The final European leg of SailGP Season 3 took place in Cadiz, Spain over the weekend. WASZP and SailGP Inspire welcomed 16 of Spain’s future stars to Centro Náutico Elcano for five days of training and racing. The top male and female from the event would secure their place in the Season 3 Grand Final in San Francisco next year, putting them in with a shot of making the jump to an F50 and the professional league.
Three of the sailors qualified for the Cadiz Inspire program from the Spanish EuroCup in Santander earlier this month. Jaime Framis Harguindey (the current WASZP Games Slalom champion), Quique Urios Salinas and Isi Collado Font were joined by 13 other U21 sailors from the 420, ILCA and IQ-Foil classes.
The training days delivered a mix of marginal and full foiling conditions. On Friday, qualifying racing took place to split the fleet into gold and silver. Quique Urios Salinas was the master of the early take off with a slick pumping technique. As one of the lightest sailors, defending female champion Neus Ballester Bover also got to the foils early and challenged for the top spots whilst Isi Collado Font showed her time in the boat was paying off, getting in the mix at the front. Jaime Framis Harguindey didn’t set the world alight but did enough to get an all-important spot in the gold fleet.
Saturday’s finals racing took place on the F50 racecourse in front of one of the biggest crowds sailing has ever seen! Unfortunately for the WASZP sailors, the conditions were not perfect, with marginal foiling wind and a huge sea state that bounced back off the sea wall and threw up steep peaks from all directions! Nevertheless, the sailors battled through the waves on the light air course configuration to give the crowd something to cheer for. Quique and Jaime exchanged blows at the front, finishing the day on joint points. Isi Collado Font came out on top of the women’s division, heading into Sunday a few points clear of Neus Ballester Bover.
Sunday’s racing was sailed on the flat water outside of Elcano – even the F50 sailors had commented on the severity of the sea state on the outer course, so for WASZPs it would have been tough to race in the same location. Enough wind filled the harbour to deliver predominantly foiling conditions, with a bit of low riding in the lulls. Knowing the gravity of the prize at stake and both being clear of the rest of the fleet by some margin, Quique and Jaime jumped straight into a match race from the beginning. Both had their chances to get the jump on their rival but somehow the other would find a way to claw back. The match race continued through four races! By the final race, Jaime was ahead. Quique needed to get some boats between himself and Jaime to stand a chance. Quique found the front of the fleet and cruised to a race win. Jaime was off the foils on the final mark and had a group of three boats gaining fast, but the Basque sailor managed to keep his nose in front by a matter of inches – half a metre back and he would have been toast! This was some of the tightest racing Inspire has ever seen! Jaime took the overall win by a point, earning him a spot in San Francisco for a second time. Isi Collado Font continued her good form to take the women’s title and her first shot at the Grand Final!
It is great to see WASZP sailors performing so well on the big stage, but a massive positive of the Inspire program is the number of other sailors that connect with the class and experience the thrill of WASZP sailing. Whenever there was a chance to go sailing, all the sailors from the other classes were desperate to take a WASZP out and send it back and forth until the sun went down. It was a genuine battle to get the sailors to come in at the end of the day – they were just buzzing so much with the foiling experience. There’s no doubt we’ll be seeing some of those guys joining the swarm in the future and raising the bar of WASZP racing in Spain and around the world.