Photography by James Tomlinson
19 April 2022
After a solid week of glamour, Mar Menor conditions and a brilliant training camp, sailors were greeted with uncharacteristically light and shifty winds with rain showers at the 2022 WASZP European Games.
The wind finally settled on a light easterly in the afternoon and the race committee saw the opportunity to get a start off. Racing got underway, with most boats foiling on the first upwind.
Italian sailor Francesco Bertone found his way through the fleet from a port tack start on the foils and extended to the windward mark. The downwinds saw the typical tactical call between trying to foil but sail huge distances or settle for the direct and much less adventurous low ride, though by the second upwind, boats were foiling again.
Bertone led around the leeward gate but fell out of the pressure, leaving Ross Banham to take the lead, however, a close final downwind saw a tight finish between Bertone and French sailor Hippolyte Gruet. Gruet sailed the more direct route to take the win.
The wind didn’t come in sufficiently for any more racing, so the sailors all headed in for Paella, drinks and go-karting.
The forecast on day two predicted a strong breeze all day, but had started to moderate in time for racing. The fleet took to the water and found themselves in a gusty 8 and 11 knots, but by the time the direction settled, the breeze pumped in at 18 to 25 knots for the first two races.
Some of the familiar Swiss sailors in the fleet made the most of the breezy conditions, with Nick Zeltner and Jaan Schuepbach scoring high. Ross Banham also began to stake his claim on the championship. For race three, the wind moderated to 12 to 15 knots. Banham, Zeltner and Schuepbach cleaned up the podium.
By the final race, the wind had dropped to around 8 to 11 knots. Paul Farien, silver medallist last year, found some form to take the win, having suffered with a UFD in race 1 of the championship.
Zelter leads, with Banham in second and Schuepbach in third. Last year’s junior champion, Charlie Cullen scored a second in the final race to move up to fourth overall. Bertone sits in fifth.
Day three is expecting light winds, but the remainder of the event looks solid.
There are seven nations in the top ten, underlining the competitiveness of the European fleet. Mathilde Robertstad is the top female racer in sixteenth, fresh off a great performance at the SailGP INSPIRE Grand Final.
This event is setting the scene perfectly for the International Games in Lake Garda, from 9 to 16 of July 2022. WASZP sees quality racing all the way down the fleet, with each participant having great personal battles, whether in the top ten or down in fortieth.