Racing starts tomorrow at the 2021 Open and U23 Finn European Championship in Vilamoura that will serve as a vital warm-up for the final Tokyo 2020 qualification event in Portugal four weeks from now - the Finn Gold Cup in Porto.
A fleet of around 50 sailors from 28 nations has gathered to take advantage of a regatta that was originally intended to be sailed at the French venue of Hyeres over the same dates.
Vilamoura Sailing stepped in to organise the European Championships, which it last hosted in 1998 at short notice, after the French organisers had to cancel due to the pandemic, and the new arrangement has the advantage of allowing sailors to remain in Portugal between the two events.
This event will be the first time much of the fleet has met since the 2019 Finn Gold Cup in Melbourne.
The competition contains 13 of the 17 sailors so far selected for Tokyo, as well as others from 15 countries who will be competing for the final European place in Porto.
The top 10 from last year’s Europeans in Gdynia, Poland, are all in Vilamoura including the defending champion from Hungary, Zsombor Berecz, the Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallist Giles Scott from Britain, and the runaway 2020 under-23 European champion, Joan Cardona, from Spain, whose main goal over the next five weeks is to qualify Spain for Tokyo.
"I am feeling confident about the Europeans," Cardona said.
"We know our main goal is the Gold Cup in Porto where we need to qualify Spain for the Olympics.
"So I will use this Championship as the last warm-up but still I am going to give it 100 per cent to finish the best possible.
"This winter we trained really hard in Lanzarote and then in Cadiz with our partners Zsombor, Nenad, Ondrej and Juani.
"We started there in October until the end of January.
"We managed to sail two regattas in Gran Canaria and Lanzarote that were really helpful to see where we were at, and then we moved to Cadiz for the last two months where we did some more specific stuff by ourselves.
"I think everyone in the fleet is quite happy to be racing between all of us again.
"Since the 2019 Worlds in Melbourne we did not have an event with almost everyone around the world and we all want to enjoy the excitement of the competition again."
The 2013 world champion Jorge Zarif from Brazil added: "I haven’t seen some guys since the Europeans in 2019, almost two years ago.
"I was used to seeing them every two months.
"These are people that I have competed against for over a decade and some became really good friends.
"If the Finn is out for Paris, this will be the last time I come to Europe for Finn sailing.
"I will definitely miss everything."
The new world number one, Nils Theuninck of Switzerland, is also trying to qualify for Tokyo.
"I have been sailing a lot and training hard," he said.
"With that comes progression.
"There are a lot of young guys higher up on the ranking."
Ten races are scheduled over five days from tomorrow until Friday (April 16).