It was more the land of the long grey cloud than the long white cloud today as amid an atmosphere of tradition and fanfare the 2015 Finn Gold Cup was officially declared open on Takapuna Beach, New Zealand. The Rangitoro volcano provided a dramatic backdrop to a dramatic ceremony, just visible through the rain through the murk across the Hauraki Gulf.
Presided over by the 'Voice of the America's Cup', Peter Montgomery, the sailors huddled for shelter outside Takapuna Boating Club as 'the worst November weather for 50 years' descended on Auckland. Luckily the rain held off just long enough for the proceedings to play out.
Starting with a traditional Maori Karakia blessing from the Awataha Marae Group, MC Montgomery introduced a series of speakers but began by saying, “The best Finn sailors in the world return to Takapuna, Auckland New Zealand for the second time. The first and last time, was back in 1980 and we were treated to an enthralling contest won by Cameron Lewis of the US from John Bertrand also from the US in a captivating, pulsating regatta. Cam Lewis and John Bertrand took Finn sailing to a new level and changed Finn sailing forever.”
"Since 1980 there have been many more world sailing championships in New Zealand and here in Takapuna other Olympic classes such as Tornado, Lasers, 470’s, and RSX have also hosted world championships. But Finn sailing has a special place and history here, with three New Zealanders winning Olympic medals in the Finn class. Russell Coutts, Gold, Los Angeles 1984, John Cutler, Bronze, Seoul, 1988 and Craig Monk, Bronze, Barcelona 1992.”
“Now 35 years on from 1980, a new generation of Finn sailors from 28 countries has the special opportunity to experience the unique hospitality of New Zealand and the respect and admiration we have in New Zealand for the special breed who sail the Olympic Finn class. The Finn heritage continues to flourish in New Zealand as the best Kiwi Finn sailors have a once in a life time opportunity to show the Finn brotherhood their home waters out from Takapuna beach. Welcome to New Zealand, Welcome to Auckland, Welcome to Takapuna.”
Next, four sailors took part in a Mixing of Waters ceremony. Water was mixed together in a ceremonial bowl to bring the spirit of all the nations together before before it was carried to the shoreline and emptied into the sea.
On behalf of all the sailors Jonathan Lobert (FRA) and Anders Pedersen (NOR) took the sailors pledge, promising to abide by the rules and sail a fair regatta in a sporting atmosphere, while remembering those who are unfortunate or disadvantaged not to be able to take part in sport.
On behalf of the club, Mr Barry Ward thanked the volunteers and the many sponsors and welcomed the fleet saying, “We welcome you, we wish you good sailing, fair racing on the water and a great competition.”
Dr Balazs Hadju, President of the International Finn Association, said, “Thank you much much for the very warm traditional welcome. All Finn Gold Cups are different, this one is different as it's not every day we experience such a traditional welcome. Depending on how you count, this could be the 60th Finn Gold Cup and we are looking forward to a great week of racing.”
On behalf of the Mayor of Auckland, Councillor George Wood said, “As a former Mayor of the North Shore and a proud resident, I am thrilled to open the 2015 Finn Gold Cup. This is the 15th world yachting event this club has hosted. I am proud that our local club has been able to host these yachting events and show case the North Shore to the worlds.”
The final part part of the ceremony was the defending world champion Giles Scott (GBR) handing over the Finn Gold Cup to Mr Ward for safe keeping by the club until a new champion was crowned next Sunday,
The evening was closed with a message of goodwill and good wishes from the winner of the 1980 Finn Gold Cup, Cameron Lewis. “I am not able to be present at the event and wish all competitors and the organisers best wishes and good luck. I have so many great memories of living and sailing and racing and winning the Gold Cup out of the Takapuna Beach area from the early 1980s - so much fun, such great people. Fair winds, Strong Winds and Big Waves for all. Cheers Cam Lewis.
Sailors, supporters and friends then returned to the clubhouse for a fantastic buffet overlooking the Hauraki Gulf where the world championship fight begins on Tuesday. Tomorrow, we'll bring you an extensive and final preview of all the main players and some predictions for the week ahead.
The Finn Gold Cup runs from Saturday 21 to Sunday 29 November. Ten races are scheduled from Tuesday 24 to Saturday 28 November, with the medal race and final race on Sunday 29 November.
More information on the event website at: 2015.finngoldcup.org
Photos: Top - Awataha Marae Group, Evelyn Johnson (Takapuna Boating Club), Balazs Hajdu, George Wood, Barry Ward, Peter Montgomery, Giles Scott.
Photo credit: Robert Deaves