they might be giants
Another perspective entirely different than Ed Wright’s, comes from Caleb Paine, top junior sailor at the Gold Cup. Caleb is looking for funding for his Finn campaign and is open to suggestion and of course help! get in touch with the kid if you can be of assistance. Photo by Chris Ray.
The Gold Cup is the Holy Grail for Finn sailors, and I was a rookie competing in my first year on the World Cup circuit. Everyday I went sailing I lined up against Olympic medalists, multi-time Olympians, previous World Champions, and others who have done extraordinary things in sailing. When sailing in this fleet I felt as if I was walking among giants. Everyday I hit the water in San Francisco was another chance to learn from the best. And learn I did!
The Finn Gold Cup was held in the Berkeley Circle, which looks west right through the Golden Gate Bridge. There aren’t any geographical features to interfere with the breeze getting to the course. We experienced 18 knots or more every day. This tested the fitness level of the whole fleet. The Gold Cup consists of six days of sailing and with a 1.8 nautical mile beat, often with an opposing currents, some of these weather legs lasted 30 minutes. There were two races each day and each race was twice around. This pushed the sailors to their physical limits
Sailing in the Bay is tricky to say the least. Unlike most places on the World Cup circuit where current is not much of a factor; the current in San Francisco Bay plays a big part any race strategy. And if that were not complicated enough, the wind strength and direction changed hour by hour.
Than there were the tactical decisions to be made. For me this was somewhat of an issue. The racing at times was single tracked. It was start and then a flop onto port as soon as possible in order to get to the favored right side. I struggled at times to get a clear lane on port, meaning I then had to sail farther to the left to get a lane. But that was because of my starts. When starting in a 87 boat fleet I learned that you must make sure to have clear air and be bow out on the boats around you, otherwise you get flushed out the back with little hope of working back for a decent finish. I failed at getting onto port soon enough at times, which can be seen in my two worst results, the 53rd and the 45th.
Some of the weirdest sailing conditions happened on the second to last day. Down in the Berkeley Circle there were holes. Outside the hole there would be 20 knots but in the hole there would only be 5 knots and with it came a 40° wind shift. The holes were very local and only about 100 yards in diameter. Those were quite weird and I have come to understand them as a localized lack of inversion.
The flooding current also made it difficult. The current tended to drag boats toward, and often into, into the marks. This put a premium on finding the lay line and not under or over standing. There were serious gains to be made by judging the lay line correctly.
The runs and reaches were where the big gains were made or lost. I had been working on my downwind legs all season and was pleased to see that I was up to par
with the big boys with my downwind technique. Success went to the sailors who could jump the most waves, which is usually the sailor with who worked the hardest. Watching Michael Maier use his mainsheet one-to-one on a reach in 18 knots humbled me to say the least.
The Finn is the best class I have sailed in. There isn’t I class I know of that has such a great sense of camaraderie. After my first international regatta I knew all the best Finn sailors in the world on a first name bases because they were open, friendly and supportive of the new kid. I think that this coherence of the class stems from the fact that the sailors often train together. This builds friendships as well as making everyone better. Because of this, the competition at a Finn Gold Cup is of the highest caliber.
My first year of Finn sailing, and this past Gold Cup, went well. I finished 28th and was the top junior, and the second American. I still have a lot to learn, and am currently in the process of putting all of the pieces together in order to more consistently closer to the top. What I need to do is keep working hard with Zach Railey and Kenneth Andreason. With their help, funding assistance, and a great deal of hard work I look forward to another good season next year and an improved finish in Perth, Australia in next year’s Gold Cup. I know that each time I learn something new about the Finn I grow a bit, which makes the giants seem just a little less giant.