Wednesday 8 September 2010

Photo FINNish: A Superb Collection of Finn Images and Stories

Cover of Photo FINNish. Image copyright Robert Deaves/FIA.

by Anne Hinton

Robert Deaves has produced another superbly illustrated book full of stories marking the history, development and enjoyment of sailing the Finn dinghy; a true celebration of the boat and all those who have sailed in, or been connected with, the Finn class, from its conception in 1949 to the 60th anniversary return to Uppsala, Sweden, in 2009.

How did Robert Deaves get into OKs and Finns?

"Alistair [Robert's brother] and I both started sailing OKs at Waldringfield SC on the River Deben near Ipswich [England] (where we were brought up) in about 1984/5. Waldringfield had one of the largest fleets of OKs in the country at the time and we found something about the class very attractive. It became almost a lifestyle choice after a while. I can't imagine wanting to sailing anything else," said Deaves.

"For me the same thing happened with Finns, though we were the only Finns on the river. We both bought Finns in 1989 and Alistair sailed them until about 1998. Alistair went to New Zealand in 1994 for the OK Worlds in Napier. He stayed for six months, and has since spent more time there, than here [England]. He has currently been there full time since 2002 and runs a small boat repair and restoration business, as well as finishing and selling the new Icebreaker OKs.

Robert Deaves sailing his OK. Image copyright OKDIA.

"In 1993 I became the editor of the British Finn Association newsletter, with no experience in publishing and no idea of how I was going to do it - just needing a challenge. This led to becoming secretary of the BFA from 1995 to 2003, led to becoming editor of Finnfare in 1997 and I have now published three books on the back of it (the first was FINNatics in 1999).

"I am no longer really involved in the BFA, apart from an honorary vice-president position, and just work for the IFA as Finnfare editor, webmaster, media manager and whatever else fits the bill. It's like running a small business sometimes. In 2002 I also became secretary of OKDIA [the OK Dinghy International Association] and did that for 5 years before becoming Publicity Manager.

"I have a family... so need to fit in sailing around family time. Next year the OK Worlds are in Largs so that should boost the OK racing in the UK over the next 11 months and I plan to be there and will try to be competitive."

What was the original idea behind Photo FINNish?

"I inherited a pile of Finn photos from my Finnfare predecessors that goes back 30-40 years and includes hundreds, if not thousands, of unpublished photos. The original intention was just a vague idea to use some of these photos in a photo only book. They are 90 per cent copyright IFA so it seemed a worthwhile project," Robert Deaves said.

"Of course once you start something like this further ideas come along. Francois Richard had aready helped me with a few photos for the OK book and then offered to help me with the Finn book, again sending me hundreds of unpublished shots. I also put out press releases that were used worldwide asking for photos and contributions and that started the ball rolling. And of course, Bert Sarby raided his uncle's archive in the Swedish Maritime Museum to fill out the early years.

"Then I thought I would break up the photos with the odd paragragh of text to explain what was going on. At some point this developed into finding 60 people to write something for each year. This was actually the hardest part... and I think the key was persistence."

The Book: Photo FINNish

1949: How it all started. Image copyright Robert Deaves/FIA.

Rickard Sarby commences with explaining how he responded to the Finnish Yachting Association's competition for the design of an Olympic dinghy that could also be used inter-Scandinavia. He incurred a hand injury during the build process, but was able to send the plans to Finland. The word 'Fin' in Swedish adds a positive sense to everything; hence the origination of the name for the Finn dinghy.

1956-57: Paul Elvstrøm. Image copyright Robert Deaves/FIA.

Paul Elvstrøm made the Finn his own, after graduating from the Firefly. The winner of four consecutive Olympic Gold medals, three of them in the Finn, his reign was supreme. Elvstrøm was entirely self-funded in his sailing, courtesy of his house building business.

The Finn was a launch into a remarkable career in another aspect of the sport for Russell Coutts, who is still surrounded by many other top Finn sailors, such as Cam Lewis, and Scott MacLeod, who was running the World Match Racing Tour until recently.

1984: Russell Coutts wins Olympic Gold. Image copyright Robert Deaves/FIA.

"My years in this class were an important chapter in my sailing career and the catalyst for other sailing opportunities," wrote Russell Coutts (Finnfare, April 2010), the 1984 Olympic Gold medallist. Indeed, not just this multiple America's Cup winner, but very many members of the sailing fraternity commenced their careers in this Olympic dinghy, later moving on to Solings or Star boats, and broadening out into match racing for the America's Cup or dealing with the very different challenges of a long-distance around-the-world campaign in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Wherever one looks, Finn sailors are to be found at the top of the sport, and many of those who commenced racing the Finn in the 1960s, such as Bernd Dehmel, are still active in the class; the best measurement of the quality in sailing provided. From Elvstrøm to Ainslie the success of Finn sailors throughout the sport is second to none. Photo FINNish reflects this passion to perfection.

And a Couple of Finn Stories to Fin(n)ish...

In Photo FINNish Jochen Schuemann (1976 Olympic Gold medallist) comments on sailing the 1983 Pre-Olympics in Los Angeles in a borrowed boat. He was due to have had a new Finn for this event, but it didn't arrive. As the then DDR Sailing Team manager, Peter Leschke, put it: "I paid Tim Law to take a holiday, so that Jochen could sail his boat." Both the Law brothers, Chris and Tim, got on well with the DDR Finn sailors.

Former 5.5 Metre boat 'Ballerina', with a Finn mast as a mizzen. Image copyright Peter Taylor.

In one of the longest articles he has written about his sailing, in September 2009, Jochen Schuemann wrote in the German magazine 'Yacht' that he was able to buy his mother her first washing machine with the money he was given for winning Gold in the 1976 Olympics in the Finn. While I can't shed any light on what happened to Schuemann's Gold medal winning mast, former top Finn builder, Peter Taylor (aka Bungy) came up with an interesting use for his Finn mast, when not sailing his Finn, that is. Bungy converted his originally Iain Murray designed used-to-be 5.5 Metre to include an electric inboard engine, a small cabin, aero-rig, bulb keel and trim tab. When he decided to go single-handed sailing in Ballerina on the Atlantic Ocean, he put his Finn mast on the back as a mizzen!

The 2010 Finn Gold Cup finished in San Francisco, USA, last week; this week it is the International 5.5 Metre Worlds on Lake Garda, Italy.

Peter Montgomery presents copies of Photo FINNish to Finn 'old boys', left to right: Cam Lewis, Russell Coutts, Peter Montgomery and Scott MacLeod. Supplied image.

In short, Photo FINNish is a wonderful celebration of the Finn dinghy, and all those connected with the class: a must have for any FINNatic!

Photo FINNish is available to purchase through the International Finn Association. Please see their website for full details.