a man and a plan

Something great is going down in Valencia. Luca Devoti’s Dinghy Academy and the International Finn Class have embarked on a joint venture to fund the coaching and training of sailors from developing Finn nations. The objective is nothing less than qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics. So far Agustin Zabalua from Argentina and Alejandro Foglia from Uruguay have received funding and the class is looking for two more eligible athletes to complete the funding package for 2013.
These two sailors are part of a training group of a dozen or more top athletes benefiting from Valencia’s near perfect conditions. In addition, teams from Austria and Russia have been training alongside the full time sailors in preparation for the season ahead.

The agreement between the two organisations also provides free use of equipment and facilities for five days to eligible sailors. This is a great opportunity for sailors from nations without a history of Finn sailing to find out what it is all about, with coaching and advice from the best in the world, all freely given.

Luca Devoti needs no introduction. Larger than life both in person and ambition, his vision of a Finn training base has come to life as the Dinghy Academy in Valencia. His passion for this is obvious and he gets a great satisfaction from passing on hard won knowledge and seeing the next generation of Finn stars evolve. He recently wrote on the dozen or so boats currently training in Valencia, “They are training hard, spending long hours on the water and getting better at their game. They love Finn sailing, they are racing against the pros and at times their bows are at the front of the fleet. What a fantastic boat the Finn is. Very young athletes, pros and a huge community of masters all share the same passion, the same drive and the same quality. Every boat has a soul and the Finn is special.”

His plan for the academy was to a assemble a world class array of talent and coaches to train together during the next Olympic cycle. Charter boats are available and a team of dedicated sailors is led by four time Olympian Vasilij Zbogar. Into this cauldron of expertise and athleticism the class hopes to introduce emerging talent and give them to tools to complete at the highest level.

Foglia. “My first contact with the Finn was in November last year in Valencia, and since then I have been there three more times sailing with others Finn sailors from all over the world. Through the Finn Class funding I can access all the facilities of the Dinghy Academy, including accommodation during my stay and access to gym. I think I am getting the feeling of the boat quite fast but I have lot of work and hours on the water to come. The good thing is that through the Academy I am improving fast.

“I had never sailed the Finn before, so I was very excited the first time. I didn’t think about how hard it was going to be or what to expect, I just was happy to sail a new class. It surprised me how tough the boat is and how hard the direct one-to-one pumping is.”

Zabalua is a former D-One champion and is in no doubt about the potential of the programme in Valencia, but also about the mountain that lies ahead of him.“I always knew that the Finn was a super hard boat and for a light guy the effort would be enormous. At the present time I am discovering how hard it is, so have also added a nap to my daily routine to recover. It is also more competitive that I could have imagined. One simple mistake takes you down the fleet very fast so brains and muscle should be working together. It will be one of the hardest challenges in my life.”

“The Finn class funding is helping me to complete the academy programme and concentrate my energies on sailing and body work.”
More and more sailors are including Valencia and the Dinghy Academy in their training plans for the year, with a concerted presence of talent expected around the Palma and Hyeres world cup regattas over the next month and a half.

If this interests you, if you think you could take on the Finn challenge, please contact the class for more information or check the Finn Class website (www.finnclass.org) for further details. The excellent photos are by Pavlína Soukupová  who is on-site most days to record the progress of the group. A larger selection can be found on the Finn Class Facebook page. – Robert Deaves.