130 windsurfers from 27 countries have gathered in Mondello, Sicily for the Techno293Plus European Championships. The event being a Youth Olympic Qualifier for Europe has attracted some top talent, not only from Europe, but also Asia, South and North America wanting to test their skills against the best.
For the European competitors, it is the last chance to grasp the 4 remaining spots at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. The setting is perfect for the challenge as host Club Canottieri Roggero Di Lauria is a place, where amongst the sailing trophies and photos on the walls of the beautiful clubhouse you can find black and white pictures of the first windsurfers and pictures of Techno293 sailors. Including the Techno293 sailors, who attended the previous YOG in China. You can feel that windsurfing is an important part of the club’s history.
Today was the first day of action and for now the reigning World Champions from Quiberon have the event under control. The Youth Women fleet is led by Italy’s Giorgia Speciale. Giorgia is a very experienced sailor, but still before racing today she drew the racecourse on her forearm not to make any mistakes. I turned out to be a good idea, as she was leading most of the races. “I sailed the right course – she said later smiling. We had good light wind racing. In the first race I was first, in the second I came second, but as the girl in front was OCS I got the first place.” Giorgia finished the day with another bullet and is firmly in front.
Fabien Pianazza, like Giorgia also the winner of the Worlds, was happy with his performance – “It was a very good day. In the first race, it was France in the top 3 spots and I was second. The second race I managed to win because I was very fast downwind.” - he added. Fabien is second overall although getting a 6th in the last race of the day.
15 races are scheduled in the series and granted another 3 are sailed tomorrow the event will be going into the final stage on Wednesday.
Six races in three days in a beautiful, but also challenging Mondello, wraps up the qualification series of the Youth Olympic Games Qualifier for Europe.
Challenging for sure, as Race Officer Ewa Jodlowska explains - “Yesterday for example the wind looked promising, but unfortunately it was shifty and unstable, so after one race we had to wait and decided to move to a different racing area. Eventually that didn’t help and that race was the only we managed to conduct. Today the wind window was also short, but we managed to finish the elimination phase for Youth Men and add another two races for the Women.”
Despite the difficult conditions, you can see that the sailors are really satisfied with the regatta. The atmosphere of the place is great and surroundings beautiful. Asked whilst waiting for the wind to pick up Russia’s Dana Kosyak said she was always happy and that she liked these kind of wind conditions. Eda Yavuz from Turkey prefers strong wind – “I’m still waiting for my strong wind to come, but I really like this equipment so you’ll see me around” she said.
The ladies are led by Giorgia Speciale, who won all races but one. Dana is second and third overall is Cheuk Wing Mak from Hong Kong. Over at the men’s it is France, Greece and France in top places as Yun Pouliquen has taken the top spot followed by Leonidas Tsortanidis and Tom Garandeau.
Racing continues tomorrow at 11:00 with forecasts showing some hope of a stronger breeze.
It was the Italian due, who triumphed in the event: Giorgia Speciale and Nicolo Renna.
“It was a very good week, we had all sort of conditions. It was fantastic. I will be coming back to Mondello not only for racing but also for holidays.” – Giorgia said adding that this is only a step in reaching her goal – “In Quiberon at the World Championships last year it was the first step, now this event was the second step. Next for me is the Worlds in Liepaja and then I hope to go to the YOG in Argentina. That is my goal.”
Nicolo also commented on the verity of conditions - “I’m not very good in light wind, but after the first two days the wind came and I was able to get good results. I had to battle it out also with my brother, who is very fast in strong wind. I trained here for almost a month in winter, preparing for the Italian Championships and this event.”
Nicolo was joined on the podium by two French windsurfers Yun Pouliquen in third and Tom Garandeau in second. In the ladies’ fleet Celina Saubidet Birkner from Argentina was third and Aikaterini Divari from Greece was second. In the European classification, Islay Watson from Great Britain came in third.
This event was not only about the winners. Countries battled it out for the last four qualification places at the Youth Olympic Games and for those, who did not qualify at the World Championships in Quiberon last year, this was the last opportunity. In the Men it will be Russia, Netherlands, Poland and Portugal to be invited.
Portugal’s windsurfing legend Joao Rodrigues couldn’t hide his emotions. “When I finished Rio I was thinking on what I was going to do next. When I came back to my club in Madeira there was a group of kids wanting to learn windsurfing and here are now. We are going to the Youth Olympic Games. I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved. I think the Techno293 is a great class. It is not only the number of competitors, but also you can see the fun they are having, when at the same time competing at a high level. It’s good to know windsurfing is alive and kicking.”
In the Women’s fleet Poland, Russia, Croatia and Norway got the spots. It was Helle Oppedal from Norway, who made the qualification for the country. “I was training a lot for this championship. I was in Singapore, training with the Singapore team. This event was a little bit of everything and in Singapore we also had a little bit of everything, so I was well prepared. I loved the venue and the event. We had different conditions every day which I think is good for a fair competition and we had a lot of races. It was very good. I’m hoping for a good result at the Youth Olympic Games, but to be able to compete in an event like that is quite an honour.”
Up next is the last of a series of continental qualifiers – the North American Windsurfing Championships, which will be taking place in Cancun, Mexico in May.