking the opportunity today to get in some final rest and recuperation prior to Monday's first two races. In the end it was Henry BAGNALL (GBR), son of at one time well-known UK big boat sailor Harvey, who came home first to claim this small psychological victory.

"It was good because I led all the way around rather than just winning it when everyone retired," claimed BAGNALL, who has been Finn sailing for just over three years now including a second at a Junior Finn Worlds. "I thought 'when someone overtakes me, I'll go in, but no one overtook me'." BAGNALL is not part of the Skandia Team GBR squad, but is hoping his results at the Finn Gold Cup will be good enough to get him future funding.

Now 22, BAGNALL is a year too old to be a junior (those born after 1 January 1988) however there are 13 who are 21 or younger taking part at this Finn Gold Cup, the youngest being 16 year old Brazilian Jorge ZARIF.

At the opposite end of the age spectrum is 70 year old, Richard HART (GBR), by coincidence also a member of Mengeham Rythe Sailing Club on the UK's Chichester Harbour, as Henry BAGNALL is.

HART sailed his first Finn Gold Cup in 1963 with aspirations of getting to the Olympic Games. "When I was 18 or 19 I was quite good as a club sailor. The Finns came up to my club in 1956 [the same year as the Finn Gold Cup was first held out of the Royal Corinthian YC in Burnham on the UK's east coast] and, just like today, if you are 13 or 14 stone [82-88kg] there are only two places to go - you can be the ballast that holds the mast in a Star boat or you can sail a Finn. I was there or thereabouts in a few Finn trials, but that was all."

Over the lengthy period of time since, HART reckons he has only sailed in about 10 Finn Gold Cups, but having shown a solid grasp of engineering and a professional background as an officer on merchant ships, his technical skills have been put to good use by the class.

HART was involved in putting the Finn's almost unique 'swing test', developed by Gilbert LAMBOLEY, into the English iteration of the rule. As its name implies this involves each Finn being swung from a beam and the 'period' of the swing measured. Essentially the test and its restrictions cleverly limit the amount of weight builders can remove from the ends of the boat.

"In 1976, LAMBOLEY's idea was black magic," states HART. "When there was finally something I could understand, I copied it and put it into the rules!"

HART gave up competitive sailing in 1980 but was coerced back into the class nine years later and ever since has been its Chairman of the Technical Committee. During his tenure he has seen numerous key amendments to the Men's One Person Dinghy Heavy Olympic event including allowing composites to be used in the mast, a controversial move at the time that has resulted in today's 'wing masts'. "Everyone has grown to like these. They think they look sexy!" he says. Most recently he has been involved with moving the class across to digital rather than magnetic compasses, combined with an overall weight reduction of the boat.

Today HART says he sails the Finn to keep in touch with technical developments in the class. Having sailed his classic wooden Finn all the way through until this decade, in 2003 he was able to trade this in in-part exchange for a modern boat.

"The new boats are much lighter and much more responsive. For someone who has sailed them all the way through, the old ones were like a bit of a log on a pond," he says. "But the Finn has just become so much more sensitive and responsive in every respect. It hasn't speeded up to the extent that some classes have over the years - it shouldn't, it is a one design. But, my hat, it is so much more potent and so much fun all round that they are an absolute delight to sail."

He cites some examples of the finesse with which, for example, the mast can be tuned for varying conditions. "It is like tuning a watch. They are absolutely lovely. And they look after you. If you get stuck out there and the wind blows - you are alright."

The Finn Gold Cup starts Monday 6 July, with two races being held each day up until the Medal Race on Saturday, 11 July.

The Finn Gold Cup forms part of Denmark's 'Year of Sport', a series of events being held in Denmark in 2009 across many sports, culminating in the IOC Olympic Session and the Olympic Congress at the beginning of October. Other major sailing events forming a part of this include the Laser Radial Europeans, EUROSAF Match Racing Europeans and the 470 World Championship. Through the 'Year of Sport' the Danish government is providing additional funding for these events and this for example has enabled the Danish Sailing Association, with support from insurance company CODAN (part of Sun Alliance Group), to offer tracking at all of them.

Click here for a full preview of the runners and riders ahead of this year's Gold Cup.

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