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The 2022 International WASZP Games - Spain dominates epic Slalom

by Marc Ablett 13 Jul 08:35 BST 11-16 July 2022
2022 International WASZP Games Slalom Championship © James Tomlinson

One of the most dramatic finishes Grand Final series you could ever hope to see ensued on the opening day of the 2022 International WASZP Games in Malcesine Lake Garda. The championship not decided until the final gybe of the final race in the best of three Grand Final series.

Slalom racing has become an incredibly popular part of WASZP events all around the world, with its short, sharp, exciting nature, the racing also provides an element of freedom and a feeling that as a competitor you are never quite out of it.

With 170+ boats entered for the Games; organisers knew this would be a different beast to anything ever performed before. With all heats and finals completed within a 2.5-hour window it was certainly a challenge. With 20 boat fleets for the heats and finals, the first reaching leg was stretched out to provide enough separation between the boats. The racing was tough, tight and fast, giving all sailors an opportunity to be in the mix. The races last for around 5 minutes and are all downwind, providing a great leveller across the fleet.

Well, the finished result, what a spectacle, some incredible racing, in some fantastic conditions. With a slight cloud cover, sailors were not sure if the famous Ora (South wind) would arrive in time, well, did it arrive. 15-18knots of Garda goodness greeted the sailors and a little more chop than we normally see in this part of the Lake. If nothing else, this was going to provide the perfect warm-up to the event and let the competitors see who is showing early speed and quality boat handling in the event.

In the 6.9m division Aidan Simmons from Australia and fresh off his Opti Worlds campaign took out the event. It was fantastic to see so many young sailors getting the opportunity to compete on a global scale and the future is extremely bright for these young sailors.

After 14 races, the top 20 sailors made their way through to the finals. Again, showing the great diversity in the fleet, almost every division was represented, and 13 different nations made up the 20-boat final fleet. The best of three Grand Final series is an accumulated point score with no drops and winner take all.

The first race saw the protagonists feel each other out, with a good spread across the start line, finding the perfect place to start is tricky and as we have seen in SailGP finding "pole position" is a race winning move. Joan Costa from Spain is a previous WASZP European Champion and owned the boat, fighting off Enzio Savoini from Italy to lead at the first mark. Savoini had a moment while trying to fight off Sam Whaley from Great Britain and Anders Klippenberg from Norway. Costa was showing that leading is from the front is easy, extending his lead throughout the race until the final gybe where he under cooked the lay line to the finish and dropped off the foils, allowing fellow countryman Jaime Framis Harguidey to get very close at the finish. Sam Street from NZ and Enzio Savoini from Italy took 3rd and 4th respectively.

The second race showed just how up and down this nature of racing can be, consistency would play a huge role in the overall Grand Final series. Both Sam Street and Enzio Savoini found themselves back in the pack after the first turning mark and could not recover, finishing in the late teens. While this race belonged to Costa, an incredible display that no doubt has the rest of the fleet nervous heading into the first day of Championship racing today. It was Joan Costa first and daylight 2nd, when the dust finally settled it was Anders Klippenberg and Leo Maechler from Germany who popped up to take 2nd and 3rd.

Going into the final race, Costa had more than one-hand on the trophy. Klippenberg and Jaime looked the most likely to put pressure on the Spanish sailor. However, for the first time all Grand Final series, Costa was not leading at the first mark, Sam Street from NZ took the honours, with Costa back in the pack anything could happen. Sam Whaley was making a late charge for the title in 2nd place until disaster struck, and he capsized on the 2nd last gybe for the finish, all but taking him out of contention. Costa by this stage had worked his way up to 2nd and the ever-reliable Jaime was in 3rd. On the final gybe into the finish all Costa needed was a clean manoeuvre and he would take the championship. However, this is not how the beast that is slalom racing works. Costa under cooked the lay line the same as he did in the opening race and this time it was a bridge too far for him to soak down to the finish. Costa was running square to the wind, off the foils and fully loaded up trying to make the mark and capsized, letting Jaime through in 3rd, which proved enough to take the Championship.

What an unbelievable start to the event, but this is a case of the sequel being just as good as the original, with 4 days of Championship racing in what we hope is some epic Garda conditions.

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