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GWA Wingfoil Race European Championship 2021 | Day 3 – The Grand Finale

Sunday 15th of August 2021 

Report Mart Kuperij Photos Laci Kobulsky Video AALVAA MEDIA

With the promise of finishing two more rounds, it was still all to play for on the last day of the GWA Wingfoil Race European Championship. In the morning, Lake St. Moritz greeted us with the usual reflection of its beautiful surroundings. This may well have gone unnoticed by our competitors however, who with the end of the event in sight, were getting amped up for some tight battles.

Around 3 o’clock, right after the iQFoil Exhibition finished, the buoys were repositioned and we picked up where we left off the evening before. This meant we went straight into the Men’s losers final of the third round. Unfortunately, the wind also picked up where we left off the day before, meaning it was up and down, causing many heats to be abandoned after riders were parked after the first jibe. The decision to move the first mark a bit further out proved to be a golden one, and the true beginning of the grand finale.

Up next was some exciting racing in tricky conditions, with serious patches in the upwind part of the course causing meaning strategy was just as important as pure skills. In the men, Francesco Cappuzzo (ITA) managed to extend his lead by winning the final ahead of Balz Müller (CHE), followed by an on-fire Riccardo Zorzi (ITA).

Welcome to the future
After the Men’s final it was time for the future of our sport, the U16 and U19 categories, who showed that Cappuzzo and co. had better not rest on their laurels. As the riders came creaming for the first buoy it was Benjamin May (DEU) who took the lead, closely followed by Riccardo Zorzi. It was a close battle between these two rippers, until Riccardo took the lead at the second buoy and managed to build up an impressive lead come the downwind reach. A couple of minutes later he cruised over the line in style, sitting on his board and enjoying the applause from the spectators. Benjamin followed suit with a nice finish jump, followed by Malo Guenole (FRA) in third. Close on his heels were Noe Cuyala (FRA) and Devin Hauser (CHE), showing us all that the future of this sport is bright!

Maestros
Next up were the masters, where the on-going battle for second place between Henning Nockel (DEU) and Craig Gertenbach (ZAF) continued. Leader of the ranking Klaas Voget (DEU) was rounding the first mark ahead of the rest, with Henning behind in second. Meanwhile, Craig had a shocker of a start, but managed to fight back and stay in contention for second, finishing behind his ‘frenemy’ Henning.

Pump it up!
For the fourth round Race Director Juan Antonio Aragon decided to add a short pumping element in the last reach to the finish, which turned out to be a prelude to some exciting battles.

With the fourth round being the last round of the event, Olivia Piana (FRA) had already secured her European title. This didn’t stop her from stomping another perfect score though, earning her a clean sheet of 2.1 points over three races (including one discard). Behind her, the fight for second was an exhilarating one. Coming into this day, Bowien van der Linden (NLD) was leading by 3.5 points over Flora Artzner (FRA), however, the discount of the fourth round meant it was still all to play for. Olivia once again had a perfect start, flying over the line and jibing smoothly, followed by Flora, Bowien, Maaike Huvermann (NLD), Marion Mattia (FRA) and the rest of the ladies. It was on the second reach that disaster struck for Bowien, who crashed, easing the pressure for Flora, who comfortably rode it out to finish second behind an on fire Olivia, who made the pump track look easy.

Waterman Cappuzzo
By now it was almost 5 o’clock, but the wind wasn’t backing down and neither were the competitors. It was a spectacular sight to see the riders flying towards the shore, jibing around the first mark at top speed, almost making contact. Allround waterman Francesco Cappuzzo proved he was the one to beat as he came around in first, going upwind like a rocket before comfortably pumping over the finish, claiming his third victory of the event and with that the European title. Behind him, numbers two and three of the ranking, Balz Müller (CHE) and Maxime Chabloz (CHE), were battling it out for second, with Maxime just edging over the finish ahead of pump maestro Balz showing his mad pumping skills and making for a close finish.

Inspiration
In the U16/U19 heat Riccardo Zorzi followed the line of Olivia Piana, with a fourth victory in as many races, and a well deserved European title. Inspired by his older brother, 13-year-old Sebastiano Zorzi (ITA) earned second place in this last round, just inching him ahead of Robin Sijan Zico Zeley (CHE) and onto the podium. Meanwhile, a third-place finish for the young Noe Cuyala (FRA) meant he moved to second in the overall ranking.

Youth and masters
In the previous rounds highflyer Benjamin May had already done enough to secure the U19 European title. Second was Malo Guenole, who took the honours of winning the last race in the U19 category, followed by Léandre Carlier Arquoit (FRA) in third.

All that was left now were the Masters, where Klaas Voget took his fourth victory, making it look easy. Behind him the other five gladiators gave it all they had, with the battle for second decided in Craig’s favour, meaning Henning will most likely have to endure some trash talk from his wing buddies until the next European Championship.

Expression session
With all the official races done, it was time for the riders to shine one final time, not in a straight line this time, but up and over! About twenty riders exchanged their high aspect foils with the more compact and manoeuvrable blades, showing the spectators and the camera crew how it’s done. We saw shifty frontside 3s, high jumps, raileys, some wingfoil dancing and even a backloop and rad 7 before the wind died off, leaving us all tired but content.

Crowning the champions
About an hour later the first-ever GWA Wingfoil Race European champions were crowned in the soft evening light of lake St. Moritz. A special prize was handed out to the youngest competitor in the event, the 10-year-old Daniel Wenger from Switzerland. His short wingfoil experience of only 1.5 months didn’t stop him from taking part in his first European championship, and the massive smile on his face was a worthy ending to this event.

Final ranking of the 2021 GWA Wingfoil Race European Championship

Women’s

  1. Olivia Piana (FRA)
  2. Flora Artzner (FRA)
  3. Bowien van der Linden (NLD)

U16

  1. Riccardo Zorzi (ITA)
  2. Noe Cuyala (FRA)
  3. Sebastiano Zorzi (ITA)

U19

  1. Benjamin May (DEU)
  2. Malo Guenole (FRA)
  3. Léandre Carlier Arquoit (FRA)

Masters

  1. Klaas Voget (DEU)
  2. Craig Gertenbach (ZAF)
  3. Henning Nockel (DEU)

Men’s Open

  1. Francesco Cappuzzo (ITA)
  2. Balz Müller (CHE)
  3. Maxime Chabloz (CHE)

European Champion Olivia Piana
“In the early days of a sport, like we are living here with wingfoiling, I find that women are sometimes less motivated, or don’t really have the confidence to join new and unknown things, like this European Championship. My call to all women is to come join us. The atmosphere at the events is great, there’s a lot of solidarity, and it’s a great opportunity to get inspired. Look at me: last year December I didn’t even know how to jump! I did the freestyle event in Tarifa, and thanks to riders like Balz Müller and Titouan Galea I managed to do an air 360 by the end of the week!”

European Champion U16 Riccardo Zorzi
“I’ve been doing a lot of racing to get ready for this event. I tried out different gear and rode in many different conditions, besides that I worked to improve my physical strength. I think racing is the future of this sport. It will give us the possibility to maybe one day be in the Olympics, which is certainly one of my goals.”

European Champion U19 Benjamin May
“I did some training for this event, mostly racing full speed across my local lake, and working on my tacks and jibes right before coming here. My background in skiing gives me a good speed but coming into the event, my starts were pretty bad. The first race I was last at the first mark, but still I managed to overtake the rest of the field. In the end I had the best start of the field; it’s cool to see how much difference the experience of just a couple of races can give you!”

European Champion Masters Klaas Voget
“I liked the compact courses we did here, where it’s less about the gear and more about the rider. Having a good start, making the right jibes, some little tactics for the upwind reach… I think that when we focus on keeping the courses nice and compact, with a lot of manoeuvres, racing will stay interesting and won’t become an arms race just to have the fastest gear.”

Francesco Cappuzzo, European Champion
“Yesterday night I was so nervous, I didn’t sleep at all! When I hit the water today my legs were literally shaking. I had a super bad start in round three, but luckily it was a general recall. At the restart I went full on, Maxime was leading but luckily I got the right gust and won the race. After that Balz told me I’d already won, we did the calculation and he was right! The final race I was really relaxed, knowing I’d already won. All the stress had gone, it was my best race of the event. Now I’m European Champion… incredible.”

History in the making
All competitors gave an incredible performance at this event, making history with each heat they showed up for. We would like to thank our sponsors and partners who made the GWA Wingfoil Race European Championship 2021 in St. Moritz happen. They trusted us, they supported us, they believed in us! A special thanks goes out to all the media, press and of course the organisers for hosting us at Engadinwind.

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