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14 June 2014, 05:08 pm
Michael Maier Wins Record Sixth Finn Masters
Majestic Master Michael Maier
Majestic Master Michael Maier

Finn Masters
Sopot, Poland

The Finn World Masters ended with another day of strong winds, with the final fleet races followed by the medal race for the top 12. Defending champion, Michael Maier (CZE) could only finish fourth in the race but it was enough to take a record sixth Finn World Masters title.
Andre Budzien (GER) had to settled for silver again, while Aleksandr Kuliukin (RUS) placed third in the race to snatch the bronze.

After a scoring correction Thursday evening, the number of sailors in the medal race was increased to 12, with three boats on equal points to tenth place. The medal race was sailed close to the shore, with large shifts off the beach mixing up the fleet. Marc Allain des Beauvais (FRA) sailed an almost flawless race to lead round every mark to take the win. A lot of boats behind him were in trouble with Maier dropping to fourth on the second beat.

Budzien struggled upwind in the 20 knot breeze, while Allen Burrell (GBR) had a shocker to drop from third to sixth overall. Walter Riosa (ITA) crossed in second to take the silver medal in the Masters category, while third place from Aleksandr Kuliukin (RUS) took third in the race and also won the Masters category. He wins the President's Cup, the first time this new cup has been presented.

Allain des Beauvais said, "The wind was very shifty, I had a good start and selected to protect the right because I thought it was more lifting at the end when arriving on starboard. The race dictated me to go to the beach and when I tacked I went over the layline voluntarily to capture some more wind and then it was just about taking care and not stupidly capsizing, as I am able to do. C'est la vie. Vive la France."

Budzien explained how he got the race wrong on both upwind legs, "It was a very tricky, short race. I started at the pin and unfortunately the gusts came from the right side all the way so I couldn't go in the middle and had to stay on the left side. Then it's very hard to get a good position at the mark. On the second beat the left side was much better and I went to the right side. It was not my day, but in the end the Russian was third and I had to be seventh, so I am happy with the silver."

The day began with the final Yellow and Blue races, less the top 12. Both were very shifty races again, in winds around 15-20 knots with big changes through the fleet as large black clouds moved down the race course. Uli Breuer (GER) eventually took the lead in Yellow fleet for a big win, while Tauras Rymonis (LTU) won the Blue fleet. Fittingly they ended up 13th and 14th overall.

The top Grand Masters were all in the medal race with Michael Maier taking the title for the first time from last year's winner Andre Budzien. His win in the medal race was enough for Marc Allain Des Beauvais to move up from 10th to sixth, to claim the bronze medal.

Henry Sprague (USA) has dominated the Grand Grand Masters all week, and an impressive fourth place today moved him up to 15th overall. Former winner Rob Coutts (NZL) was the next best in 34th, after some good results in the windy races made up for some high scores earlier in the week. Jan Zetzema (NED) took the bronze after a consistent week of good sailing, ending up on equal points with last year's winner Henk de Jager (NED).

The Legends category was extremely competitive this year with three former champions in the running to the end. Howard Sellars (GBR) started the day with a narrow lead over Richard Hart (GBR). However in a bizarre twist, both sailors, who are clearly old enough to know better, were black flagged out of the start in Yellow fleet. Hart's determination to complete yesterday's three gruelling races then paid dividends as he then counted a top 50 while Sellars dropped to fourth Legend after his retirement yesterday. Defending Legend champion Friedrich Muller (GER) took the silver while Rodrick Casander (NED) took the bronze. All Legends were honoured at the prizegiving with a special memento. An emotional Hart received the loudest ovation from the massive crowd. It was without doubt the most popular win of the event.

A special prize was also awarded to Santiago Reyero (ESP) who abandoned his race yesterday after finding an upturned hull with no sign of the sailor or support boats and swam over to it to check to see if the missing sailor was trapped inside. Thankfully, the sailor turned up unharmed, but Reyero said, "I was quite frightened by what I would find inside." Hos own boat was damaged in the process and while the Jury gave his redress, his selfless act to make sure his fellow sailor was OK, regardless of his own race, epitomises good sportsmanship, and won him the loud applause and appreciation of the more than 300 sailors and families present.

The Masters category winner and third overall, Kuliukin summed up his week, "The racing was at a very high level. I would like to thank the organisers, race committee and jury. We had racing in different conditions all week. My target this week was a medal, so I am very happy. Next year I will try to win overall.

This year was his first masters, at the head of a very strong Russian team. "We have very good regattas at home and very good group of sailors. We communicate closely and drive each other to be better all the time. We have several cities where the Finn class is strong, and some of our other good sailors are not here this year. Next time more will come and there's a big chance we will take all the top places."

Maier contemplated his sixth World Masters win. "This time was a little bit tough because there was no wind early in the week, and that made it a bit tricky. Yesterday and today was windy which is good for me, though I had some trouble yesterday with some things not working in the boat and I lost the second race. I had a 100 metre lead but I capsized at the gate and had a big casino with the main sheet. That was a mistake from me. But on the second upwind the centreboard got stuck and also made it quite difficult."

On the Medal Race he added, "I calculated the general results and I knew I was one point behind Budzien but today was quite different sailing close to the shore with a lot of shifts. In the pre-start I tried pushing him for some action but he ignored me and I also made some joke for Allen. But I see guys prepare their pre-start position, so I started at the committee boat because the wind was from the right side. I tried pushing the guys under me and some tacked but at that moment it was music for me as I see Budzien in my window. The second downwind was a bit tricky as I had to control Budzien, so I just covered him, sailing really safely through the block.

"The Russians are really fast in these conditions. They are the fastest guys here. I didn't have the best upwind speed but always made it up on the downwind."

On next year, "I don't know. It's a long way away. First I need to finish my house and I have a lot of jobs to do. Sure I will continue sailing, but maybe in a different way."

The 2014 Finn World Masters in Sopot, was a week of two halves. Three races in very light winds and three races in very windy conditions has produced a balanced championship, even if both were on the extremes of wind limits. In the end the top sailors prevailed and Michael Maier has set a new class record that will take some beating.

The hospitality of the Sopot Sailing Club was second to none and all the sailors have had a fantastic week here, aided of course by the fabulous weather. The class now looks forward to three more oustanding venues in the coming years. Next year the Masters will be in Kavala, Greece, followed by Torbole, Italy in 2016 and then Barbados in 2017.
Robert Deaves
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