Thursday, May 20, 2010

Finn Coaching - Luke Lawrence Takes Silver at the Finn Junior European Championship

I had the opportunity this past week to coach a promising young American Finn sailor, Luke Lawrence, to a Silver medal performance at the Finn senior and junior European Championships in Split, Croatia. For me, it was a walk down memory lane in more ways than one. First, it provided me with a chance to check in with the class in which I spent many years training and campaigning for the Olympics. It was also an opportunity to help out someone who is walking in the same footsteps I did when I began Finn sailing.

Luke, who is from Martin County, Florida, made a last minute decision on the eve of the Rolex Miami OCR this past January to switch from the Laser to the Finn. It was based on the realization that at 19 years old, he was already fifteen pounds to heavy to be competitive in the Laser. With only one and a half hour practice, he surprised himself and many others by finishing a credible 17th place. As a member of US Sailing's AlphaGraphics youth development team, Luke was able to send his newly acquired used boat to Europe to compete against the best sailors in the world this season.

After Luke's two frustrating World Cup regattas in Spain and France, I was brought in to provide coaching support for him at the Finn European Championships. As is the case with any new Finn sailor, getting up to speed is challenging and time consuming. It's not just learning the proper sailing technique in all conditions, for you also have to develop the physical strength and stamina that is required. In addition, getting the equipment sorted out is paramount, especially the sail and mast combination.

Not surprisingly, Luke is quickly picking up the different sailing techniques needed to make the boat sail fast. He has a naturally aggressive sailing style that is well suited for the Finn. Physically he is well built to pack on the muscle strength and extra pounds he will need to compete with the top Finn sailors.

Besides time in the boat, Luke's biggest challenge is developing his sail/mast combination to find the proper set up to match his weight and sailing style. It is not uncommon for sailors and their national teams to test dozens of masts and sails before settling on a fast combination. Ioannis Mitakis, the two-time Finn junior European gold medallist from Greece, is reported to have tested dozens of masts and sails. Most impressive was his 12th place overall finish in the senior championships on the way to the junior title.

Luke's major goal this year is to place well at the Finn Silver and Gold Cups (Junior and Senior World Championships) that are being held in San Francisco this coming August. He will continue to train and race in Europe through early summer and then take a break from the Finn to crew for Augie Diaz at the 505 World Championship in Denmark before preparing for the Finn World Championships.

I look forward to working with Luke at the next two World Cup regattas in the Netherlands and Germany, and helping him prepare for the Finn Silver and Gold Cups being held in my home waters of San Francisco.

My own Laser campaign continues towards the 2010 Master's World Championships at Hayling Island, UK this September. This includes competing in the August Pre-Olympic regatta, Sail for Gold, in Weymouth, UK. In July, I will also be racing onboard Dorsey Ruley's "Scout" in the 2010 Chicago to Mackinac Island race attempting to recreate our class victory two years ago.

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