Sunday was practice race day, and although sailors who arrived last week for training on Lake Balaton experienced some strong winds, the pattern the past few days has been for very light and patchy winds. On Sunday, the wind was 3-5 knots westerly and relatively stable with sunny blue skies. The forecast for the coming week shows very little wind, however some locals are expecting a front to bring stronger winds Monday.
About half the fleet ventured out for the practice race while others finalized their preparations on shore or finished getting their boats through measurement. Two practice starts were held and then a complete race. Nick CRAIG (GBR) led a contingent of British boats round the course but ducked out just before the finish to leave Rafal SZUKIEL (POL) as the winner followed by Tibor PALLAY (HUN) and Michal STRUSINSKI (POL). As is traditional, only a handful of boats finished the race.
There have been a number of no-shows, the most significant of which is the defending European Champion Ed WRIGHT (GBR) who has instead decided to concentrate on training for the all important ISAF Sailing World Championships in Cascais, Portugal in July as he seeks to qualify for Qingdao ahead of his main rival Ben AINSLIE (GBR), who will probably miss Cascais due to America's Cup commitments.
Meeting last night at the class AGM, sailors paid tribute to long time Finn sailor and member of the technical committee Andrzej OSTROWSKI (POL), who died earlier this year, and also heard about a number of exciting initiatives under way within the class.
There has been an encouraging growth in the class across the world with many new or returning nations sending competitors to this championship, and this reflects an ongoing upward trend within the Finn class. With 94 entries, the 2007 Finn European Championships will be the largest ever contested.
The Finn class has always prided itself on leading by example in technological advances, and this philosophy is continuing using state-of-the-art devices to promote and expand the class. After initial trials at the Midwinters Championship at Fort Lauderdale and the innovative Coaches Regatta at Clearwater, USA, Gus MILLER (USA) has brought to Balaton his latest on-board camera mount to collect video footage of the racing. Using an ultra-light custom designed mount attached to the rear deck, the lightweight video camera has not only proven to be a highly useful training tool, but has also provided excellent video material for an interactive clinic website that the IFA is producing.
This multi-lingual site will cater for all levels of Finn sailing and is due to go live later this year. Various competitors here this week will have the camera mounted on their boats during racing to record beginner, intermediate and advanced level Finn sailing so the users of the website can differentiate between various techniques. Once complete, it is expected to become an important tool for Finn sailors through natural growth of content and a clever database system that will allow new languages and content to be added without undue hassle.
MILLER commented, 'We already have excellent footage of several sailors including some of people just starting out right up to World Champion Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN [(DEN)], so you can see how different people work in their boats. What is readily apparent is that you can really see the differences between the different techniques and the different levels, whether it is tacking, gybing or steering. The biggest problem though is edited the hours of footage down to the short clips that we need to illustrate each manoeuvre.'
Also under discussion are GPS 'black boxes' for use in controlling start lines and for transmitting race data back to shore for live media presentations. Already trialled at the Finn Gold Cup in Moscow in 2005, the class is looking at possibilities for using GPS tracking on a regular basis, although at the moment, cost is the prohibitive factor.
Technical developments in this pre-Olympic year are purposely kept to a necessary minimum. However, recent rule changes do include the further standardisation of equipment by introducing a rule for rudder fittings. Carried out with the co-operation of manufacturers to ensure uniformity, it in effect means that all rudders will now fit on all boats. This is part of the ongoing process to introduce in-house certification of equipment to standardise gear and reduce costs.
With class business now out of the way, the first race of the 2007 Finn European Championships is due to start at 10:00 on Monday morning.
For all the news on the Finn European Championship CLICK HERE.