Should Finn Class turn back the clock?

Published on August 12th, 2021

For a one design class, inclusion in the Olympic Games is guaranteed to heighten the level of competition. While many decades ago that may not have impacted how people follow rules, that ship has long sailed.

Getting an edge today means pushing, and if no one is looking, crossing the line, and nowhere is this clearer than with prohibited actions of propulsion. While the Racing Rules of Sailing outline what is permitted, the inability for competitors to limit themselves, and for umpires to regulate the fleet, has led to these rules getting loosened.

For the Finn Class, their rules permit the Race Committee to allow unlimited pumping, rocking, and ooching after the starting signal (except when the boat’s proper course is close-hauled or above) in winds of 10 knots and above.

This ‘game on’ approach downwind requires elite fitness for top speed, but as the Finn Class will not be used as equipment for the Paris 2024 Olympics, a Facebook post by Rodney Cobb was wondering if a change was due to the Finn Class interpretation of RRS 42:

Over the past few years I have noticed that there are a lot of Finn sailors in the UK who pump regardless of the conditions, i.e. where there is no Oscar flag flying or the conditions are such that surfing or planing is not possible.

This seems to be a growing problem filtering down to club racing and low level open events; I guess that’s because when one person does it the rest decide it’s okay to do the same! What surprises and disappoints me is that the main culprits are normally the better sailors in the fleet.

I am aware of a number of people who have either left the Finn class or decided that it’s not a class they want to sail in due to the free pumping rule so, in my view, this blatant disregard for the rules is damaging the Finn cause. Also, I have heard from a number of Finn sailors across the globe who also are unhappy with this rule breaking in their own countries.

My questions are:
1. Should we allow free pumping in the Finn class in all conditions?
2. Now that the Finn is non-Olympic and mostly Masters, should we remove or, perhaps, amend the free pumping rule?
3. Stay with the same rules and ask the people who flout the rules to do ‘the proper thing’?

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