Saturday, July 17, 2010

Coaching on the Finn Circuit

These past couple of months have been spent in Europe coaching Luke Lawrence in the Finn. We started with the Finn European championships in Croatia, followed by the Delta Lloyd regatta in Holland, a week of tuning with the Polish Finn team in Gdansk, Poland; and finished up at Kiel Week in Germany. It's been great being involved again in the class where I spent many years campaigning for the Olympics, and traveling the world in pursuit of world and continental titles.

this could be the first Finn ever built

Watching Luke start out in the Finn is like deja vu. Coming into the Finn class from the Laser in 1978, I experienced the same issues he is going through this season. Coming from the Laser into the Finn means learning new and different sailing techniques and dealing with a more complex sail and mast set up. The Finn is more of a "boat" due to it's heavy weight, (almost twice as heavy as the sailor) and less than a dinghy like the Laser, which is 75 percent the weight of the sailor. The harder you hike in the Laser, the faster you go. With the Finn, if the set up is not right, sometimes the harder you hike the slower you go! Learning to effectively sail any new boat requires going through a certain process. It takes patience, persistence and the ability to integrate and implement new concepts and techniques. I am working with Luke to shorten his learning process and give him the confidence that he is on track and headed in the right direction.

My mantra to Luke, which I repeat to him regularly, is that you have to go through the alphabet from A to Z before you can begin to spell. It is by making mistakes or having bad races where you actually learn the most. Over these past three European events, we have laid down a solid foundation from which he can build on. The exciting part of this process is in seeing Luke's ability to quickly integrate and apply new lesson and concepts.

we are doing a lot of mast bend analysis looking for the perfect mast sail combination

The highlight of our European swing was the final day of racing in Kiel Week, our last event. Luke had the second best score for the day! He showed good speed, sailed smart tactical races, and made great decisions to grab two top ten finishes.

The next stop for Luke and I are the Silver and Gold Cups ( Finn junior and senior World Championships) in my hometown San Francisco. These will be hotly contested world titles. Some of the top sailors are already training in the bay a month and a half before the championships.

The Silver Cup (junior Finn World Championship) will be sailed on the San Francisco city front just off the Saint Francis Yacht Club. It will be a challenge for the sailors dealing with the strong currents, the flow under the Golden Gate Bridge, and the strong puffy winds that are generated by the fog that rolls into the bay.

The Gold Cup (senior Finn world championships) will be held on the Berkeley Circle race course which is another 4-5 miles down the bay and is known for its big winds and steep chop. The big news is the final "medal race," where only the top ten competitors sail off in a single short race to determine the world champion, will be held right in front of the Saint Francis Yacht Club.

I'm currently in San Francisco for the next couple of months getting some needed Laser training in preparation for the Laser Master World Championships this September, and coaching Luke and a couple other European Finn sailors in the Finn world championships. The only exception is a quick trip to Chicago to sail onboard Scout in the Chicago to Mackinac Island Race, where we hope to duplicate our class win of a couple of years ago. I'm looking forward to these events and also to my own training. It's great to be home!