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WASZP Slalom Covid Cup 2021

by Marc Ablett 1 Feb 22:56 PST 23-26 January 2021
WASZP Slalom Covid Cup 2021 © Marc Ablett

The WASZP class descended on Gippsland Lakes for the Australia Day weekend for a replacement event of what was to be the 2021 National Championships. Unfortunately due to Covid-19 outbreaks in NSW and Melbourne over the Christmas New Year period, border chaos ensued and a large chunk of our NSW and WA contingents could not cross the border into Victoria.

The WASZP Class Association of Australia led by class president Jack Felsenthal decided to proceed with an event in Paynesville on the shores of the picturesque Gippsland Lakes. 12 months ago bushfires had ravaged the area and it was great to visit and see the towns around the lakes thriving once again.

With a change of title to the COVID CUP came a change in format. The first ever stand alone WASZP Slalom event was held. The event schedule was for 2 days (16 races) of accumulated point score Slalom racing with a cut-throat finals series for the top 8 boats, the Monday would then include 4 championship races to round out the event.

The forecast looked sensational as Melbourne sweltered with hot temperatures, it was much cooler for the first 2 days at the lakes, with mid 20s and moderate sea-breezes on offer. When the event changed from a Nationals there were well over 30 entries from NSW/VIC & Tasmania however it was great to see 16 competitors still make the trip for a weekend of full on WASZP lifestyle, well done to Hugo Allison from Tasmania who made the trip up as well and performed very well.

Paynesville WASZP

The Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club has ended its three day COVID Cup, with three championship races in Paynesville.

With the National Champs cancelled, keen racers hit the Gippsland Lakes to try out the WASZP boats.

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Day 1 racing saw 6-14 knots of building sea-breeze and perfect flat water, amazing foiling conditions for the boats, it started out slightly light, but with the techniques evolving on the WASZP early foiling is happening at around 6 knots for the top sailors. It was great to see the exhibition from the top guys, with a variety of weights all able to get on the foils early, Ben Gunther at around 80kgs was getting in the air at the same time as Jack Felsenthal at 65kgs and Tom Trotman at low 70s, showing great versatility in the platform.

The breeze built through-out the day and with 2 fleets of 8 on rotation, the races were rolling through with the top guys & girls taking about 2-3mins to get down the course and the back-markers about 5mins. This type of racing is super exciting and always leaves opportunities for passing lanes. With the exciting reaching start, 8 fully lit up WASZPs heading to the first turning mark is a lot of fun and provided you get off the start line well you are always In the game at the first mark.

Then standard amongst the fleet improved significantly from race 1 to race 8 of the day, with the back markers compressing on the leaders and some awesome racing occurring in the later races. Benny Gunther was the pick of fleet 1 with 5 bullets and in fleet 2 there was some great competition between Tom Trotman and Jack Abbott on day 1. The highlight was 7 different heat winners (nearly half the fleet) on day 1 with young guns Pat Distefano, Lachie Vaughan and Hugo Allison mixing it up at the front of the fleet.

Day 2 and a slightly lighter breeze made technique even more important, however Ben Gunther still showed what he can do at the lower range and took 2 wins in a reduced 6 race format for day 2. Jack Felsenthal was the big mover with 4 wins on day 2, while Tom Trotman and Jack Abbott maintained consistency to keep in the hunt.

Unfortunately the breeze evaporated and the finals series could not be conducted, however after 14 Slalom races, Gunther was on top heading into the more traditional Championship fleet racing on the Monday. With big breeze forecast and soaring temperatures there was a lot of anticipation and extra hydrating happening within the fleet. In true WASZP event culture, the fleet was treated to a couple of nights on 'Charter Worlds' 50ft cruising catamaran, cruising the lakes with a few beverages and BBQ followed by a session at the Metung pub. Perfect preparation for 4 championship races.

The Monday didn't disappoint and with Tom Trotman stating the fleet was in trouble when they had to turn the corner to head upwind after 2 days of slalom races, his prediction proved true as he took 2 from 3 races in a reduced card. The attrition rate was high as the breeze began to spike at 28 knots, however the WASZP class loves a bit of breeze and there was some awesome action across the fleet.

Overall Gunther's win in the first race of the Championship series before blowing his 'old' mainsail apart was enough to seal the win, such an impressive performance right across the range of conditions from 6-28 knots the COVID CUP had it all. Well done to everyone who made it up to Gippsland Lakes for the event.

Full results can be found here.

There are still 2 more events on the Australian WASZP Association Calendar, with the Victorian State Championships to be held at Royal Geelong Yacht Club on the 13/14th of March and then for the big one a re-scheduled National Championships at Sorrento Sailing and Couta Boat Club running from the 9th to 11th of April with an optional Slalom day on the 8th of April.

Stay tuned for more WASZP action!

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