Photos: (c) Francois Richard
Only three weeks after North and South American Finn sailors raced at Miami, the best and most active European Finn maniacs gathered at Cannes mid February to open the long 2014 programme which will end mid September at Santander Spain with the Finn Gold Cup / world championships, this time held on behalf of ISAF together with all present Olympic classes.
While not being the best site to organise major events during warm months, due to lack of wind and the heavy number of powerboats of all size invading the bay, Cannes remains a nice sailing site along spring and fall.
Sailors have enjoyed sailing at Cannes for one and half centuries. First they were fancy yachtsmen of the European gentry. On their superb classic yachts their favourite event was named Regates Royales because it often attracted princes or even kings who became keen sailors long before and after the break of centuries, in 1900.
Major dinghy races started at Nice then Cannes, just after WW2 in the early 50s, when the very active Snipe sailors used to enter the combined Ski/Snipe compétition .
The succesful formula soon took the organisers to launch the Ski Yachting which became the most important european dinghy event for some 20 yrs. It attracted often several hundred teams racing up to 10 international and Olympic classes and many of the world top sailors including Paul Elvstrom. 505, FDs, OK dinghies, 470, Soling, Stars, Moths, windsurfers etc..and since the beginning, Finns.
So all generations of Finn champions have sailed at Cannes and this year again, 67 of them enjoyed seven races mainly done in medium to light winds with only one windy race on day 3.
The ISAF grade two event varies. Some years can be good and others are wet, cold and windy. For 2014 sunny and warm conditions prevailed most days.
Southerly winds allowed good races along Cannes bay whose landmarks are the Film festival palace, luxury hotels and the world known sea front Croisette avenue.
Other races done with easterly winds were set along the Cannes/antibes bay between north shore and the nearby St Marguerite Island.
Dennis Karpak, the Estonian champion who won Cannes last year started the scoring with a clean win in race one. His main opponent was Jonathan Lobert who in return, beat him for second race in 10 knots of southerly breeze. Tapio Nirkko and Thomas le Breton were their main opposition that day.
After a long wait only one race could be done the next day. This time french Thomas Le Breton reminded everyone about his talent in light fluky conditions, to catch the best shifts and generate a good speed.. but Jonathan Lobert was very close behind while third man was swedish Max Salminen .
From that race Max became very consistent and never crossed line worse then third or fourth.
After years in the Europe, then Laser Max Salminen became partner with Freddy Loof to do the 2009-2012 Olympic campaing on Star. They were Olympic champions in August 2012.
Soon after Max started his Finn programme, entered all major events and joined the Franco/scandinavian training programm together with Tapio Nirkko, Jonathan Lobert and Le Breton plus some other good french when training sessions were held in France.
Obviously this programme brings dividends since at Cannes these four top sailors ended among the top five, only sharing honnors with Denniss Karpak who now races with the latest Wilke built Finn. The 198 cm tall and 100 kg young Estonian Karpak obviously has excellent speed on this new high tech Swiss made Finn.
At Cannes, Thomas Lebreton used a new all carbon mast 'made in France' by Heol . Thomas was as fast as usual with this new and nicely designed mast which should soon start in production once early tests and experiments will be done.
The top 5 winners were sooner or later at fore front of all races and so set a clear points lead of 26pts versus 54 pts to sixth sailor, Mads Bendix while Florian Raudaschl who dominated race 6 in light airs dropped to 18th because he was DSQ in this race for early start.
The southerly windy race 5 started with a superb fleet start near Palm beach and YC Cannes marina. Lobert, Karpak, Le Breton and Salminen started at pin end of line to soon tack on port. At the other end both Tapio Nirkko and Mike Maier were off by RC boat. they also tacked on port and easily sailed off the Finn pack then wisely crossed back on staboard to reach their best rivals. Karpak was in lead at mark with Lobert close behind. With free pumping allowed over ten knots of wind the rockstars of the event did their usual 'pumping/planning' show which gave Jonathan Lobert a small edge on Karpak at end of run to the finish line.
The current Finn World Master champion Mike Maier wasn't easy at Cannes with only two good results while all other were average. Among the top 15 finishers the event was a show for rising newcomers from Denmark with Mats Bendix, Germany with Max Kohlhoff, Norway with Anders Pedersen. Among this new generation three French had promising results with Thomas Morel in seventh, Benjamin Montagut in tenth and Fabian Pic in 13th who is still young enough to enter the next Finn Silver Cup.
While known and new Olympic sailors are leading, most of the fleet are 40 to 71 yrs old keen Finn sailors. German Rainer Wolf was best Master ahead of GBR Nick Daniels and Taras Gavrysh from UKR. Czech champion Mike Maier ended best of Grand Masters before French Marc Allain des Beauvais and Aleksandr Kasatov; Russian Yury Polovinkin led the grand grand masters ahead of Dutch Jan Zetema and Finnish Seppo Ajanko. The ever enthusiastic Howard Sellars was best legend well ahead of local sailor Jean Pierre Gailes and Denis Castanet.
Words and pictures by Francois Richard All rights reserved
1 FRA 112 LOBERT Jonathan 2 1 2 5 1 8 2 13
2 EST 2 KARPAK Deniss 1 2 7 2 2 12 3 17
3 FIN 218 TAPIO Nirkko 6 3 5 1 3 7 1 19
4 SWE 33 SALMINEN Max 9 14 3 3 4 2 4 25
5 FRA 29 LE BRETON Thomas 3 5 1 4 6 14 7 26
6 DEN 2 BENDIX Mads 7 12 4 11 10 15 10 54
7 FRA 114 MOREL Thomas 12 29 10 7 13 6 6 54
8 CZE 1 MAIER Michael 10 18 15 22 5 3 12 63
9 UKR 5 GUSENKO Andrii 15 9 11 9 12 11 11 63
10 FRA 89 MONTAGUT Benjamin 16 7 14 10 18 26 9 74