junior high

junior high

Last week, the two non-European Finn sailors Caleb Paine and Luke Lawrence took the Junior bronze and silver medals at the Finn Senior and Junior European Championship in Split, Croatia after a difficult week of unusual wind and weather patterns, in which only six of the 10 scheduled opening races were sailed. Robert Deaves gives you an inside look.

Caleb took the bronze, and placed 40th overall out of a fleet of 97, though he didn’t quite meet his goal of top 30. Having started in 2009 and sailed a few events last year including the Gold Cup in Copenhagen, Caleb had returned fitter, stronger, heavier and better prepared. At 100kg he is above average weight and found, like a lot of the young sailors, that time in the gym also adds a lot of weight. He said, "The physical aspect of sailing the Finn is more important than other boats I have sailed in the past where training was more focused on specific gym work, rather than on the sailing."

The focus turns to home waters later in the year with two major events in San Francisco. "I’m really looking forward to the Gold Cup in San Francisco. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’ve sailed there a lot and of course there is the Silver Cup [World Juniors] just before that. That will be my first Silver Cup so I am really looking forward to it. The best part of the Finn for me is that it’s very different from the other boats I sailed. It’s a really cool class because you get lots of different types of people – it’s in a league of its own. And it’s great sailing."

Meanwhile, Luke is a relative newcomer to the class, having first stepped into his Finn at the Miami OCR in January. He placed 30th in the fleet last week, an impressive result by any standards. He is coached by Finn legend John Bertrand, USA, who won the 1978 Finn Gold Cup, the 1979 Europeans and the Olympic Finn silver medal in 1984. Bertrand said, "He’s quite a talent. He has a lot to learn and we have a lot to learn in terms of getting the right equipment for him. But he has some great potential. Just watching him in the boat and seeing his body movements, he’s kind of image wise at the same level as the top guys."

Luke took Bertrand on as coach to speed up the learning process. "The support from US Sailing is pretty good, but with four guys on the team it’s sometimes hard to get the coaching I need to get to where I want to be, so I decided to speed up the process a bit and brought John in and it’s really paying off. I’ve leant more in the last week than in the last four months in the Finn."

"My strong areas are the starts and first half of the beat, but then I get lost after that so hopefully John can help with that. I don’t mind so much if I lose boats on speed as I am still building the strength to hold the boat, but tactically I could be better sometimes."

Bertrand added, "I will be coaching Luke in San Francisco for the Silver and Gold Cups. He’s very aggressive in the boat, and he seems to learn quite quickly. It’s great to see these young kids coming in and taking to the class so well. Luke loves it. It’s perfectly suited to him."

In their bid to take the World Junior title in August, Caleb and Luke will have to get past the fastest Junior in the world at the moment – 20 year old Ioannis Mitakis from Greece, who took the 2010 Junior European title in Split last week with ease, placing 12th overall in the Senior fleet.