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ZACK RAILEY: The Finn is “Faster, Higher, Stronger”

Published on March 20th, 2013

Among the ten sailing events selected for the 2016 Olympic Games, nine of them involve high performance dinghies, skiffs, boards, and multihulls – all sailed by agile men and women. And then there is the Finn, 60+ years and counting, sailed by bulky men with grunt strength.

2011USSTAG_Zach Railey_credit Amory Ross US SAILINGAmid the movement for the Olympic sailing events to highlight youth and action, how does the Finn event continue to remain in the Games since its debut in 1952?

Labeled the ‘Men’s Heavyweight Dinghy’, 2008 Olympic Silver medalist Zach Railey (USA) defends the event:

* What is the best argument for the Finn to be among these other events?

Zach Railey: There MUST be events that range all weight classes in the Olympics. With the Star now removed, the Finn is the only class that represents the 90 KG and above sailors.

It is well documented that overall people throughout the world are getting bigger, stronger and fitter, and the Finn is really a true test of power, endurance, and mental strength. Anyone who has sailed a Finn in steep chop and 20 knots can tell you just how physically hard the boat is to sail. In addition, we have just lowered our free pumping rule to 10 knots which has really increased the necessary physical capacity of the sailors. The athletic abilities of the sailors truly reflects the Olympic motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger”

Importantly, the Finn is relatively affordable to purchase and campaign, has significant worldwide participation and a very successful youth development program. The Finn has incredibly strict measurement control so a new boat purchased in 2011 will still be competitive against boats purchased in 2006 or will still be competitive with new boats purchased in 2016.

* The Finn is viewed as an old design. What do you see as some of the misunderstandings when it comes to the Finn?

Zach Railey: Well the Finn is an “old design” but it is not old. We have adapted with the times and new construction materials all while preserving the originality of the design.

1. The new Carbon Mast is a work of art. They are beautifully constructed and are so accurate in the building process that you can get exactly the bend characteristic you are looking for in the mast. You can literally build the mast down to the Millimeter at the individual bend points on the mast it is really a huge technological step for the class. This allows sailors from 90 kg to 110 kg to sail the Finn and adapt the boat to their specific feel and sailing style, but while also keeping the technical advantage at a minimum because of the strict measurement procedures set forth by the class.

2. On the sail side of things we are constantly using new materials that work well but are durable and reliable products which help the life of the sails and lowers costs. You can make small adjustments to the sails to help fit with your mast, weight, and sailing style and this again allows us to reach a large range of sailors over 90kg.

3. We have lowered the minimum weight of the boats and implemented a fantastic re-certification process for the older boats to be brought to the new weight. This has made the boats faster, lighter, and more exciting than ever before.

4. I have learned so much about the technical side of sailing since coming into the Finn. Not because there are huge major loopholes in our measurement process. There really are none we have an incredibly strict measurement process and credit goes to our builders and measurement team for making this a big point to implement in the class. What we do have is very, very small tolerances that allow you to change the boat to who you are as a sailor with the mast and sails. For me this is one of the very unique things about a Finn and learning who you are and what you do in the boat and then making those small adjustments is really something that you discover the more and more you spend time in the Finn.

5. Last, but certainly not least we have the free pumping rule after 10 knots of wind. Watching a Finn going downwind with a sailor jumping around in the boat, pumping the main 1 to 1 off the boom and working to complete 100% exhaustion is really an amazing sight and something that makes the experience of sailing a Finn exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time.

* Explain the physical requirements for sailing the Finn?

Zach Railey: The physical requirements of sailing a Finn are like no other boat on the Olympic Circuit.

1. You have to be big and have the frame to build the strength needed to sail the boat.
2. Power is the number one word I think of when I think of a Finn Sailor we are just big powerful guys.
3. With the new sailing techniques and especially the new 10 knot free pumping rule we have seen the fleet become much fitter while maintaining the strength needed to control the boat.
4. The top Finn Sailors in the World will spend 4 days a week lifting in the gym, 3 days a week doing cardio training sessions, eating the right nutrition and will do all of this while sailing 5 days each week because the boat requires that type of dedication.
5. Finn Sailing requires you to hike against a boat that has non-stop power while sailing upwind. The burn and pain that runs through your body while hiking I have never felt in another boat in my career it is simply a test of power and endurance. Then imagine doing that for 20 minutes and then going straight into a downwind or reach where your heart rate is at 180 bpm or higher do this over and over again until you reach our target race time of 75 min. Then do that at least two times a day and then do that for 6 days straight. I challenge anyone to do this and come back and tell a Finn Sailor that the Finn is not physically Olympic!!

2016 Olympic Events – Sailing
Men’s sailboard – RS:X
Men’s single person dinghy – Laser
Men’s heavyweight dinghy – Finn
Men’s two person dinghy – 470
Men’s two person skiff – 49er
Women’s sailboard – RS:X
Women’s single person dinghy – Laser Radial
Women’s two person dinghy – 470
Women’s two person skiff – 49er FX
Mixed multihull – Nacra 17

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