The 2014 Finn World Masters in Sopot, Poland, didn't quite get going on Monday, despite the best efforts of the sailors and race management. The sailors were on the water for nearly six hours with nothing to show for their day, but sun scorched faces and empty water bottles. The only race that got off the start line lasted about a hour before the wind failed.
It was a very hot and largely windless day in Sopot. At the morning briefing, PRO Ewa Jodlowska (POL) said that the forecast was not very promising. However, by 10.00 there was a sailable breeze in place and the fleet set out, hoping the forecast was wrong. But it wasn't. The wind soon died; the course area was moved as a new breeze came in; a new start was attempted as the wind began to die again; the general recall turned into a postponement; and several more hours passed waiting afloat before a another breeze came in from a new direction.
The wind stabilised, a course was set and after a general recall, Yellow fleet got away in 6-8 knots and it was starting to look hopeful. Andre Budzien (GER) led round the top mark, but then Walter Riosa (ITA) came from about 20th at the top to second by the gate and took the lead on the second beat. The wind had started to die on the downwind and sure enough as the leaders rounded the top mark again, it switched off completely, though the spectators on Sopot's famous wooden pier were treated to the Finn fleet tacking close inshore trying to find wind on the right.
Blue fleet's race was even shorter. Chris Frijdal (NED) led at the top mark; Allen Burrell (GBR), who had favoured the right side on the first beat and rounded in fifth, closed up downwind and just had the edge at the gate before the race was abandoned. The fleets waited afloat for a further 45 minutes before being sent shore. It was then past 16.00. Charles Heimler (USA) summed it up nicely. "It was a long day with no races, but I don't really care because we are in a beautiful place."
Henry Sprague (USA, the 1974 World Champion, is sailing only his second ever Finn World Masters, "I sailed in the Masters 13 years ago in Split, Croatia, and I won the Grand Master division. I wasn't feeling like I was a Master back then, because you try and kid yourself, but now I am 68 and a lot of my friends actually died this year; it makes you realise you only have two or three more laps to go; a lap being 10 years of course!"
"I'll be 70 in just over a year. I've worked out at the gym three times a week for 14 years and my gym teacher thinks I am in top 2 or 3 per cent of 69 year olds in the United States, physically. And even though I'm overweight, and I can't run any more, I'm pretty strong and tough and I think that's because of Finn sailing; it's not the gym. But the reason I love Finn sailing is not only the boat but it keeps you really physically fit."
"And I'm having a really good time here. I brought my old friend from high school with me. It's a lot more fun to come with someone than by yourself. The people here are great. I ran into someone yesterday who I sailed against at the Finn Gold Cup in La Baule in 1972 when we had wooden masts."
Riosa said of his race, "I didn't have a very good start but I caught up and by the gate I was in second. And then I was leading to the next windward mark before they cancelled the race. I was pretty sure on that first beat the pressure was on the right. The wind was good when we started, and the jury and race committee did a good job today. Just a pity we didn't finish the race."
At 48 he admits he left it a long time before joining the Masters fleet. He joked, "I just realised eight years after I turned 40 that I was old enough to take part. Actually I am quite excited to be here and hope to sail my best tomorrow."
The forecast for Tuesday is not much better than for today, so the sailors are hoping the forecasters got it wrong for a change. On Monday night the sailors are being entertained at the club in the sailors' tent by the Gdańsk University of Technology Orchestra. Some of the sailors will be whistling along in the hope the wind will hear them.
The 2014 Finn World Masters consists of a series of eight races scheduled from Monday to Friday, ending with a medal race on Friday afternoon.
Event website: www.finnmasters.pl
Club website: www.skz.sopot.pl
Class website: www.finnclass.org
Masters website: www.finnworldmasters.com