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WASZP European Games, Francesco Bertone wins in Mar Menor WASZP European Games, Francesco Bertone wins in Mar Menor
The final 3 days of racing provided unparalleled drama, with beautiful Mar Menor thermal conditions providing the perfect racetrack for the perfect finish to... WASZP European Games, Francesco Bertone wins in Mar Menor

Mar Menor – The final 3 days of racing provided unparalleled drama, with beautiful Mar Menor thermal conditions providing the perfect racetrack for the perfect finish to the WASZP European Games. 

Day 3 delivered a light thermal that was tempting enough to launch the fleet. The race committee chased the breeze and finally set up with a course close to shore that would see the boats tacking up the beach. A race got underway in foiling conditions, but the wind soon dropped so that very few boats could foil. Periods of wind under 5 knots were enough for the committee to abandon and head in, where the sailors enjoyed a championship feast organised by Federacion de Vela Region de Murcia.

Day 4 was hot – hot enough that the classic Mar Menor thermal was predicted. Competitors patiently waited all day in the Spanish sun until the breeze finally arrived at 5pm. Although later than predicted, when it came in, it came in perfectly! 10-14 knots and butter flat water! The race committee got four races in before sunset, with Emanuele Savoini (ITA), Jann Schuepbach (SUI), Matt Beck (GBR) and Paul Farien (GER) taking a race each and showing how close the racing is at the top! Schuepbach finished up as leader into the final day, with Ross Banham second and Francesco Bertone third.

The final day was equally warm but with a 3pm cut-off, there was some hesitation as to whether the wind would arrive on time. At midday, something trickled in and the competitors were sent to the water to make the most of it. By the time all boats arrived, the race committee had a consistent 9 knots. The first race got away. Francesco Bertone led from start to finish whilst Schuepbach suffered with a poor start and could not recover, scoring a twenty. Banham scored a four and Paul Farien a two. Schuepbach discarded his score, bringing back a 9 from an earlier race. That left the top four boats separated by four points – Schuepbach, Banham, Bertone, Farien – with the fifth boat – Nick Zeltner (SUI) – also with a chance of the title! In the final race, now with 12-15 knots of glorious Mar Menor thermal, all five boats were battling in the top six of the fleet all the way round. This was one-design racing at its finest with sailors from four nations bringing it right down to the wire. News from the race committee confirmed Farien was over the starting line, putting him out of the title race. Zeltner won the race to keep his hopes alive, but eyes were fixed on the positions behind. On the final downwind, Banham and Bertone were neck and neck, with Schuepbach a few places behind. As things stood, Bertone would take the title with Banham second and Schuepbach third. Banham had a crucial gybe to make for the finish and successfully crossed ahead of Bertone. Bertone also gybed but didn’t do the job as neatly, allowing Banham to extend slightly. If Banham could get a boat between himself and Bertone, the points would be tied and it would go to countback. Step up, Matt Beck. Beck, firing in on the starboard layline to the finish, looked as though he would split the two. Gybing exactly on the mark, Beck turned the boat and buried the nose, but managed to spear it round enough to edge out his countryman by a metre! Beck third, Banham fourth and Bertone fifth.

Bertone takes the championship by a point, and possibly by inches! Ross Banham of Great Britain delivered a mature and clinical regatta to take silver and rise in the rankings to world number one, tied on points with Nick Zeltner. Jann Schuepbach wound up third.

By the time the racing had finished on the final day, there was 15 knots on the course. The Slalom championship had been postponed during the week to prioritise championship racing, but when the slipway is downwind of the starting line, why not run a slalom race home?! With 40 boats on one reaching start, the race committee fired off what was nicknamed the ‘mega slalom’. The WASZPs swarmed the course in the fastest, busiest and most spectacular slalom race of all time! Familiar faces stormed to the front on the top reach. Zeltner and Beck battled through every gybe, but it was Zeltner who took the victory. Beck buried his last gybe to let Farien through for second and limped over the line to take third. A seriously epic end to the week!

Mathilde Robertstad (NOR) takes the women’s title and the junior title, coming in 14th overall. Top master goes to Spaniard Mikel Vazquez in a close-fought battle with Swiss sailor, Ulrich Volz. The Speed Demon of the week is Brit, Tom Pollard with a speed of 24.4 knots – possibly the fastest speed clocked at a regatta to date.

Although not the typical conditions every day, Mar Menor delivered some of the most spectacular foiling conditions the WASZP fleet has ever seen! The combination of sunshine, flat water and great thermals was made even better with the Spanish hospitality of the Federacion de Vela Region de Murcia.  The FVRM put the sailors first and delivered a knockout program of socials, food and drinks every day, keeping the vibes alive during the postponements!

The WASZP class now looks forward to the WASZP Games in Malcesine in July. The foundations have been set for a record-breaking event after the outstanding Americas and European Games performances we have seen so far this season. The list of favourites is a long one thanks to the close competition of this one-design foiling class, but it’s not just about the scoreboard. There are plenty of training opportunities for newcomers to join in the lead up to the Games, so all WASZP sailors should set their sights on Garda for what will be the biggest and most inclusive one-design foiling event in the world.

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