Former top Junior Finn sailor Caleb Paine dominated the recent ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami to take his second major regatta inside of nine months and begin his campaign for Rio 2016 in earnest. In doing so he led a field of mainly young sailors who are clearly the ones to watch in the years to come. The focus this year is definitely going to be on the youth of the class.
Paine’s chief rival for the Rio slot is Zach Railey – if he decides to have a third crack at the Olympics – but the 2008 Silver medalist broke his hand a week before Miami and was unable to sail. Paine, 22, entered the class in 2009 and though he lost the 2010 Silver Cup Junior World Championships to Luke Lawrence, who placed 12th this week, he was the leading Junior in the 2011 world rankings and is currently the world number 2. Unlike Lawrence though he has focussed purely on the Finn since and this could be the year he breaks into the big time. He also won last year’s Delta Lloyd Regatta, an ISAF Sailing World Cup event and has now proved that was no flash in the pan.
Second overall Greg Douglas, also 22, from Canada was the oldest of the three podium finishers by a few months, and though he started the week conservatively, showed he is clearly a contender with two race wins to take the silver, which boosted him to world ranked number 3. His closest Canadian competition at the moment is Martin Robitaille, the current Junior Finn World Champion, who finished in sixth place overall. Canada has recently put together a really strong youth team, and, with the help of 2008 Olympian Chris Cook as coach, has made great advances over the past year. In Douglas’ words, “We are ready to show the world what we can do.”
The bronze medal was reserved for Brazil’s Jorge Zarif, the 2009 Finn Junior World Champion and current world ranked number 10. Zarif, 20, is dominating Brazilian Finn sailing at the moment, winning the recent 26 boat Brazilian Nationals with six bullets from seven races. However even he must have been slightly perturbed to see returning Finn sailor, and double Star Olympic medallist, Bruno Prada winning the opening race in Miami. Prada is 41 and while both sailors are training together, he has only been back in the boat a few months, so time will tell if he will mount a serious challenge to Zarif. Zarif competed in London as a relative rookie, but his eyes were already on Rio and the glory of competing in a home Olympics. It is also a matter of family pride as his father competed in the Finn in 1984 and 1988.
Out of the top 12 Finns in Miami, eight were youths. Many have done their apprenticeship and done the miles. All have stacks of enthusiasm and ambition for the season ahead. The Finn class has a Facebook gallery of nearly 200 photos from Miami and full results here. – Robert Deaves.