After 64 races and 23 days of competition in Gran Canaria, the inaugural SSL Gold Cup – the ‘Football World Cup of Sailing’ – concluded with Hungary’s ‘Shamans’ team emerging as the first-ever World Champions of Sailing Nations.
The event started with 56 nations qualifying at Lake Neuchâtel to make the final 40 at the Gran Canaria Final Series. With five rounds of competition, the tension was high as the teams jostled for position ahead of the starting gun.
Spain and The Netherlands crossed the line at speed with clear air, while Hungary were shut out at the committee boat end by The Netherlands, and Italy, who approached the line too low, having to squeeze up around the pin end, pushing them into the disturbed air of the Spanish yacht.
Hungary, however, recovered from their poor start and chose a perfect track on the first upwind leg, outmanoeuvring the Spanish ‘La Armada’ on the final approach to the windward mark. This was tactical sailing at its very finest.
Downwind, the ‘Shamans’ risked it all by going left while the rest of the fleet went right – a brave move by the charismatic Hungarian Captain and Tactician Zsombor Berecz – whilst the ‘Dutch Lions’ roared back into contention.
The ‘Shamans’ conjured a stunning spinnaker drop, while the ‘Dutch Lions’ rounded just 25 seconds behind, overtaking the ‘Gladiators’ and ‘La Armada’ in the process. As the wind continued to drop, the ‘Gladiators’ charged, but the ‘Shamans’ wove their magic to fend off their opponents, rounding the windward mark with a 46 second lead.
The ‘Shamans’ eventually sailed to victory, with the Italian ‘Gladiators’ taking silver, The Netherlands’ ‘Dutch Gladiators’ securing bronze, and Spain’s ‘La Armada’ finishing fourth.
On the winning manoeuvre at the first windward mark, Hungary’s Captain and Tactician said:
“That was a great move, yes. The boat was going super nicely and I was confident with our team that nobody can drive the boat faster than we are, so from that moment on a fast boat it’s a pleasure to be a tactician.”
Hungary’s helm Robert Bakoczy added:
“I think all of us still can’t believe it. It’s amazing and crazy. After our start we just tried to get back the speed as soon as possible. We were expecting a right shift and it came, so we were back in the game a minute after the start. It was hard, but we could solve it.”
At the prize giving, World Sailing Vice President Yann Rocherieux spoke of the importance of the SSL Gold Cup, which has its place in the calendar secured alongside other prestigious international events such as the America’s Cup and SailGP. Hungary were presented with the SSL Gold Cup and crowned the first-ever World Champion of Sailing Nations.
Regatta Director Paul Hutton-Ashkenny closed the event by summarising the staggering scale and reach of the event, which has attracted live coverage on TV networks around the globe.
On Monday 4 December, Hungary’s ‘Shamans’ team were crowned World Champions of Sailing Nations, after a thrilling conclusion to the inaugural SSL Gold Cup. The ‘Shamans’ success is sure to inspire a whole new wave of sailors to take to the water.