The 2013 Finn Gold Cup in Tallinn, Estonia was opened Sunday night amid a spectacular location with outstanding hospitality, beautiful singing, great food, and a moving presentation to one of the absolute class legends.
As soon as the Finn sailors arrived in Estonia, they knew they were in for something special. Tallinn Bay has a long history of Finn sailing and the idyllic conditions over the past few days have enamoured the whole fleet to the beautiful area. Sailors have been training here for many weeks and have come to love the town, the culture and the people. It is an inspiring place to be.
The opening ceremony did nothing to dispel this impression. A special open top bus service was laid on to transport the sailors from the club to the Seaplane Harbour (Lennusadam) a maritime museum of epic proportions and ambition that both surprised and amazed in large doses. There was a typically warm Estionian welcome by the President of the Estonian Yachting Union, Mr Andrus Poski, the Vice Councillor of the Minister of Culture, Mr Tȏnu Seil, and the Race Director Mr Ants Väinsalu. Mr Balazs Hajdu replied for the International Finn Association before the championship was declared open, in Estonian, by the Mayor of Tallinn, Mr Edgar Savisaar. This was intermixed by performances by the beautiful and talented Estonian singer Liis Lemsalu.
The other highlight of the evening was the award to Gus Miller (USA) of a Medal of Honour from the Estonian Yachting Union. Gus Miller has befriended, supported, encouraged and coached Estonian sailors for more than 30 years after first coming to Tallinn for the pre-Olympics ahead of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. The full story of his involvement with Estonia will be published later this week, but his impact on the development of Finn sailing in Estonia is immeasurable and tonight the Estonians said thank you.
In presenting the award, Ants Väinsalu said, “Before we proceed to the Gold Cup racing one very important thing needs to be done. There is one very special person among us right now who has done an incredible amount to help Estonian sailing and Estonian Finn sailors. For almost 40 years this man has been our friend and active promoter. Already in 1978 he wanted to bring the Gold Cup to Estonia. Politics made it impossible for 15 years, but in 1994 his dream became true. He has provided valuable help, advice and support to many Estonian Finn sailors over decades. He also had a big part of bringing this 2013 Finn Gold Cup to Tallinn. Without him Estonian Finn sailing would not be what it has become. For his outstanding contribution to Estonian sailing, the Estonian Yachting Union has decided to award him the official Badge of Honour.”
Miller said, “This morning I woke up about 4.00, maybe excited by the racing, but thinking back around 35 years of coming to Estonia. When I first started travelling internationally I made a rule for myself that I would allow enough time that I would spend 50 per cent of the time away from yacht club, away from the Finn and away from the race course, getting to see new places and new people and to learn from them. When I think back to those I met in 1978 when I first came to Estonia - back then it was the Soviet Union - I did not realise Estonia was not Russian. It didn't take long for the difference to be explained to me. The people I met and the influences from my first time here had a great impact and brought me back many times. It's been a great adventure. I see old friends here, I recognise the face, but not sure I remember the names but it is great to see them and it's wonderful to be back here.”
At the end of registration 95 sailors from 30 nations are entered, making this the largest Gold Cup fleet for nine years. About 25 of them made it out to the practice race on Sunday afternoon, which was a short affair. The fleet got away first time in a light offshore breeze in some nice sunshine and sailed the first leg before heading for home. Andrei Gusenko (UKR) led Matts Coutts (NZL) and Josh Junior (NZL) around the top mark after a sizeable right hand shift that eventually led the PRO, Madis Ausman (EST) to abandon the race.
On Saturday night the class held its international Annual General Meeting, which is always a lively gathering. The assembled sailors heard about the ongoing development of the class both numerically and technically. Discussions centred around use of new technologies and controlling the existing construction materials as well as clarifying hull local reinforcement and using flags at Finn major events. The meeting heard that the process of inspecting new moulds before they went into production was working well. Future development such as the introduction of moulded sails, carbon booms or the use of basalt fibre was thoroughly discussed but not adopted.
The meeting also confirmed that the London 2012 bronze medalist, Jonathan Lobert (FRA) would join the Executive Committee as Vice President Development, replacing Zach Railey (USA). Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) was also congratulated on his appointment to the ISAF Athletes Commission.
Then voting took place for future events with the 2015 Finn Gold Cup going to Takapuna, New Zealand and the 2015 Europeans returning to Split, Croatia. Split is a regular host for Finn championships, while Takapuna last hosted the Finn Gold Cup in 1980, so a return to New Zealand is long overdue.
Regarding the 2016 Olympic Games, the meeting recommended to keep the existing format while trying to further improve the presentation of the sport. The decision was also taken to recommend to ISAF to allocate one place per continent, in order to support the Finn development progress across the world.
After three years of planning, and weeks of preparation, the 2013 Finn Gold Cup is ready to start on Monday 26 August. The opening series of ten races will be followed by the medal race fot the top ten and the final race for the rest next Saturday, 31 August.