Spirits Not Dampened by Rain at F18 World Championships
The 2023 F18 World Championships was arguably one of the most successful iterations for Team Finland ever. Held in Travemunde, North Germany, there were no less than five teams representing Finland present amongst the 100+ boats on the water.
Usually, the Finnish word “sisu” is not given out lightly, but in this case, all the Finnish teams certainly deserve to claim their share of sisu for competing in this event. All competitors had to endure multiple long days and delays on the water, as storms and rain clouds rolled through almost every day, causing large scale disruptions to the wind stability, which resulted in many hours under postponement on the water, in wetsuits that should have been renamed to soaking-suits.
In addition to the long delays and rain showers, competitors had to race against the best sailors in the world, in almost every weather condition imaginable, from light and shifty winds, to big breezes, and then when the big breeze died down, light winds and sloppy waves. All race areas presented incredibly tough challenges to competitors, with everyone agreeing it was difficult to predict and capitalise on any weather related strategy.
Of the five Finnish teams, two were mixed teams, which is an encouraging trend, and reflects the Finnish F18 Association’s positive attitude to warmly welcoming all interested sailors to try out the class, regardless of who they are.
Nina Tammisto and Tuomas Lötjönen had a challenging regatta that ultimately ended in great success. They had a strong performance in the qualifying races, but luck was not on their side.
Equipment failure of the spinnaker halyard in Race 1 meant they had to capsize to effect a repair, followed by an unfortunate nosedive in the final Qualifying race set them back. Despite their best efforts, the fleet at the World Championships was so competitive this year that incidents like this were incredibly difficult to overcome.
These two heavy results saw the team assigned to Silver fleet, but this did not cause them despair for long. A heroic effort saw Nina and Tuomas secure three bullets and a second in the Silver fleet racing, which catapulted the team to be overall winners in the 2023 F18 World Championships Silver fleet, and 50th overall!
Eppu Kärki and Janne Ylänne had a mixed regatta. The two legends returned to the F18 fleet this year after a bit of a hiatus, with this event being the first time Eppu had been sailing this year, and Janne was not far behind. The event was extra challenging for Janne who found himself crewing in this regatta, a position he is unfamiliar with as he usually is the skipper.
Despite this, they sailed valiantly and intelligently. It is commonly known that the decision to pull out of a race is often the hardest yet most intelligent decision one can make, and Eppu and Janne decided that on one particularly windy and unpredictable day, the risks were too high for the potential gain, and stayed ashore.
This was a wise decision as many boats suffered breakages and/or injuries, and despite not competing in a few races, the two still sailed well enough to secure 78th position overall, with many boats sitting behind them in the rankings.
During the regatta, Janne announced his plans to support the growth of the Finnish F18 class by making his boat available to interested newcomers, and helping coach them to help them advance in the rankings.
Ilkka Saura and Antti Laukkanen were the delicious filling in the Finnish Silver fleet sandwich, finishing in-between Nina and Eppu in 59th overall. All teams present were very dedicated and fast, with the many U flag and Black flag starts being proof of this.
Ilk noted that a major lesson was that in such a competitive fleet, even a single mistake or loss of concentration at mark rounding would cost several places that were very difficult to retake. But that is part of the pleasure in sailing at the Worlds!
The duo noticed the particular value in the regular training camps and weekly practice sessions in helping them prepare their boat, their bodies and their minds for the challenges of racing at such a high level. But more than that, the community spirit within the class made the regular training a pleasure to join, even for teams whose aspirations may not be so ambitious but are more looking for something fun and exciting to sail.
This year, there were two teams representing Finland in the Gold fleet. Anssi Muikku and Oliver Hartas were racing together with their own challenges to overcome. With barely any time sailing together as a team prior to the World Championships, and their only training regatta plagued with equipment failures, the odds seemed stacked against them.
In addition, Anssi was helming, a position he does not normally occupy in the F18, and there was also the issue of communication. Since Oliver is not a native Finn, the team language on board was English, posing another challenge to the ad-hoc team.
Despite this, Anssi steered a masterful regatta, pushing through the challenges and sailing intelligently to achieve their team goal of qualifying for the Gold fleet. Their regatta was largely trouble free with the exception of their final race, when a freak occurrence at the top mark saw the spinnaker halyard tangle and jam to such an extent that they had to retire from the race and cut the spinnaker halyard in order to drop the sail. Despite this, the team finished 32nd overall.
Finally, the father-daughter mixed team that proudly carried the Finnish flag at the front of the fleet; Mikko and Kirsikka Räisänen. This duo has long been one of the best teams Finland has produced, and this year it was no different. Overall they placed 25th, which is highly impressive given the incredibly high standard at this years World Championships.
Racing their Windrush Edge, the team displayed some incredible team dynamics and flexibility, exemplifying the fact that the best teams are ones that adapt, as oppose to those who sail by the numbers.
Never far away from the front runners, this team are certainly making their nation proud, and are a great example of what can be achieved by simply putting in the time on the water and sailing hard.
All in all, the Finnish teams sailed brilliantly and represented their country well. The next World Championships will be held in the holiday destination of Costa Brava, Spain, and all the members of the Finnish F18 Association are happy to help anyone who is interested in joining the fleet and making their way to this and any other of the tremendously enjoyable and exciting events.