The epicentre of European sailing this summer has unquestionably been Lake Garda and if you’ve been there, sailed there, raced a championship there, you already know why. A more perfect amphitheatre for watersports simply doesn’t exist anywhere on the planet. And what’s more the unique climate guarantees a breeze, the Ora, that you can set your watch by at a civilised time of the day affording the Italian denizens plenty of time for a morning espresso or two ahead of a hearty prima colazione.

Torbole, found on the north eastern side of a lake crafted during the Quaternary age from glacial movement some 1.5 million years ago, is picture postcard beautiful, like something from a film set. No wonder the Romans found it absolutely irresistible. It’s quite simply paradise found. It’s sailing’s nirvana.

©Robert Deaves

And if you’re a yachting photographer, it’s Mecca. The shots this summer of everything from Tom Slingsby acing the Moths to Alex Demurtas winning in the Optimists to the Waszps via IQFOiLs, Melges 24’s and on to OK’s, Cadets, Musto Skiffs and Persico 69F’s, have been absolutely stunning…but the best was saved to last as the grand old Dames of our sailing pantomime, the graceful 5.5 Metres, wound up the early Autumn with the conclusion to their Alpen Cup.

©Robert Deaves

Just take a look at the photos and videos that have come back…what a wonderful scene. And I’m delighted to say that Cowes’s-own won with Peter ‘Morty’ Morton, Andrew ‘Dog’ Palfrey and Ben Cornish sailing an absolute blinder in their box-fresh Quigley-design, Girls on Film, that scooped the chocolates in a final race straight off the silver screen. Filmstars all – what a result.

But this class has more firepower coming in the form of Morty’s second boat, a David Hollom design that could be, just could be, the one that lands him the coveted World Championship in Norway in June next year.

©Robert Deaves

Going into the detail about the development that is underway, Morty shows just how serious he’s taking this campaign. Commenting on the weaponry coming, he said in Torbole:

“GBR 41 is the first of the new boats. We tested it against our old boat (a 2003 Wilke from Switzerland), which we knew was reasonably competitive, so we were quite confident and this weekend has proved it’s a pretty good all round boat. I have to say that all the VPPs and CFDs we did indicated it would be better in a breeze. We’ve yet to race against the Swiss boats in really light winds and that may be different, but certainly we were very comfortable here upwind and downwind.”

“GBR 42 is something quite different again. That should be ready in about 4-5 weeks and then we’ll do some testing in the Solent. It’s quite different, a David Hollom design, and you know with David he has some definitive ideas. Certainly all the testing we did, and the VPPs we did, indicate the boat will be stronger in a breeze over 10 knots, but it is quite different to all the other boats. So who knows? We’ll be in the penthouse or the outhouse I suspect.”

©Andrew Palfry with credit to Ben Cornish!

My money’s on the penthouse and it’s a class to watch. There’s a real enthusiasm around the European fleets of 5.5 Metres at the moment and you wonder why on earth they haven’t been more popular in recent years…okay to compete against the very best with a full works programme and more North Sails than a maxi campaign, you need serious money (tell me a class where you don’t) but looking around the class website, there are boats that will get you racing for a modest sum. And they’re suitable for pretty much any conditions up to about 30 knots – which they had at Garda at times and it was full on.

This is a class in the ascendancy, definitely one to watch and my suspicion is that there are 5.5 Metres tucked away in Swiss, German, Austrian, French and Hungarian garages that are going to be itching to come and play in the new European season next summer. Grab a couple of mates, give Norths a call and before you know it, you’re in the classiest fleet on planet earth…it’s like watching the Ferrari Owners Club on a track day. What’s not to love?

Congratulations to Morty, Dog and Ben on picking up not only the Alpen Cup but also the Trofeo Franco Santoni in remembrance of the former President of Cicolo Vela Torbole. …who’s going to stop their march to the World crown? Fascinating fleet. I’ll be following this one closely.

©Wavelength Images

And just as I was putting this article to bed, through came the seismic news that Hattie Rogers has become the first female athlete to win a Waszp UK Grand Prix having aced a mixed male/female 20 boat fleet up at Carsington in Derbyshire – one of the season concluders for the ever-growing, white-hot Waszp fleet. This is huge news for the UK class and has been a result that has been coming for a while.

Now ranked 16th in the world standings, Hattie is absolutely fighting her corner as one of Britain’s brightest foiling talents and is big news on a global scale. Remember the name. She’s a remarkably gutsy sailor with a killer instinct on a boat and is successfully fusing an academic degree on the highly recognised Ship Science course at the University of Southampton with a serious campaign in the Waszp class.

©Wavelength Images

The next step undoubtedly is the big-money International Moth class but it’s a tough ask for young athletes like Hattie to find sponsorship in the current climate. Let’s hope this outstanding talent is spotted quickly and nurtured accordingly…AC40 teams would be wise to start securing talent like this.

So Waszp’s and 5.5 Metres…you can’t do better than that in one blog article other than to say that my Laser training for a lap of the Isle of Wight for charity in 2022 took a giant step forward today with serious mileage gained in gusty conditions up the north side of Britain’s most beautiful island…the six pack is in there somewhere.

Great weekend of sport.

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