Former winner takes UK Finn Nationals, but under a different flag

Andy Denison
Allen Burrell
Rory Barnes
Start of race seven - Photo Claire ADB
On Saturday evening a prize draw was held for a brand new North Sails Finn sail, sponsored by JM Finn & Co. It was won by a surprised Allen Burrell. Left to Right, Andy Denison, Ben Ainslie, Allen Burrell
L to R: Andy Denison, Chairman of the British Finn Association, Allen Burrell - National Champion, Rob McMillan - Open Champion, Laurent Hay - second overall, David Higham of JM Finn

After winning the final two races of the JM Finn, Finn UK National Championship to take the overall win and the open title, an emotional Rob McMillan said, “It means an awful lot to me to win the British open as an Australian. To come back here to race against people that you know and like in a great environment, it's actually quite emotional. It's also great to come back to the UK and see the health and strength of the British fleet, and the fantastic event that Christchurch Sailing Club has put on for us.” McMillan was a three times winner of the British Finn Nationals back in the early 1990s before moving to Australia.

Second overall was Laurent Hay of France, tied on equal points with McMillan, but losing out on the overall win on the matter of a tiebreak – McMillan had won two races to Hay's one. Probably the fastest over the water in the lighter winds, Hay struggled in the stronger winds on the final day to lose the overall lead for the first time.

Allen Burrell was the very popular winner of the JM Finn, British National Championships, after finishing in third place overall – this title is something Burrell has had his eyes on for a very long time. A former bronze medalist at the Finn World Masters, Burrell first started in Finns in 1997 as a very competitive sailor in other classes, but really struggled to make the grade in the Finn. However his determination and persistence over the past decade has finally been rewarded with the highest domestic prize in the class – the Sunday Times Gold Cup.

 

The event

The JM Finn, Finn UK National Championships at Christchurch Sailing Club was sailed over the long weekend of 6-8 May. Thirty-two Finns made the journey south to join the ten strong local fleet for seven races in a wide range of conditions on Christchurch Bay. As it turned out, the championship turned into a three horse race between McMillan, Hay and Burrell, though many others also put in a strong showing over the course of the weekend.

The British Finn Nationals is now in its 55th year, having been started back in 1956 after Vernon Stratton persuaded the Sunday Times to donate an unused pigeon-racing trophy to the Finn class for its National championship. The Sunday Times Gold Cup, as well as the numerous other trophies on offer at the championship, contain the names of many sailing heroes down the generations. This year, there was added incentive to do well, as it was the second event in the JM Finn Gold Cup Qualifier Series to select the British team for the 2012 Finn Gold Cup, which is being held in Falmouth, UK.

The class fortunate in having a great sponsor in JM Finn & Co. Could there be a more apt sponsor for the Finn class? JM Finn & Co is one of the UK’s leading privately owned investment managers. Andy Denison, Chairman of the British Finn Association said, “"JM Finn & Co has been a great supporter of the British Finn Association since 2007, as the title holder sponsor of the British Open Championships, and we are very pleased that it has been extended through 2011.”

“In 2012 there is the Olympics in Weymouth and in May the UK is also hosting the Finn World Masters in Pwllheli, which attracts upwards of 250 boats each year. All in all, the next two years will be the best Finn Sailing the UK has experienced for a long time.”

 

Day one

Despite forecast threats of the great British weather making an appearance, the first day started with blue skies, high temperatures and a light patchy wind. In race one local sailor Rory Barnes got it right and rounded the first mark just ahead of Martin Hughes, David Potter, Simon Pettit, and Hay. Hughes took the lead on the downwind, but on the second beat Potter made his move and led down to the finish in the gradually dying wind.

A wait ensued for race two to start and eventually a stronger wind filled in. The wind clocked left throughout the whole race, so those who favoured that side made huge gains. First to the left was the 73 year old Masters World Champion Legend Richard Hart, who made such a gain that he led all the way round the course. He was followed round the top mark by Merrick Gill and McMillan. Pascal Tetard moved up to second on the downwind leg and was still in second at the second top mark, but rolled the boat into the bay on the final downwind as the wind started to increase. This allowed McMillan into second, while Hay also gained and crossed in third.

After the first two races Hay led from McMillan and Potter. Burrell was down in sixth after an indifferent first day, but all that was about to change.

 

Day two

With promises of stronger wind the fleet gathered at the club more in trepidation than in anticipation as 35 knot squalls had come through the harbour early in the morning. However by launch time the wind was down to a manageable 12-13 knots and never really increased above 16 knots all day.

In race three, Burrell rounded the first mark ahead of Marc Alain des Beauvais and McMillan, and maintained his lead throughout the whole race after some great free pumping planing reaches as the wind peaked for the day at about 15-16 knots. McMillan worked his way through to second, while junior James Hadden sailed a great race to move up to fourth at the finish.

In race four most of the favourites went left, but the wind died and left them wallowing while the right came in with pressure on a nice shift. Graeme McDonald led round the top mark from Hay, Burrell and Hadden. The wind had almost gone at this point and the free pumping was removed at the wing mark, only for it to increase again. Hay led at the wing mark, but Burrell picked him off on the next beat to take a second race win of the day on the shortened final lap, while Hay placed second and Hadden picked up another third.

Hay found the front for the final race of the day and never let it go, despite the first reach being a fetch with a misplaced wing mark. The wind increased a bit for the final beat with Neil Robinson sailing a great last leg to move up to second from junior, Harry Briddon, who placed third. Burrell maintained his challenge for the championship with another solid fourth place to move within one point of Hay with two races remaining on Sunday. However, McMillan was not far behind in third place.

 

Day three

The championship ended in fine style with two fantastic races in near perfect conditions. The wind had strengthened and shifted to a more southerly direction, making it more stable over the course area. With a solid 14-16 knots most of the day, and brilliant sunshine, it was a fantastic way to end a great championships. After tricky winds so far the sailors enjoyed stretching out and revelled in the challenging and exciting conditions.

Race six was led from start to finish by McMillan, with Allain des Beauvais and Burrell close behind. A third for Burrell was enough to take the overall lead, if ever so briefly. The wind died slightly for the start of the deciding race seven and there was a tricky decision to stay inshore or go offshore.

Burrell opted inshore while McMillan went offshore, but it was Neil Robinson who rounded first with McMillan in close pursuit. Burrell rounded about 10th and the chase was on. While McMillan moved into first, Burrell could only climb to sixth, just two points short of taking the open title as well the national title. Robinson finished second while Allain des Beauvais crossed in third. A fifth for early regatta leader Hay was enough to tie for first overall with McMillan, but lose out on the tiebreak, as McMillan had won more races.

Rob McMillan had previously won the British Finn National Championship in 1989, 1990 and 1992 before moving to Australia. So to come back and take the Open Title as an Australian was an emotional moment. He said, “It means an awful lot to me to win the British open as an Australian. To come back here to race against people that you know and like in a great environment, its actually quite emotional, and I am really pleased for Allen. I have known him since 1991 when we sailed Solos and to see him become National Champion is just fantastic.”

The new JM Finn, UK National Champion Burrell said, “It feels great to have finally won the British Finn Championship. It's taken long enough, but it’s fantastic. Today I was very nervous before the start and that was probably my downfall. I was sailing a bit conservatively, especially downwind. But I am very happy with the final result.”

“I was really impressed with the competition here this weekend. It's a very strong fleet, especially with a number of overseas sailors joining us. I think the standard was really high and it's certainly been very competitive.”

Hay, second overall, said, “It was a very good championships, the club and the people racing are great and it was a very interesting regatta. The English boys are very strong and very fast, so for me this was very good training. I am very happy to have come here. I did not win it this year but maybe I’ll come back next year.”

Though Skandia Team GBR sailors did not race in the regatta, preferring to focus on their preparation for the Skandia Sail for Gold In Weymouth, Giles Scott coached a very successful training day on the Thursday before the championship and Ben Ainslie attended the Finn class dinner on Saturday evening, after spending time with some of the young sailors within the club.

And of course, the highlight of the weekend was the confirmation, from the ISAF Mid-Year Meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, that the Finn will be used in the 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition in Rio de Janeiro.

The JM Finn, Finn UK National Championships was the second event in the JM Finn Gold Cup Qualifier Series as the sailors look forward to 2012 when all the classes major events will be in the UK – The Finn Gold Cup (World Championship) is in May, the Finn World Masters in June and the Olympics in July.

David Higham of JM Finn, who finished 39th in the championship, said that it was a natural and obvious fit for the company to sponsor the Finn class, “JM Finn are really enjoying their association with the Finn class and I am thoroughly enjoying coming along to events and am grateful for everyone who is making boats available for me to use, and also trusting their boats in my hands, especially after my efforts last year.”

“The event this year has been really great fun and thanks to Christchurch Sailing Club for hosting it so well - it's a fantastic spot here. JM Finn look forward to being associated with the Finn class for hopefully many years to come. With the Olympics coming up next year we are looking forward to supporting the class however we can going forward.”

 

Final results after 7 races (one drop)

 

1
AUS2
Rob McMillan
7
2
2
(dnf)
5
1
1
18
2
FRA75
Laurent Hay
3
3
(8)
2
1
4
5
18
3
2
Allen Burrell
(15)
4
1
1
4
3
6
19
4
FRA99
Marc Allain des Beauvais
11
(15)
6
7
6
2
3
35
5
65
David Potter
1
10
7
6
8
10
(12)
42
6
679
Neil Robinson
13
17
4
5
2
(ocs)
2
43
7
635
Simon Percival
9
5
11
9
13
5
(17)
52
8
567
Martin Hughes
2
(22)
9
10
16
12
7
56
9
7
George Cooper
12
8
(16)
4
7
13
13
57
10
631
Richard Hart
(30)
1
12
11
20
15
8
67
11
23
Harry Briddon
(22)
20
14
8
3
6
20
71
12
5
John Greenwood
18
11
5
26
(35)
7
4
71
13
18
James Haddon
(dns)
dns
3
3
9
9
9
76
14
68
John Mackie
6
16
10
19
11
(dnf)
23
85
15
647
Mike de Courcy
16
9
18
17
(19)
19
10
89
16
77
Howard Sellars
17
25
20
13
14
(dnf)
14
103
17
80
Ray New
4
13
28
29
10
21
(32)
105
18
10
Robert Deaves
25
(27)
19
12
17
14
19
106
19
61
John Heyes
24
6
24
(27)
12
20
21
107
20
24
Rory Barnes
5
18
25
(30)
21
28
16
113
21
FRA150
Pascal Tetard
21
(dsq)
26
14
25
11
18
115
22
665
Julian C. Smith
(dnf)
24
13
32
24
8
15
116
23
12
Dan Belon
(28)
23
22
15
23
22
11
116
24
100
Mathew Walker
31
14
17
21
18
18
(dnf)
119
25
20
Andy Denison
14
(37)
23
22
rdg-24
17
22
122
26
681
Simon Pettit
8
33
15
20
15
(dns)
dns
134
27
602
Merrick Gill
19
7
21
(37)
27
32
33
139
28
16
Mike Woodhead
26
28
(34)
18
22
23
30
147
29
148
Julian Smith
(40)
31
32
28
30
16
24
161
30
617
Mark Harper
10
29
(37)
33
28
33
37
170
31
611
Tony Lock
27
12
38
(dnf)
dns
27
27
174
32
595
Edward Thorborn
(39)
30
29
38
26
26
25
174
33
39
Luke Rideout
36
(39)
30
25
33
24
28
176
34
562
Jerry Andrews
32
26
(35)
24
29
31
34
176
35
63
Graeme McDonald
33
19
27
16
(dnf)
dns
dns
181
36
99
John Torrance
35
34
31
23
(dns)
30
29
182
37
417
James Cole
(38)
21
36
34
31
34
35
191
38
668
Nick Turley
20
36
(40)
31
32
35
38
192
39
4
David Higham
23
(40)
39
36
34
25
36
193
40
620
Laurence Peters
37
38
33
35
(dnf)
29
26
198
41
599/54
Jesper Toft
34
35
(dnf)
dns
dns
dns
31
229
42
48
Anthony Walker
29
32
(dns)
dns
dns
dns
dns
233
 

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