The approach of an Olympic Games normally has a positive influence on activities in the host country and this is proving to be especially true of the Finn class in Brazil. Just over four years ago we reported on the joint initiative between Brazil, Pata Boats of Hungary and the International Finn Association to import a mould into Brazil to start building boats there for the first time in more than three decades. The success story of that initiative continues and the class recently held its most successful National Championship in many decades.
While numbers are still small compared to some European countries, it attracted 26 boats, out of a total of 36 Finns actively racing in the country, to three days of competition on the Guarapiranga Lake, in Sao Paulo.
The strength of the class was underlined by fact that most of the boats being raced were new boats built in Brazil on the back of the 2008 initiative. While there are still some imports from Europe, the sheer cost – in terms of duties and transport charges – and complexity of this has meant the unmitigated success of the home build project. Before 2008 the class had very little growth because the cost of importing a boat was almost the same as the cost of the boat itself.
The fleet at Guarapiranga included boats from the three centres of Finn sailing in Brazil. There were boats from Rio, Sao Paulo, and from the fledging fleet growing in the capital Brasilia.
There was a complete mix of conditions over the three days, but favourite, the 2012 Olympian Jorge Zarif, took the title from the returning Bruno Prada. Andre Mirsky ended up third after Prada sailed a great last day to snatch second place.
Zarif took six race wins out of the seven races (Prada took the other race win) to dominate the competitive and expanding fleet. Further growth is expected over the next three years as the country and the fleet prepare for the Olympics.
The man behind the 2008 project was Jorge Rodrigues, though most of the new boats were built by the local boatbuilder Holos under his guidance. Jorge is now the new National secretary of the class as well as being involved in ‘Apoio Rio 2016’, a training support organisation for sailors and federations wishing to locate in Rio.
After the first dozen of so boats were built Jorge felt that the boat could be improved, so set about designing and building a new boat. Because the cost of Holos doing the work was so high, he started work himself and the first boat has recently been launched.
“I started to work by myself to develop this new boat last year. It took me 10 months of hard work to complete the job, but right now I have a new set of moulds for this new model.”
“I built a single hull to test it as a prototype. The new boat was sent to sail in the windiest region in Rio for a good structural test, and the boat went without any problem and without a single drop of water inside the hull. I am right now working with the class to see how will we measure and approve the new boat to allow me to sell it to our market.”
“We also built a few masts here and we are still working to have a competitive mast for sailors in all weight ranges. We produced good masts for light or heavy sailors, but we still need to produce a mast with good numbers for the average sailors, from 90 to 100 kg.”
“The first mast built here was very soft and only performs well for light sailors and in light winds. The second mast, after some fine tuning, sanding some areas and reinforcing in others was very good, and this mast won a local regatta in Rio with four races and nine boats competing.”
“After this we went to Brasilia to race there and a local sailor, Juliando Camargo, liked the mast performance and decided to buy it. Some time ago Juliando also bought the first boat that we built and is the first helmsman to compete with both a boat and mast nationally built for a long time. He went to compete at our nationals and he got the best race position of all the boats we have built.”
“Unfortunately, on the last leg of the first race of our Nationals, a very strong wind caused many sailors to capsize or rip their sails, and Juliando lost his precious sail that was perfectly matched to his mast. He finished fifth in the race but the sail was not usable, though he had proved the mast was fast.”
Jorge says the mast project is a bit behind schedule, but a new mould is being planned, maybe built by Holos, and masts should be readily available in Brazil soon.
As for sails, one local sail builder tried to develop a sail but most sailors prefer to buy their sails from North Sails Argentina.
Brazil has a long history and tradition in the Finn class. Its most famous Finn sailor was Jorg Bruder who was tragically killed in a airplane crash in 1973 while travelling to Brest to defend his world title for the third time. The country has twice hosted the Finn Gold Cup, the last time in 2004 when Ben Ainslie famously equalled Bruder’s record of three consecutive wins that had stood for 30 years.
The current big name in the class is Jorge Zarif, and for anyone with aspirations to represent Brazil in the Finn class in 2016, Zarif is currently the one to beat.
The recent return of former Finn sailor and double Olympic Star medalist Bruna Prada has added a new ingredient to the mix, and though he won the opening race in January at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami, has yet to make a final decision on a full campaign. Though the numbers were low, it was a competitive week that gave Zarif the bronze, while Prada finished in seventh. On their return to Brazil, Zarif was again dominant at the Brazilian Sailing Week in Rio, winning nine of the ten race series.
Zarif said on his performance in Miami, “It was good in general, and I was happy with the bronze. It was hard because I was always coming from behind, so you have to work harder in the free pumping to win positions. We always had the same guys in the front, one point was super important.”
“The downwind was nice, so I gained a few positions in critical moments, but the upwind was not so good. We are working to improve that for Palma.”
He has not been full time since the Olympics saying, “I had some surgery in my knee after the Olympics, so I have been training for just two months. The downwinds are much better than before.
“I am training with Bruno Prada and coach Rafa Trujiillo in Rio. It’s been great for us. Neither of us likes to lose so the training has been very hard. He has experience and he knows very well what you need to do to have good results, so I am trying to learn from him. We are having good times training and we are good friends. It helps a lot.”
Prada commented, “I am happy to be sailing the Finn again. After just starting to sail the Finn two months ago I am happy with my upwind, and very impressed with the free pumping downwind, but I need to train a lot.”
Since he last sailed a Finn at the 2004 Finn Gold Cup in Rio, he has only sailed Stars and big boats. Was it hard to come back? “I felt old...most of the sailors are at least 15 years younger. The biggest change has been the downwind free pumping for sure. A nightmare…”
While his Star helm Robert Scheidt has already been making his mark back in Lasers, was there an agreement between the two to try different classes for 2016? “Robert needs to eat a little bit more to become a Finn sailor...he is 80kg. He told me that he will try the Laser again. As I was nine years without sailing dinghies, my plan is to do one year of hard sailing, and then evaluate if I am able to go ahead.” However, of course, both are still hoping for another chance in the Star.
“Jorge and I are training together. He is a big, young, talented sailor and with a lot of motivation. It is very good training with him. Rafa Trujillo is coaching us. He is a great coach and he is helping a lot.”
To help sailors, both Brazilian and from overseas, familiarise themselves to the conditions both inside and outside Guanabara Bay, the class is running its next three National Championships in Rio.
Rodriques said, “The class decided that we will have the next three Brazilian Nationals in Rio de Janeiro as a way to encourage all Finn sailors to get to know the racing area for the Olympic Games of 2016, in Guanabara Bay.”
“We are also interested in hosting the 2015 Finn Gold Cup here in order to provide the Finn sailors some regattas and training for those who will compete in 2016. The idea would be to hold State Championships, Brazilian Nationals, South Americans and the Gold Cup in sequence, to provide various opportunities for sailing here.”
He is also involed, together with fellow Finn sailor Colin Reed, with the Apoio Rio 2016, (literally ‘Help Rio 2016’), initiative which offers help to sailors and national authorities looking to train in Rio prior to the Olympics. He said, “Apoio Rio 2016 has been set up to work in conjunction with FEVERJ (Rio de Janeiro Sailing Federation) and other established Brazilian sailing federations, to provide the operations side of team training support.”
Describing some of the problems they will face, “At present training facilities do not exist, but there are resources available. It will also be virtually impossible to find space for team containers on site in any of the host clubs. All clubs have very little spare space. It’s the one thing they don’t have.”