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GWA Qualifying Series – Cecina Mare, Italy

Rising teen talent Zorzi bags hard-fought win at first GWA qualifier in Italy

20-22 May 2022

Words: Elia Rossetti and Ian MacKinnon

Photos: Massimiliano Londi / Matteo

Teenager Riccardo Zorzi managed to see off his fiercest rivals by a slender margin to snatch overall victory at the first GWA Qualifying Series in Italy, hosted by the Tuscan resort of Cecina Mare, on the west coast.

The 16-year-old Italian wingfoil sensation did just enough to take the overall victory on home waters in the Wing Foil Tour’s (WFT) Surf-Slalom discipline. He took one win from the only three races that were possible because the wind remained fickle throughout the event, staged from 20-22 May.

It was the first time Italy’s WFT has run a GWA Qualifying Series event. With another planned for Formia, southern Italy, in September, and other upcoming qualifiers worldwide throughout the year, the top five men and women athletes from each discipline earn themselves a place on the 2023 GWA Wingfoil World Tour.

WFT HITS ITS STRIDE

Italy’s WFT is now in its third season, with three events nationwide slated this year. The Tour’s promoters are thrilled to be in partnership with the GWA to host the Qualifying Series, mirroring the stoke generated by the fast-growing sport.

The Italian Tour attracts a strong line-up of extremely young talent which is driving up skill levels in this new sport at a blistering pace. Zorzi, has already marked himself out, but others like younger brother, Sebastiano, just 13, Giulio Gasperini, 16, and Gregorio Pugliese, are pushing one another to new heights.

Riccardo Zorzi leads the pack. He won the WFT’s two previous editions. Last year, at just 15, he authored a stunning upset at the Tarifa Wing Pro when he overhauled the seasoned Swiss, Balz Müller, in the Surf-Freestyle category. Zorzi also claimed the U16 European Surf-Slalom crown at Engadinwind at Silvaplana, Switzerland.

STRONG FIELD FOR QUALIFIER

A total of 27 wingfoil athletes—22 men and five women—made the trip to Cecina Mare’s glorious Mediterranean coastline to battle in the Surf-Slalom and Surf-Freestyle divisions.

But the wind refused to oblige over the three days slated of competition. Only for a brief hour on day two of the contest did the breeze finally creep up to a—still-marginal—7-9 knots.

It was just enough for the race director to get three men’s Surf-Slalom contests away, though it was too light to introduce the customary “pump section”. Gregorio Pugliese drew first blood with a win in the opening fast and furious race, with Riccardo Zorzi charging on his heels.

ZORZI PULLS OUT ALL STOPS

Yet in the second race, young gun Zorzi was not to be outdone. Zorzi turned the tables on  Pugliese to take the win on the flat waters, with Nicolò Spanu just behind in third place.

In what turned out to be the event’s third and final race, Spanu pushed hard to take finish signal first, followed by Zorzi just behind. For Zorzi the first and two second places were enough to secure the overall victory, a mere two points ahead of Pugliese, with Spanu taking the third podium step.

In the U18 category 15-year-old Giulio Gasperini landed a third place on the leaderboard with a strong showing. In the Over 45 division, Paolo Migliorini took the win, followed closely by Raimondo Gasperini.

WOMEN SUFFER IN FADING BREEZE

An attempt to get the women’s Surf-Slalom races away fared less well in the faltering breeze. Of the five racers taking part just Frederica Ponteggi could make it to the startline and complete the course, though because she was alone on the track the result cannot be validated for the GWA Qualifying Series.

The absence of wind also meant it was impossible for the race director to run any heats in the men’s and women’s Surf-Freestyle categories. But the WFT’s Elia Rossetti is hoping to stage a Surf-Freestyle only event with better wind prospects in the coming months.

RESULTS: GWA QUALIFYING SERIES CECINA MARE, ITALIAN WING FOIL TOUR—ROUND ONE

SURF-SLALOM: MEN 

1 Riccardo Zorzi

2 Gregorio Pugliese

3 Nicolò Spanu

SURF-SLALOM: WOMEN

1 Frederica Ponteggi

 website: www.wingfoiltour.com

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