By Dave Hemenway
Photos by Robert Deaves
Fifty-eight sailors from sixteen countries contested the 2023 Finn Gold Cup, hosted by the Coconut Grove Sailing Club in Miami, FL January 27 – 31.
The Finn is a popular, performance oriented 14’ 9” single sail dinghy that was developed for the 1952 Olympics by Scandinavian designer Rickard Sarby, based on an International Canoe design. The original wooden boats were made by home builders in the Scandinavian countries. Fiberglass hulls were developed in the 1960s, and the unstayed, flexible masts have evolved over the years from the original wooden ones to aluminum and the present day carbon fiber.
Finns are one of the most successful small sailboats because they have adapted to modern technology while keeping their basic design controlled by strict one-design rules. Older Finns are often competitive with newer boats on the club and regional level. They are a joy to sail because while they have many sail controls, they are easy to sail in light and moderate conditions. Finns meet the needs of world-class international competitors while also being great boats to sail!
There are currently thirty-six countries with active Finn fleets. Having been the Men’s Olympic singlehander for seventy years, they are considered the “Classic Power Dinghy” by serious solo sailors. The famous Danish sailor Paul Elvstrøm was an avid Finn sailor for many years, winning the Olympic gold medal three times and the Finn Gold Cup twice.
Held annually around the world since 1956, the Gold Cup is the Finn Class world championship. It has been sailed in the U.S. four times including this year. Sailors came from North America, South America and Europe. Junior sailors presented each nation’s flag in the welcoming ceremony. The Ukraine sailor, Vadym Zadvornov, received a rousing welcome when the Ukraine flag was raised at the welcoming ceremony.
With competitors from 16 to 87, the Finn Gold Cup was won for the second time by Ed Wright from Britain, followed by Domomkos Nemeth from Hungary in second place, with Spanish sailor Miquel Fernandez Vasco taking third.
Three New England Finn sailors competed in the 2023 Gold Cup. Rodion Mazin from Forestdale, MA, representing the U.S. Coast Guard, sailed a modern Devoti Finn and came in 7th. Charles Rudinsky, from Exeter, NH and representing Great Bay Marine, sailed his modern Devoti Finn White Out to 36th place. Gus Miller, hailing from Portsmouth, RI and representing Storm Trysail Club, sailed a renovated 1979 Vanguard Finn and finished 53rd. Rodion Mazin is a top U.S. Finn sailor who also serves as the Secretary of the U.S. Finn Association.
Gus Miller is a member of the International Finn Association’s Hall of Fame who has made many contributions to the class over the last half century, from providing excellent technical articles and videos to coaching several international Finn sailors. Still actively sailing and racing at 87, Gus is the oldest sailor to ever race in a Finn Gold Cup. He has sailed Finns for over sixty years and competed in the Olympics in the 1970s.
The 1979 Vanguard Finn that Gus sailed was refurbished by Peter Frissell, President of the U.S. Finn Association. What started out as a heavy, wet, well-worn hull was transformed into a competitive boat when equipped with a carbon fiber HIT wing mast. In fact, Peter did such a fantastic job reducing the weight of this hull that it was several pounds under weight, which was easily corrected during the measuring and certification process.
Gus brought several sails from his vast collection of Finn sails. According to him, a major requirement of Finn sailing is to properly fit the sail to the characteristics of the mast in varying wind conditions. Gus had one of his North Dacron sails recut to fit the carbon mast he was using for this regatta. North Sails in Miami did this work in a couple days so Gus could use the sail in this regatta. What great service! This arrangement worked very well for him in moderate air.
The conditions in Miami ranged from a brisk wind on days 1, 2 and 3 to light and shifty on days 4 and 5. Several races were conducted in strong winds in which the stronger, younger sailors were at an advantage. Rodion Mazin excelled in these conditions where he earned three sixth place finishes and one fourth. On the light and shifty days, the lighter sailors did better. In all the races, the sailors with good situational awareness did well when their tactics and sail trim were good. Gus Miller’s best sailing was done in the seventh race where he rounded the first windward mark in the top 20, to the hoots and cheers of the mark boat crew. He finished this race in 33rd position – his best race of the regatta.
The fifth day of scheduled racing was cancelled by the Race Committee because of the uncertainty of the winds. Each competitor was informed of this by the safety boat crews. Gus Miller and Larry Sutter were sailing near each other and decided to continue to work on their respective sail trim to improve their sailing. They informed two safety boats of their intentions. Larry and Gus sailed for four hours…to the consternation of some on land. Great Finn sailors are always working to improve their sailing expertise, even when the regatta is over!
Robert Deaves, a professional photographer from Britain and the Secretary of the International Finn Association, shot this event and has made images available free of charge. All the photographs for this article were taken by him. I greatly appreciate his sharing them with the sailing community. They are at flickr.com/photos/finnclassphotos/. Enjoy!
Ed Wright, the Gold Cup winner, summarized the 2023 Gold Cup when he said, “Coconut Grove Sailing Club put together a great event, and the Race Officer was outstanding this week. Really, hats off to her! Everything went amazingly, and it was a well-oiled regatta.” My summary of the regatta is that it was refreshing to see a well-run international regatta that had wonderful, close racing and was a celebration of a vibrant sailing community. Full results are posted at YachtScoring.com. To learn more about Finn sailing, visit facebook.com/InternationalFinnClass. ■
Dave Hemenway lives in Eastern Connecticut and sails out of Thames Yacht Club in New London. He’s been sailing and messing about in boats for his whole life and has recreationally sailed Finns on and off since the 1970s. His primary cruising boat is a Dickerson 36 yawl that he has maintained and improved for 35 years. Since his retirement from higher education, he has worked at Cappy’s Boat Shop where he reports to his dog, Cappy. Dave founded the Classic Finn Organization (classicfinns.org), which supports sailing and repairing older classic Finns. Thames YC now has a fleet of four classic Finns that have weekly fun races and a formal regatta each fall.