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11 July 2007, 10:57 am
Finn Legends And Finn Heroes
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ISAF Sailing World Championships 2007
Cascais, Portugal

Start a conversation about the Finn class, and almost immediately you hear the word 'hero'. The Finn class is a breeding ground for heroes, and this week this at the 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championship currently underway in Cascais, Portugal, there are plenty of them.
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Cascais Photo Galleries

Most of the sailors here are heroes in their home countries and many are role models for new generations of sailors worldwide. The Finn dinghy park is full of them - from past Finn champions, to the current contenders to America's Cup stars to those who have cut their trade in a Finn, have now moved onto other classes and have come over for a visit.

The Finn itself is the oldest Olympic dinghy class. It is also one of the very few classes that was specifically designed for Olympic competition. It was first used in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki after Rickard SARBY won a design competition for a single-handed dinghy that could also be used for inter-Scandinavian competition. Qingdao in 2008 will be the Finn's 15th consecutive showing at the Olympic Games.

The pedigree of the boat is best summed up through its long and eventful history, which has brought changes to the boat in terms of technology and equipment, and established many sailors as household names. At 58 years old, the Finn is still providing the ultimate in physical and tactical competition for sailors across the world, providing an unequalled learning environment that teaches all aspects of the sport. The boat has evolved over the decades, and though the basic lines are the same, the materials and the rigs have moved with the times, so that it now one of the most modern looking dinghies on the water.

Men's 470
Women's 470
Laser Radial
Men's RS:X
Women's RS:X

Finn sailors love the fact that many of the top Star sailors here in Cascais and even one of the top Tornado sailors come from the Finn class. In addition, many Finn sailors filled prominent roles in the recent America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race campaigns, most notably the Italian +39 challenge, whose crew was almost entirely made up of Finn sailors, some of which are competing here this week.

Jorg BRUDER wins in 1970

Heroes Of The Past

The Finn class has been to Cascais several times before, and in fact one of the legends of the class happened right here. The class held its European Championship here in 1958 and 1965. Then in 1970, Cascais was the venue for Finn Gold Cup, which attracted 160 Finns - the largest fleet in any Finn Gold Cup ever. That was 37 years ago and in that year, it was the 37 year old Finn hero Jörg BRUDER (BRA) who won the first of his three titles - a record that stood until modern day Finn hero Ben AINSLIE (GBR) equalled it in Rio de Janeiro in 2004 and then broke it in Moscow in 2005.

After twice finishing as runner up, BRUDER feared that 1970 might be his last Gold Cup because of leg injuries. In the last race BRUDER had to finish fifth or better in order to win the Cup, no matter what Henry SPRAGUE (USA) did. At the start SPRAGUE used every match-race tactic he could in the huge fleet. Trying to hold BRUDER back, SPRAGUE even luffed the Brazilian into the spectator fleet. But on the last beat BRUDER was again leading. SPRAGUE went up what he thought was the wrong side, but it turned out to be the right one.

Now SPRAGUE started a tacking duel until BRUDER broke his rudder pintle. But BRUDER lifted his centreboard in order to take some pressure off his rudder and twisted the tiller with his bare but mighty hands. Sprague finished fourth and only could watch as the crippled BRUDER crossed the line seconds ahead of two boats who had both overstood the line and crossed it on a screaming reach. It was the most dramatic win of any Finn Gold Cup. Although BRUDER tragically died in an air crash on the way to Brest in France to defend his title for the third time in 1973, Henry SPRAGUE is still sailing Finns in the US. Both of them are legends in the class.

Heroes In Cascais

The Finns on the reach in Cascais
© Robert Deaves, IFA

Perhaps the final race in the 2007 Finn Gold Cup won't be quite so dramatic - although it certainly looks like being just as close - but the class still attracts many heroes of the same calibre. Anyone who watched Saturday's extreme conditions out of race course five would have no hesitation in calling all those excelled on that day, heroes. The conditions brought out the best in the sailors and the boats.

Today the class thrives on names like Rafael TRUJILLO (ESP), Anthony NOSSITER (AUS), Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN), Ed WRIGHT (GBR), Pieter-Jan POSTMA (NED), Dan SLATER (NZL) and Joao SIGNORINI (BRA)...the list could go on. All these sailors have proven their ability in one of the toughest of all Olympic Classes, and without doubt the most physically challenging.

About The 2007 ISAF Worlds

Over 1,300 sailors from 76 nations are competing at the 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships, from 28 June-13 July in Cascais, Portugal. 'The Wind Is Calling' is the official motto for the 2007 Worlds. The Championships are the principal qualification regatta for the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition, with 75% of all national places to be decided.

Watch the Medal Races live on Sail.TV

Read our fleet by fleet reports by clicking on the links below:

Finn - Tornado - Yngling - Star - 49er - 470s - Lasers - RS:Xs

For all the news on the ISAF Sailing World Championships 2007 CLICK HERE.

Robert Deaves. Image, Finn legends Fred MILLER, left and Henry SPRAGUE:© IFA
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