Domonkos Németh Makes History by Winning both European Championship Titles in Finn




Domonkos Németh, physiotherapy student of the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pécs, won the European Sailing Championship in Finn in Csopak, Hungary on 18 May. The 21-year-old claimed both the 2023 Open and U23 Finn Europeans and by doing so, he has become the first sailor ever to win both the senior and U23 titles in the same year, the first Hungarian to win the Finn Junior European title and only the second Hungarian to win the Senior title, after Zsombor Berecz.

More than seventy athletes from 21 countries entered the Finn European Championship, several of whom represented Hungary. At the championship regatta held 11-18 May there were 10 races, which the sailors managed to do despite the extreme weather conditions unusual for this month: they competed in different winds every day, from stormy to weak.

France's Laurent Hay finished second and Italy's Alessandro Marega third in the championship.

“Rainfall in May is Worth Gold”

Interview by Éva Harka (22 May)

What was your experience like of the competition? I do not think anyone expected such extreme weather in May.

Domonkos Németh: They say the rainfall in May is worth its weight in gold. And it was worth gold to me. (laughs) We really did not expect this weather, I was prepared with warmer clothes, but I was also happy because I like extreme weather: it is harder for everyone, and I am more comfortable in strong winds. There were places where my calculation worked, but there were also places where I was tired.

I did not pay much attention to my competitors this time either and honestly, I did not train too hard for this race: after the World Championships, maybe if I sat in the Finn dinghy once before the European Championships. I felt like I lost focus more easily than I at the World Cup, I was not rested enough. My hospital training practice also contributed to this, but also the fact that - since the Finn was removed from the Olympic events - I started training in another boat class, the 49er. I am happy with the result, but the pace was very fast: today is probably the first day (the interview was conducted three days after the European Championships, on 21 May – the ed.) when I can relax a bit.

How did your physiotherapy practice go?

I did one week in Budapest and two in Veszprém. The plan was to sail in between, but the hospital training practice was much more tiring than I expected. I learned a lot and it was a very valuable experience, but I could not train as relaxed as if I had just studied at a table. By the way, I have another five or six exams left this semester.

And then the next one is the Junior World Championships in Finn held in Italy?

My plans have changed, I will not participate in that race.

With the European Championship gold, I am saying goodbye to the Finn dinghy, closing a chapter. I am trying to prepare for the Olympics, so I changed boat classes.

The 49er is a much more expensive ship than the Finn, it is a two-seater. The plan is to try to race in this boat class later this year. I have training partners abroad and conditions that allow me to develop quickly. I did not develop in Finn at home either, if I had not prepared more at home, I would have reached the level I am at earlier than I am now. Hungary also has a 49er class again, but no one is doing it professionally yet.

How different is the 49er from the Finn?

It is a completely different form of exercise! There, we do not lean out of the boat, using our thigh muscles, but we have to constantly work with our full body weight. The boat is much lighter than the Finn dinghy, it has to travel longer distances, but it has a much higher speed. Due to the speed, it is necessary to constantly stay alert and react immediately, paying attention to several adjustment systems. Plus, there are two of us in the boat, it is very different to have to communicate. I also need to lose weight, because the Finn needed a lot of static effort, but the 49er needs a more agile physique, and the total weight also matters, we have to achieve the optimum. I am really enjoying it, I have sailed 10 times in the 49er so far, I feel like I am improving pretty fast and I do not plan to stop.

Hopefully we will be able to compete in more races this summer and try to get the best result possible. We will try our best, and then we will see where it will go.

The goal and dream is the Olympics, if I am realistic, 2028 could be the goal.

After all, you have achieved everything you could in the Finn class.

That is how I see it, I have maxed out the Finn. But if for some reason 49er does not work out, I can still return to it. The Finn is like an extension of my body, a love ship, which will stay a good friend forever.

During the race I was focused, I never think about winning during a race because if I do not just pay attention to what I need to do, I jeopardise the position I have already achieved. When the race is over, you get rid of a lot of stress, and for some people it takes half an hour, for some it may take several days, to realize what happened. 

We celebrated at the European Championships after the awards ceremony, the guys have thrown me into the water! (laughs) I received a lot of positive things that day from people important to me. At the European Championships there was a lot of stress on me, it meant extra pressure that the competition was in Hungary. Now I am so excited about the new boat that even before the race I thought it would be my last serious race in the Finn. I feel like I have put a dot at the end of the sentence with the European Championship. Obviously, it is not an ideal situation to have a boat where I could be successful and still have to change boat class to get to the level I want. But I love challenges!

Photo: Robert Deaves