Slalom Waszp racing causes a massive buzz

The International WASZP Games kicked off in style yesterday with the first ever International WASZP Slalom event streamed live into households around the world! This event has been a long time in the making with many test events used to get the format absolutely nailed.

64 competitors from 11 countries joined in the fun, with 17 races or flights held in 2hours it really is the 20/20 cricket version of sailing. Thrills, spills and epic racing in glamour Perth conditions made a sensational spectacle. Racing was conducted in Freshwater Bay right in front of the host club creating one of the best natural amphitheatres in the world, there were spectators on boats and in the clubs beer garden set up right above the race track providing an awesome experience for family and friends.

Racing started in around 12-15 knots from the SW perfect for foiling, the first round of 8 heats had all competitors competing with the top 4 in each heat moving through to the quarter finals, this gave everyone an opportunity to gauge the course and not necessarily needing to win but only needing to finish top 4 meaning you could sail conservatively enough to just get through.
The quarter finals claimed some big scalps with reigning Australian Nationals Champion Tom Trotman, runner up Rory Hunter and 5th placed Jack Abbott all succumbing to the pressure of this intense racing.

The fleet was also joined by a couple of gun sailors taking a break from their Sail GP and Americas Cup campaigns in Tom Johnson and Luke Parkinson, deciding only half an hour before the racing that they would enter the event. Due to the user friendly nature of the boats, they were rigged in 10 minutes and on the water. Having never sailed a WASZP didn’t seem to phase these guys as they have had significant experience across a lot of foiling classes and are at the top of the game. Both made it to the semi-finals which again is a great testament to the WASZP and its one-design nature. Tom managed to also get through to the final after having a big spill in the semi final only for Parko to have a swim and let him through to 4th position to just qualify for the finals series.

The Grand Final series was as exciting racing as you could imagine, with 8 boats from 5 countries qualifying it gave a great international feel. It was all to play for with former 470 Olympian Pierre Leboucher having a 1,2 in the best of 3 series to lead by 1pt from Tom Johnson who scored a 1,3. There was also a great battle looming for the 3rd place between Alexander Holgheim of Norway and Alex Mitchell-Barker from NZ only separated by a point also.

The last race was all to play for with Johnson taking the low road to the first mark with Leboucher not far behind, there was 8 boats all within about 50m of each other as they turned to go through the 2nd gate and it was still anyone’s game. Johnson however picked his angles the best to claim a sensational victory and win the overall International WASZP Slalom event, Leboucher was gunning for a 3rd place over the line only to capsize right before the finish finishing 7th letting Alex Mitchell-Barker through to 2nd place, Holgheim also nearly pipped Leboucher for 3rd finishing just 1pt behind.

In the final Johnson paid testament to the diversity in ages with young Mattias Coutts finishing 6th at just 14 years of age while John Holroyd finished 7th and being in his 40s. “To have pro sailors, mixing with gun youth and masters sailors, you just don’t get this in any other class”, Johnson stated.

by Marc Ablett