The 2015 Finn Gold Cup at Takapuna Boating Club is now just five days away. Measurement and registration begin on Saturday with the opening ceremony on Saturday evening. Practice is almost over with the Pre-Worlds ending up a pretty windy regatta, and a remarkable winner in the shape of Rafa Trujillo (ESP) after racing was abandoned on Thursday.
In the last of the five-part preview for the Cup, we talk with some of the favourites as they head into the biggest event of the year. As a qualifier for the Rio Olympics it is important for many, but many are also using it as a vital performance indicator ahead of the 2016 season.
The 2012 bronze medallist Jonathan Lobert (FRA) is one of the best Finn sailors in the world, but is still looking for his first major championship medal. “My goal for the event is just to sail as good as I can. In the last two world championships I have been on the podium just before the medal race and I lost it on the last day. I hope I can change this and reach a new level.”
“The training has been really good. I spent my time in La Rochelle training with Fabian Pic (FRA), the young gun, and we spent a lot of time on the water. Giorgio Poggi (ITA) and Max Salminen (SWE) have been also with us for a while. I am happy with the preparation. We had a lot of different conditions during this time of the year. I spoke with the kiwis radial girl also training in La Rochelle last month and she said that Takapuna is very similar to La Rochelle.”
“I think most of the boys are very focussed on this event. It’s the main event of the year especially with the Olympic qualifications going on. I think it will be a lot of stress for the European boys not already selected. On the other hand I think it will also be really interesting to see a regatta with most of the fleet sailing the same boat, I mean the Fantastica. I think we will be surprised by some guys going really well with the boat or not.”
“It will my fist time in New Zealand and I am really looking forward to visiting one of biggest sailing countries in the world. In France we are the best in singlehanded sailing and they are the best in crewed sailing. I hope we can share experience with the local people.”
The local favourites are Josh Junior (NZL) and Andrew Murdoch (NZL). Murdoch said, “There has been a handful of foreign sailors as well as locals here over the last few weeks so the training has been great. It will be my third Finn Gold Cup so I feel very privileged that everyone is making it down to race on New Zealand waters. Hopefully it won’t be so long again before it is back here again.”
He described the conditions the fleet can expect. “Of course it can be anything…we all know what can happen when a big regatta is hosted. Going on averages you would expect a medium/heavy offshore wind for the majority of the competition however New Zealand is a small country in the middle of a lot of water so things usually change a lot from day to day.”
On his own fight for Olympic selection, “World Championships are always a good chance to practice bringing it all together. The end goal is certainly Rio but standing on the podium at major events on the way there certainly helps confidence.”
While he has medalled at major championships, Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) is still looking for his first major championship title. He most recently took bronze at the Olympic test event. “Rio was a great event. The last two months was time for some solid work on my downwind, and that’s been really improving. Also on risk management and preparing for Rio. Risk management had to do with being ok with making mistakes and not going for extra after a mistake. It feels like we made some good gains, but it still has to been shown in a regatta.”
He has done more training in Takapuna over the past year than most other sailors. What has he learned?
“We will see later; I can tell you in two weeks. Actually in wind range it could be anything. The week before last was been light, but the weeks before [and after] quite steady heavy breeze. There are two dominant winds. Off and onshore. And probably we will get mostly offshore and that one is shifty. Will be interesting.”
“It looks like the fleet has been training hard and making steps, which is great to see. I wish everybody a superb regatta.”
Ed Wright (GBR), has reached the podium in the past five Gold Cups, including a world championship win in 2010. He has done less racing that his main rivals recently, preferring to train with the group in Florida. He also did the Abu Dhabi World Cup final last month. “I had not done a regatta since Weymouth so it was good to get a few starts practicing in and getting some races off. Otherwise, the training has been great. I have been putting a lot of effort into the new boat. I hope it's fantastic at the Gold Cup.”
Despite losing out on Olympic selection again Wright remains one of the fittest and fastest sailors in the fleet. “It would be great to win the Finn Gold Cup again. But there are many sailors that have the potential so as it’s Takapuna and pretty shifty, let's hope it goes my way. I am fast enough. I just need to send it the right way.”
The defending champion is Giles Scott (GBR) and the man everyone wants to beat. In fact he has been unbeaten in the class for more than two years.
He said, “The training has been going well. I had some time off after the test event and then started to sail again with the new boat, which I've been trialling.”
“This will be an incredibly hard event as with most Gold Cups. But historically the year before the Games is the hardest of the cycle to win. There are lots of new guys coming through as well as some others coming out of 'retirement'.”
Scott has had some experience on the racing area, but how much of it will be useful remains to be seen. “I have sailed in Auckland a lot, but not in any Finns. I was based here for seven months with Luna Rossa in 2012-13. So I have seen a lot of the race course but from a bit of a different perspective. But from what I've seen it is most likely to be tricky off shore shifty conditions.”
“This year is ultimately about getting everything in place for Rio in under a year, and major events along the way are clearly World champs so I'm hoping to sail well here. But there is a lot that Matt [Howard] and I need to get done, so it going to be a very intense year.”
While on paper Scott is the favourite, recent form among the rest of the fleet brings any number of sailors into the picture, some of whom we have covered in these interviews. Next week we’ll bring you a complete run down of the names to watch and where the smart money should be placed.
The Finn Gold Cup runs from Saturday 21 to Sunday 29 November. Ten races are scheduled from Tuesday 24 to Saturday 28 November, with the medal race and final race on Sunday 29 November.
– Robert Deaves