The British Finn Association U23 squad were gathered at the National Sailing Academy in Weymouth last week for a GAC Pindar training camp as their final preparation for this year's U23 Finn World Championship (the Finn Silver Cup), which begins at Balatonfured, in Hungary, next week. Their coaching programme is coordinated by the BFA and funded by the sailors (or parents) with some help from the BFA and some significant support from GAC Pindar.
Two years ago the British Finn class recognised that many of the young sailors in the class could benefit from training and funding as they aspired to make the transition between local fleets and international competition. For some sailors the squad represents a possible route into the British Sailing Team.
The squad of six, under the guidance of coach James Hadden, a former British Sailing Team member, have made significant improvements.
Cameron Tweedle won the BFA Travellers Trophy last year for the best overall performance at UK events while Callum Dixon finished fifth in the UK National Championships. They have both gained valuable experience by competing at senior international level this year at Palamos, Palma, Hyeres, Marseille and Kiel.
Tweedle commented on the programme. “It’s been a pivotal year with my main focus being my result in Hungary for the Silver Cup. Due to this I have competed at as many high profile events as I possibly could, including Hyeres, the Europeans in Marseille and Kiel Week. In addition to these I have spent the last four weeks living in Weymouth with the aim to move there permanently. This has had a big positive effect on my sailing.”
He said that because everyone in the squad have become friends, it’s sometimes hard to switch to being competitors both whilst racing and off the water. But, “Being a part of the British Under 23 squad has been extremely beneficial, this is because we can consistently train at a high standard and push each other forward both on and off the water.”
Dixon talked about the improvements they had made through the coaching. “Not necessarily in final results, but in the top 10 rounding the windward mark. I feel much more confident and comfortable in the boat after all our winter training. We feel a real team travelling together and it helps keep costs down.”
The British GAC Pindar U23 squad has been busy preparing for the Silver Cup with a series of training camps in Weymouth, led by Hadden. Tweedle is quietly optimistic.
“At last year’s Silver Cup in Aarhus, I came 19th overall whilst posting some top 10 results through out the week. This is something I am pleased and proud about, however I am keen and very capable to improve greatly on my position this year.”
On the competition this year, he said, “I am expecting it to be an extremely competitive week due to the high standard of the entries this year. It's going to be both physically and psychologically testing. Personally I'd like to be pushing a top 10 position.”
“Balaton is a notoriously light wind venue, this will test me in many different ways to previous competition.”
Of the other squad members, Markus Bettum also competed at Palma and Kiel and James Skulczuk, who joined the squad late last year, competed at Kiel. Markus, James and Joe Stocker have had to juggle their competition programme around university exams but are now able to concentrate on preparation for the U23 World Championships.
The sixth member, Jack Arnell, finished fifth in the 2015 British National Championships but since then has been injured and missed the entire 2016 season and the early part of 2017. He is now getting back to full fitness and looking forward to competing in Hungary.
The BFA U23 squad are part of the largest national team at the Silver Cup, joining British Sailing Team members Hector Simpson and Henry Wetherell in the 48 boat Silver Cup fleet.
The squad are young enough to compete in many more Silver Cups in future years so this year they will be looking to improve on last year’s results and gain more valuable experience.
Tweedle summed up the feeling of them all. “The GAC Pindar BFA U23 squad has been fantastic for all who have been a part of it. The progression is clearly visible for all of the sailors. It is a fantastic stepping-stone towards our eventual aim of being a part of the British Olympic squad.”
Andrew Pindar of sponsors GAC Pindar said, “In the current era of multihulls and foils we decided to recognise, through sponsorship of the British Finn Association Under 23 Programme, the ongoing important role in our sport filled by the Finn Class for over fifty years.”
“Modified and developed with the latest technology and thinking, it is quite remarkable how enduring the Finn class has been and why it has been the boat of choice for some of sailing’s greatest athletes. And with an eye to the future it is great to support and encourage younger powerful sailors to keep this heavyweight solo dinghy well within their sights no matter where their careers may head.”
The U23 programme in the UK continues to attract more young sailors to the Finn who have out-grown the Laser and skiff classes and who now see an attractive pathway to continue their sailing and may well lead to the formation of a second squad.