The 2014 Finn World Masters was a week of all or nothing. At the start there was not enough wind and then towards the end, almost too much wind. In spite of that, the same faces were pushing the front of the fleet with Michael Maier (CZE)) collecting a record sixth World Masters title. For runner-up Andre Budzien (GER), it was his tenth time on the podium, an equally impressive record. The bronze for Aleksandr Kuliukin (RUS) perhaps signals a new force in the Finn Masters with three Russian sailors making the medal race, the first time any of them have done so.
The Finn World Masters is a unique event in the sailing world. It is a fascinating mix of experienced sailors and interesting characters, some of whom have been sailing Finns most of their lives. In addition, some of those in Sopot were sailing their first major Finn event, but all would agree that Finn sailing is a lifestyle choice that is second to none in terms of the atmosphere it generates on and off the water.
This video tries to bring together some of that atmosphere and fun nature of the event, as well as of the testing racing conditions on Gdańsk Bay. Fun is a crucial element, with many sailors attending these events as much to catch up with old friends as to enjoy close racing against them. At the closing ceremony, Masters President Andy Dension (GBR) commented on the outstanding organisation by the Sopot Sailing Club. "You have exceeded our expectations. You embraced the spirit of the Finn Masters and created a championship regatta in which the community of the Finn Masters can flourish." That pretty much nails it on the head.
The closing ceremony and prizegiving was charged with energy and emotion as the class celebrated its heroes, old and new. Most of those who didn't make the podiums were as pleased for those who did as if they were there themselves. The fighting spirit still lives on in this bunch of oldies, but through their experience, they are also more secure in the knowledge that the journey is the reward, not the medal.
While the wind conditions were challenging and changeable, one element that stayed constant was the fabulous hospitality from the club and the camaraderie between the sailors. One sailor wrote, "Hard day today. Exhausted. Awesome when four people come to help you pull your boat on the beach and a sailor you don't know puts a beer in your hand."
The only regret felt by the sailors was having to leave, as that meant it was all over for another year. Sopot Sailing Club and the city of Sopot had put on a show to be proud of and have created a legacy for Finn Masters sailing in Poland that will last for a considerable period of time.
The championship was closed in the traditional way by the Masters President presenting the club with a Finn flag signed by all the competitors. In return the Club President, Mr Piotr Hlavaty, handed back the official Class Flag that had been flying all week at the club since being raised the previous weekend.
Good things must come to an end and the Sopot Finn World Masters 2014 is now over. All that is left is warm and happy memories of friendships made and renewed, both within the fleet and with our Polish hosts, and some intensely competitive, but ultimately fun and good-natured, racing. What immediately follows is the urgent and overpowering need to go and do it all over again. Preparations have already started for 2015 and in 350 days, the Finn World Masters fleet will gather once again, this time in Kavala, Greece.
Where do I sign up?