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L1 wins eSailing World Championship final at Florida, USA

by World Sailing 31 Oct 2018 06:06 GMT 31 October 2018
2018 eSailing World Championship Final © Evan Smith

France's L1 won the inaugural eSailing World Championship Final after a tense winner-take-all final race at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, Florida, USA.

Six months of competition culminated in the Final, and the top eight eSailors from five countries took to the podium, aiming to be crowned World Champion.

After three qualification races, the eight eSailors were whittled down to six. These six went on to battle it out in the Final in a virtual Sydney Harbour on the J/70, a popular worldwide keelboat.

L1 had the best start but his rivals were able to close in on him, pushing him down the field. Cruzolator (ESP) capitalised and advanced to the top of the pack but L1 remained in the hunt. The defining moment came when L1 forced a port starboard penalty on Cruzolator which handed the Spanish competitor a ten-second penalty.

The chasing field put pressure on L1, but he was able to maintain his advantage all the way through to the finish.

epicure (FRA) and AlessandroMerlino (ITA) got locked in a fight for silver that went down to the wire. AlessandroMerlino looked to slow down epicure using the wind shadow, but the French boat held on to take silver by just over a second. AlessandroMerlino was made to settle for bronze.

"I'm still a bit stressed but I'm feeling relieved and very happy to compete here and win this event," expressed L1 immediately after his victory.

"I was in the right place at the start, then I had the chance to take some fresh wind and I advanced. Everyone who made the final is very good and any of us could have won, especially with the winner-takes-all format.

"The game has been great and it's very impressive for World Sailing to be the first international federation to join the esports movement and hold this event.

"All the finalists are already good sailors and some are in national teams, so it definitely helps to have the sailing skills to be at the front."

L1 won a silver medal at the 1989 Optimist World Championship and was part of a French team that included Marie Riou, Volvo Ocean Race winner, SailGP sailor and Rolex World Sailor of the Year nominee. L1 wishes Riou well for the evening, with hopes of making it a double French success in Sarasota.

On finishing second, epicure said, "I'm very often second - I don't know why. I am happy but a little disappointed I did not win. Maybe I did not take enough risk at the start? When you don't have a good start it makes it very difficult to win, but I'm happy with second."

More than 16,200 registered eSailors from 74 countries targeted the Final, sailing more than 80,000 races across 60 one- to three-day challenges - all with the aim of reaching the two-week Playoff Round. Only 1,000 eSailors advanced to the Playoffs and over a two-week period, the top eight competitors were invited to the final.

In today's opening qualifying race, sailed on the J/70 in Newport, Rhode Island, Cruzolator came through to take the win. Up next, the competitors raced on the Nacra 17, the Olympic Mixed Multihull, and Velista71 (ITA) triumphed over HAVUC (TUR) and epicure. The final race was in the 49er, the high-performance Olympic skiff, with AlessandroMerlino (ITA) winning it over Cruzolator.

The final comprised of AlessandroMerlino (ITA), Cruzolator (ESP), L1 (FRA), epicure (FRA), HAVUC (TUR) and Velista71 (ITA), with L1 triumphing.

Outside of eSailing, the competitors, all of whom are real-life sailors, took to Sarasota Bay the day prior with Vice President and America's Cup winner Gary Jobson, Olympic gold medallist Sofia Bekatorou (GRE) and Torben Grael, five-time Olympic medallist and Volvo Ocean Race winner.

The eSailing World Championship will kick off again in 2019 with further details to be announced in the coming weeks.

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