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Royal St. George Waszp Sailor Charlie Cullen Wins Ireland's First Ever European Waszp Title

20th August 2021
Royal St George sailor, Charlie Cullen 19, is Waszp European Slalom Champion and Junior (U20) European Champion
Royal St George sailor, Charlie Cullen (19) is Waszp European Slalom Champion and Junior (U20) European Champion Credit: Martina Orsini

Royal St George sailor, Charlie Cullen, 19, is Waszp European Slalom Champion and Junior (U20) European Champion following this year's Waszp European Games in Lake Garda Italy.

Held in beautiful Circolo vela Arco, a competitive and experienced 87 boat fleet emerged representing 18 countries from around the world to fight for the 2021 European championship titles.

A month earlier Cullen, from Dalkey in Dublin, secured a Silver medal at foiling week in Malcesine with a thirty boat International fleet.

Day 1 and 2 of the European Games event saw the slalom competition in full force. The slalom event is a quick and fast downwind circuit, with races only lasting a few minutes. Before the finals, there were several heat events with each race being a knockout for those that finish outside the top five places.

In the very first race of the day, Charlie IRL 2987 almost found himself out, after capsizing in his first gybe. However, after a quick recovery, Charlie scrapped his way into the next round finishing 4th in a 3-way photo-finish with 4th, 5th and 6th.

Charlie Cullen on the podium in ItalyCharlie Cullen on the podium in Italy

He managed to cruise his way through to the finals scoring 1st in both the quarter-final and Semi-final heats respectively. With a dying breeze, the finals were postponed to the following day.

After a 5 am wake up the Championship Fleet began racing for 5 hours in a 20 + knot north Peler wind that morning. Then after the fleet races, the top 10 slalom finalists gathered to race that afternoon in the famous Ora wind of Lake Garda.

Charlie, the only Irish to qualify for the finals - was on form winning the first race, with previous European slalom champion Elliot Savelon from the Netherlands hot on his tail.

However, Cullen, keeping his composure, finished 2nd and 3rd in the last two races of the final, thus scoring a 1,2,3 in the finals to become The 2021 Waszp European Slalom Champion.

The following days saw Championship Fleet racing unfold. With blistering temperatures, the famous afternoon Ora breeze of Lake Garda failed to fill in long enough for racing. This called the fleet again to an early 8 am first gun start for the 4 days of racing.

In the 20 knots of the morning Peler, and closing speeds of 30 – 40 knots the racing was quite a spectacle. The Waszp class standard has become higher and higher over the years resulting in extremely tight and exhilarating racing.

After winning the Slalom, he was one to watch in the battle for the overall title. Charlie port tacked the entire 87 boat foiling fleet resulting in a bullet becoming one of the many race winners. But with the tough conditions and tight crosses, he was struck with bad luck with a major collision with the helm of the other Waszp physically being flung through Charlie’s mainsail causing his sail to be written off and forcing him to miss two races of the day.

After getting redress, he was still in the fight for a top 10 overall and the Under 20 title. On the final day, he found his form getting a top 10 and a top 5 in the last races. This was enough for him to finish 10th overall and for him to be crowned the Waszp 2021 Under 20 Junior European Champion.

Matt Beck of GBR took the overall, with Germany’s Paul Farien and Italy’s Francesco Bertoni finishing the podium.

There was a strong Irish contingent, with six boats flying the flag. The young Irish fleet was represented by Royal St. George Sailors, Georgia Goodbody, Elysia O’Leary, Marcus O’Leary, Max Goodbody and Henry Start.

Three of the six boats received some top 10 results. With some incredible starting masterclasses from Marcus O’Leary and Max Goodbody who ported tacked the 87 boat fleet on multiple occasions. Max finished 30th, Marcus finished 39th overall and Henry Start finished 51st overall.

Georgia Goodbody and Elysia O’Leary both had a great event completing all the races in the tricky conditions. With Elysia finishing 64th and Georgia finishing second in the 6.9 category, 75th overall.

Full results are here

Published in Moth, Waszp, RStGYC, Youth Sailing
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