One way or the other history will be made next week in Sopot, Poland, the venue for the 2014 Finn World Masters Championship. Surprisingly, it is the first time in the event's 45 year history that it has been held in Poland, despite Polish sailors' long support of the event. That is being put right this year with a visit to one of the most beautiful locations in the country. And, with 221 confirmed entries from 27 countries, so far, the Masters Finn fleet is anticipating a great event.
The host club is Sopot Sailing Club Hestia Sopot, one of the biggest windsurfing clubs in Europe. The club was established in 1983 and has around 300 members, consisting of both amateurs and professional sailors, and has played host to many world and European championships in recent years. Sopot itself, is a beautiful seaside tourist town with miles of clean, open beach, and is located between the major cities of Gdañsk and Gydnia.
The racing will take place on the Gulf of Gdañsk. It is protected from the wider Baltic by Hel's Peninsula which circles from the north round the bay to the east of Sopot. This makes the waters off Sopot's beaches much warmer than other places in the Baltic.
The great equaliser of the Masters event is that every year new sailors qualify just by getting older. So new faces appear and try to challenge the established order of things, while the older faces try to hang onto their youth, even if it hurts a little bit more than it did this time last year. What new and old faces can we expect in 2014?
Michael Maier (CZE) will be going for an historic sixth Finn World Masters title, which if he achieves it, will be a record for the class. This year he is also a Grand Master for the first time. Three time champion Andre Budzien (GER) finished as runner up to Maier last year, but will also be defending his Grand Masters title.
Three times medalist Allen Burrell (GBR) is also back. Other top ten finishes from last year include the 1988 Finn Gold Cup winner Thomas Schmidt (GER) and Tauras Rymonis (LTU), but there are also some new contenders sailing their first Finn World Masters.
Sailors have travelled from far and wide for this championship, including teams from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and the USA. Ray Hall (NZL) will be looking to do better than his 11th place last year, while Henry Sprague (USA) will be challenging for the Grand Grand Masters title, 40 years after he won the Finn Gold Cup.
As usual Germany has provided the largest team with 59 entries, with 38 from The Netherlands, 26 from Russia and 20 from Great Britain. In terms of age category there are 69 Masters (39-49), 89 Grand Masters (50-59), 54 Grand Grand Masters (60-69) and an amazing 23 Legends (70+). They say, 'Once a Finn sailor, always a Finn sailor', and this is never more true than with the Legends of the Finn Masters.
All of last year's category winners are back to try and retain their titles, but for most that is not the most important part of the Finn World Masters. While it will undoubtedly be very competitive at the cutting edge of the fleet, many of the sailors are competing in their only regatta of the year and turn up simply to renew old friendships, enjoy the camaraderie of the fleet and do some relaxing sailing at a beautiful venue. Combine a beautiful beach, a perfect venue, and great hospitality and organisation and then mix in more than 220 fanatical Finn sailors and you have a recipe for a great week of sailing, socialising and fun. What better way could there be to spend a week in June?
Andy Denison (GBR) the President of the Finn World Masters, commented, "This is our first time in Poland and I'm really pleased with the uptake of 221 paid entries from 27 countries. The usual fun will kick off, with the Sunday opening ceremony, a drinks party on the Tuesday, courtesy of Mount Gay Rum, a great ladies programme, and there is also the annual dinner and great opportunities for old and new friends to catch up."
"When Poland was first mentioned as a candidate, we were all intrigued. However what we were not aware of was this beautiful, jewel of a place called Sopot, situated on the golden coastline adjacent to Gdansk."
"My sincere thanks are extended to club Hestia and all the people involved in this event. The Organising Authority has been extremely helpful in the months leading up to the event which gives me every confidence that we are about to embark on a truly professional, and slick, 2014 Finn Masters World Championship."
Registration and measurement take place from Friday to Sunday, with the practice race on Sunday afternoon. A series of eight races is scheduled from Monday to Friday, ending with a medal race on Friday afternoon.