Saturday, 11 July 2009

Finn Gold Cup: Clubbing Together

DEN 2 - Jonas Høgh-Christensen. Image copyright Vallensbæk Sailing Club.

by Sailing Intelligence

Hosting a major event such as a World Championship is a major operation, especially when it is for an Olympic class like the Finn.

The organiser and the man who’s hair has been turning prematurely grey this week has been Jakob Nybroe, 37, who has been a member of southwest Copenhagen's Vallensbæk Sailing Club since he was introduced by his parents aged “around 10 years old”. Nybroe has previously worked on other major events his club has hosted. These have included the 49er Europeans in 2005, the Laser Europeans in 2002 and the Tornado World Championship back in 1999, together with numerous local regattas and Danish championships for all flavours of dinghies and keelboats.

Impressively, he and co-organiser Michel Bernfeld head a group of around 40 running and making this event happen and all, including he and Bernfeld, are unpaid volunteers. Nybroe, for example, has a ‘proper job’ working in strategic procurement for the Danish building insulation giant, Rockwool, who’s base is 20 minutes from Vallensbæk. “I have had a very flexible employer who has allowed me to spend some time on this and work some late hours,” Nybroe admits. From the bar to the boats, some of the club’s juniors are on hand daily to help tired skippers retrieve their boats from the water while some older members sort out the endless food demands.

The vital on-the-water race management has been faultless and Nybroe says this is one area he wasn’t worried about before his event started. “They have done this so many times, so they know how important it is to get the course right and when you have to change, it has to be as quick as possible. They are a great team.”

That the event has been running like clockwork this week, both on the water, despite the varied conditions – balmy and warm at the beginning of the week, to wet, cold and generally more Northern European today – and off the water, is testament to not only the skill of Nybroe and his team, but also to the experience of those at the club.

“We have the old guard participating here as volunteers, but there is also a large group of people who have never participated before - that’s everyone from the bartender and the caterers to people on the water, doing the results, etc,” says Nybroe. “They have all basically taken a week out and been spending their time down here.”

What is perhaps not evident, even to those attending the event, is that Denmark has a strong ‘volunteer culture’. Generous support from its members at clubs like this is common in Denmark, much more forthcoming than it is in other countries. In a recent study by the Sports For All Commission it was calculated that the value of volunteer work in Denmark equated to 4.7 billion Euros per annum or the equivalent of just under 54,000 full time jobs.

In Vallensbæk Sailing Club’s case Nybroe says they do it for the pride their club derives from holding such a prestigious event as the Finn Gold Cup, particularly with a class so closely tied to Denmark.

Holding major events also creates good will with the town of Vallensbæk, from whom the organisers receive considerable support. At the Finn Gold Cup this year for example, the town provided the large entertainment tent and much of the logistical support such as signs, water and electricity on the camp site, etc. “It means they can use us as an example of how wonderful it is to live in the town. So I have a lot of press clippings to send to the mayor and he will be very pleased to see those,” says Nybroe.

Local sponsorship has also played a part even though Denmark, like the rest of the world, is in the depths of a major economic crisis. In their case the local branch of the Nordea bank has stepped forward to offer support.

But the biggest benefactor this year has been Denmark’s Year of Sport. This backing has resulted in the Finn Gold Cup having been ramped up considerably in terms of its press and TV coverage. “We have really had a lot of journalists and photographers down this week, more than we usually see even for other bigger events,” says Nybroe. “That has been great, but it adds another dimension in terms of planning and organising.”

With the hardware supplied by TracTrac and the Danish Sailing Association now owning 150 GPS transponders with support from insurance company CODAN (part of Sun Alliance Group), ALL of the races at the Finn Gold Cup have been tracked, rather than just the final medal race. This is believed to be a first for any dinghy class. At today’s count 8,000 simultaneously watched the tracking on line. Many more are expected for tomorrow’s Top 10 grand finale at 1100 local time.

Nybroe is particularly proud of the facilities on offer ashore at the Finn Gold Cup. This has included discounted food, three meals a day for competitors as well as a free ‘wet bar’ issuing post-race pints of Tuborg to competitors, who instead prefer the free sandwiches setting upon them like locusts. “When we set out we wanted to make sure the onshore experience something would be a little bit extra for the sailors and I think we have succeeded,” says Nybroe.

As to future events Vallensbæk Sailing Club might host, Nybroe turns slightly ashen at the prospect. “We probably are, but to be honest, right now, I am focussed on this one! I’ll probably say never again but we’ll have to see what happens in a couple of year’s time.”

Finn Gold Cup 2009

No comments: