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Bob Espey Dominates at Northern Irish Waszp Championships in Harsh Weather Conditions

17th April 2024
Bob Espey was the first-ever Northern Irish championship Waszp winner at Ballyholme Yacht Club
Bob Espey was the first-ever Northern Irish championship Waszp winner at Ballyholme Yacht Club

Despite the Yellow Weather warning for County Down last weekend, six Waszp dinghies did turn up at Ballyholme Yacht Club for the first ever Northern Irish championships section of the Four Nations Cup. But with little respite from the North Westerly gusting over 30 knots and the long fetch producing big waves the starting line up was reduced somewhat. At the end of the two days, Bob Espey had dominated the racing, with seven wins out of the ten races.

The farthest travelled was Andy Bridgman from Guernsey. He was just back from the Waszp World Games in Australia, where he finished 12th overall. BYC member Mike Kimber kindly lent him his boat.

On Saturday, the very strong winds got the better of some with Mike Ferguson, who went out for a practice run at 9 am but bowed out of the afternoon racing due to the 30-knot outlook. Racing on that day consisted of four downwind legs on a slalom course in mixed conditions with sunny spells making the Bay look better but the sideways rain squalls of over 30 knots rather spoiled the effect. Andy Bridgman was getting faster, having picked up a few tuning issues on Mike Kimber’s boat, and was slowly fixing them race by race. After racing more tweaking onshore by Andy and better conditions forecast for Sunday, it looked like great racing was in store for Sunday. After Saturday’s racing, in the lead was Andy Bridgman on 6 points with Bob Espey on 11, which included a DNF as the discard would kick in later.

Six more races were scheduled for Sunday, and with the wind in the Southwest and offshore, the 15 to 25 knots were more manageable with much smaller seas. Ballyholme regulars were able to use local knowledge to find the quickest way round the course and Race One had a close finish with two-time Olympic sailor Matt McGovern just pipped at the finish by Bridgman. Mike Ferguson from the host club would find this foiling machine very different from racing on the MOD70 Mana in the 41st Edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race some years ago. He was getting closer in each race to the front few. Alexander Trickett from National YC was having a tough weekend with breakages on Saturday and his boat dismantling itself on the water, leading to his packing up early to head back to Dun Laoghaire.

Andy Bridgman (left) runner-up in the Waszp Northern event with Mike Ferguson Photo: Amanda EspeyAndy Bridgman (left) runner-up in the Waszp Northern event with Mike Ferguson Photo: Amanda Espey

Matt McGovern (left) with Mike Ferguson Photo: Amanda EspeyMatt McGovern (left) with Mike Ferguson Photo: Amanda Espey

Ferguson and Luke McIlwaine from Newcastle YC in South Down were having a close battle on Sunday and in Race 8 Ferguson was about to cruise to the finish ahead of Luke but bottled it in his last gybe, “holding onto too tight”, allowing Luke to slip through just ahead. After Sunday’s six races, overall, first went to Espey with Bridgman with a string of seconds, finishing five points behind on 17. In the third slot was Matt McGovern.

Bob Espey, who has been growing the class since 2021 organised the Northern event and he was pleased to be able to host the racing at Ballyholme “This was the first event of the Waszp Four Nations Cup and next is Oban in Scotland. We look forward to that and to the Irish Nationals at the Royal St George YC in August, where over 20 boats are expected in Dun Laoghaire. Thanks to Race Officer Sheela Lewis from Co Antrim YC for her excellent race management, and to the Rescue Team guided by Stephen Glasgow providing safety support and laying of the mark”.

Northern Irish Waszp Championships 2024 results

Northern Irish Waszp Championships 2024

The Waszp Four Nations Cup poster for 2024The Waszp Four Nations Cup poster for 2024

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down

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Waszp sailing

The Waszp project was conceived in 2010 by Andrew McDougall, designer of the world-beating Mach 2 foiling Moth. 

The Waszp was created as a strict one-design foiler, where, as the class says “the true test when raced is between crews and not boats and equipment”.

The objective of the class rules is to ensure that this concept is maintained. Keeping possible modifications to a minimum ensures fair racing across the fleet, helps to reduce the overall cost to the sailor and reduces the amount of time in the workshop. 

The popularity of the WASZP has proven that the boat and the concept work. In October 2021, 1237 boats had been sold to over 45 countries. 

The top speed recorded on the foiling dinghy is 26.7 knots. 

60-95kgs+ is a weight range competitive across varied conditions with rigs knowns as ‘8.2’ and ‘6.9’.

The cost of a Moth dinghy in Europe is €14,400 inc VAT + shipping according to the manufacturers in October 2021.