It’s a very distant memory but it was probably the first big influence on my dinghy racing career that lodged firmly in the memory banks – even to this day. We were sitting in a rather damp sailing club in Emsworth for an evening’s lecture after a full day on the water with the Hampshire Dinghy Racing Squad and were set for something thoroughly riveting like the rules of racing, diets of champions or hiking technique in waves when someone passed over a copy of the latest Laser Sailing magazine – help me here, I forget the name of the monthly Laser publication back in the 1980’s, it was something cool – but it was 1985 and a pretty unknown demi-God of sailing called Lawrence Crispin had just won the Laser World Championships.
These were days long before the internet. Magazines were out of date but the only source of information in our niche sport and the Laser magazine was a treasured item, passed around and entrusted, pored over and analysed by us kids like a biblical text. The pictures captured the scene and gave a window into another world, the articles were written by brilliant journalists and the tips were consumed like golden nuggets whilst the adverts for Javlin jackets (we have to bring them back) and Musto two-piece drysuits (we have to bring them back too) were legendary.
There on the front cover in the winter of ’85 was Crispin replete with full water bottles (remember them) at chest level planing on a broad reach (if my memory serves me right) at warp speed in massive seas with one of those huge Silva compasses behind the mast and an early Gorilla-tiller in his hand. It was awe-inspiring and the manner of his victory in a chilly, grey Halmstad, Sweden was stunning.
The Laser sailors in the squad, many of whom went on to incredible success, were all marvelling at the feat. The World Championship was pure unobtainium gold-dust, almost a mythical achievement (I still think it is today) and the fact that Crispin had aced the fleet in monster conditions was everything. It was so inspirational to me, a wide-eyed 14 year old, and the Crispin name entered the lexicon as the gold-standard in dinghy racing.
So with the Finn Masters in full swing at Mar Menor, in where else but Spain this week, my interest was piqued to see Crispin’s name right up there in the top ten. Since that huge early and unexpected success, Crispin has been a powerhouse in dinghy sailing in the UK with outstanding achievement at nearly everything he’s turned his hand to: 505’s, Viper 640’s in his famous boat ‘Hissing Sid’, a Half Ton Cup and now the Finn Masters circuit where he is recognised as one of the very best in the world.
And what a great time is being had by the Masters at the regatta. It looks a brilliant scene and thoroughly deserves airtime as much as the Finn Class Association deserves credit for keeping the fire burning after the ejection and dejection from the loss of Olympic status.
Make no mistake, this is a class that can thrive post the five-ring circus. The Games has lost more than the class ever will and World Sailing won’t realise or wake up until the final ashes of its existence have been extinguished after sailing as a discipline is given the bullet by the IOC. It’s coming – and it’s coming fast.
The latest hair-brained, highly political obsequiousness is a proposal to pander to the current Chinese President of World Sailing and start accepting pittance from oriental companies on the promise and premise of opening a satellite office in that world renowned sailing venue of Ningbo – a city famous for its library housing artefacts of Neolithic Hemudu culture and not a lot else. If it goes ahead, our semi-neolithic organisation will be right at home. Ridiculous.
But back to the Finns, and the racing is remarkably televisual and enthralling – check out the video below. The stories that get me though, aside from monitoring Lawrence Crispin’s progress, are those of the different age categories – none more so than the ‘Super Legend Group’ for those over the age of 80. Can you imagine racing a Finn at 80 in a Master Championships against 108 boats? I’m not sure I could do it under 50. What a fantastic thing to do and I note that Richard Hart from the UK is leading this Group by a massive margin and sitting in a highly credible 71st place. What a result.
And similarly, there’s another stunning performance by the Dutchman Peter Peet who qualifies for the Grand Master Group who is currently in fourth (yes fourth) overall, whilst in the Grand Grand Master (no I’m not making this up) is the Kiwi Greg Wilcox who is lying in an incredible seventh overall. Henk de Jager from Holland meanwhile lies in a very credible 34th place overall and leads the Legend Group. Pretty impressive all round.
And if you get a second, have a look at the videos below. Well worth a view. Some great shots of these sailors having the time of their lives working the grand old lady of dinghy sailing around the course. And doing a terrific job.
Great to see…Chapeau to the Finn Masters.