Former Laser world champion Nicholas Heiner is competing at his first international event in a new class he hopes to medal in for the Netherlands at the Olympic Games, just like his father did 20 years ago in Atlanta, USA.
Nicholas recently embarked on a Finn campaign and the Sailing World Cup Melbourne presented by Land Rover is his first international event since transitioning out of the men’s Laser.
“Olympic gold and winning the Volvo Ocean Race, that's what I want to achieve,” the younger Heiner’s bio reads. Dad Roy went close to achieving the double with his 1996 Atlanta bronze in the Finn and victory in the VOR in 2005-6 on board ABN Amro, his third and final time. Now Nicholas is chasing the same dreams.
Roy Heiner was part of three Whitbread/Volvo Ocean Races from 1997 to 2006 and part of the winning ABN Amro crew in the 2005-6 around-the-world-race. He is a four-time Olympian, twice in the Finn and twice in the Soling, and the last Dutch sailor to medal in the Finn class.
“It wasn’t always about sailing at home though of course we travelled around the world after him (Roy),” Nicholas recalls. “You grow up with it and see what you want to do, and what you don’t want to do. Of course I’m a bit biased because of the background my dad has. I’m just starting out and he will help me with my Finn campaign; it would be stupid not to use his knowledge.”
Having missed out on country selection in the Laser for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Heiner found new purpose in switching classes. Now his goal is Tokyo 2020, a big ask he knows, given the calibre of the Finn field, some of them multiple Olympians.
“I felt without a purpose in the Laser so it was time to change it up again. I chose the Finn and it’s been really good so far, a great new challenge to get the mind fresh and learn new skills, not only for Olympic sailing but for a long term career hopefully in big boat sailing like the Volvo.”
Heiner grew up in an old town steeped in maritime history and spent most of his sailing days on the waters off The Hague. After the youth Optimist and 420 classes he made the jump to the 470 and the 49er and set himself up in the big boat sailing scene at the Tour de France a la Voile as well as his own under 21 big boat campaign.
He’s now moved into the most physically demanding of all Olympic classes and his body shape is being moulded accordingly with the addition of 14kgs of weight and plenty of gym work.
“It’s a physically hard boat. You need to be switched on otherwise the boat stops and you are done, and you still need to be able to race when your heart beat is 190…that makes the Finn really interesting. The boat’s got so many more challenges on the development side, plus all the trimming options. That’s the great thing about the Finn, you have so many options.”
The Finn is the oldest Olympic class and one of 10 disciplines alongside an Open Kiteboarding event competing at the last event of six regattas making up the 2016 Sailing World Cup.
Bronze medallist from Rio Caleb Paine (USA) is among the Finn fleet at the Sailing World Cup Final as are Australia’s best Finn sailors Oli Tweddell and Jake Lilley, who finished in the top 10 at Rio.
The Finn division began their pointscore yesterday, Tuesday December 6. For results click here.
Ten races are scheduled through to Saturday followed by Sunday’s medal race on the Stadium course off the St Kilda Sailing Precinct and visible from the Baths and Historic St Kilda Pier.