by Robert Deaves
This is Finn sailing at its most athletic and powerful best. There is raw power, consummate skill, intense competition and incredible boat handling – it is extreme Finn sailing in near extreme conditions from some of the best Finn sailors in the world; even some of the best athletes in the world.
Anyone who doesn't believe that an elite Finn sailor is an athlete needs to watch this film. Several times. Most sailors took a moment on the finish line to recover physically from the final downwind just to have the energy to sail back to the beach; they had nothing left to give.
It was all over in 25 minutes and it is all on film. In 2012 the Finn Class invested in 10 stern cameras to capture supreme athletes like these 10 Finn sailors competing at the highest level. At the four championships since then, two medal races have been cancelled through lack of wind, one was sailed in very light winds, and then last week, finally, in La Rochelle, the medal race was sailed in winds over 20 knots and short steep waves that provided a fantastic show for the few that ventured out in the appalling weather.
It was tough conditions for the few assembled media. François Richard said the Finn medal race in Qingdao in China in 2008 was the worst conditions in which he had ever covered a race. On Saturday, he said the the conditions were comparable. Luckily the race was the worth watching and here you can see the result of compiling four hours of captured footage, cut down to 6 minutes 50 seconds. It probably should have been shorter, but it could have been a lot longer. The images of extreme downwind Finn sailing are absorbing and captivating and it is hard to turn away; you flinch when a big wave is mounted and gasp when a duck to leeward accelerates the boat down the wave at breakneck speed. The cameras bring the race to life like never before, enabling the viewer to understand what it is like to sail these boats downwind in a big breeze, completely under control, with man and boat in perfect harmony, combined with brute strength and unbelievable levels of fitness. It leaves a feeling of exhaustion just watching.
The images aren't always the cleanest due to the wet conditions, but improved on the second lap when the rain eased off. Unfortunately the cameras on the boats of Ed Wright (GBR) and Jonathan Lobert (FRA) failed to record. Fortunately we have excellent footage of the other eight: Giles Scott (GBR), Vasilij Zbogar (SLO), Andrew Mills (GBR), Thomas Le Breton (FRA), Zsombor Berecz (HUN), Andrew Murdoch (NZL), Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) and Pieter-Jan Postma (NED). So sit back, enjoy, and take a sleigh ride.
Watch this film again and again and understand what it means to be an elite Finn sailor.