International Topper Virtual Regatta Champion wins 2020 e-Sailing Nations Cup.
After a month-long competition that featured 13 leading eSailing nations, Great Britain, captained by the current International Topper VR Champion - Mike O’Donovan aka @dejavusailing, convincingly beat Spain across the nine-race series. The series of races featured different classes, fleet sizes and racecourses that tested the teams' depth and performance.
Streamed across the Olympic Channel and across World Sailing’s Channels – click here to watch back – the final welcomed two teams of ten that included at least one male and one female, one captain, two certified sailors and the top four sailors from the National Championships.
Great Britain came out with intent and advanced to a 2-0 lead. Spain pulled a race back but the next three races went the way of Great Britain who sealed the deal with three races to spare.
“It was some really tight racing," said the Topper VR Champion O'Donovan. " There were some high heart beats. We were aiming for the races that were slightly earlier. We weren’t expecting much for the ten v tens but having won the 49er race it was good to have that boost going into the further races.”
Great Britain got off to the perfect start in the first race of the final. In a ten v ten fleet race in the 49er, the team with the lowest cumulative points score, based on the low point scoring system, would take the race victory.
TP52 (GBR) clinched the fleet race win for his nation and was followed by four Spanish rivals. However, a stream of British sailors followed and, with 103 points compared to Spain’s 107, they were able to claim the victory.
The second race of the series was a Match Race in the Star between the top two female racers. Isswizz (GBR) took on Patri Reino (ESP) in a race that saw both eSailors share the lead. However, the victory was decided on the final downwind as isswizz put enough wind shadow over Patri Reino to claim the race win in a photo finish, putting Great Britain 2-0 up.
Spain pulled a point back in the third race of the series, a 5v5 ILCA Dinghy fleet race. A dominant performance by the Spanish team saw Louis54TOP and Samuel Beneyto take the top two spots that handed them the victory.
In the 3v3 eF50 race, Spain grabbed the early initiative and were on track to take the victory. However, LDLN_Bandido (ESP) disconnected, which handed Great Britain the initiative. @dejavusailing, Bell Rock and Hugh Brayshaw capitalised and grabbed the victory for Great Britain to put them 3-1 up.
Great Britain extended their lead to 4-1 in the 2v2 J/70 fleet race. Joan Cardona (ESP) won the race and was followed by Great Britain’s Speedy_1 and @dejavusailing in second and third. Hector Dominguez (ESP) finished in fourth. As the scores were tied, the rules of the event stated that those not holding first place would take the win which meant the race went the way of Great Britain.
With match point to Great Britain, Spain sent in Cruzolator to face @dejavusailing in the sixth race, a match race in the Star. The race ebbed and flowed as the rivals shared the lead. On the final leg to the finish, Cruzolator inflicted a penalty on @dejavusailing and grabbed the advantage. But @dejavusailing remained in contention and it went to a photo finish that was judged to have gone the way of @dejavusailing as he claimed the eSailing Nations Cup title for Great Britain.
Three further races were held but the victory had already been secured for the British team.
Spain picked up victory in race 7, a 3v3 J/70 race, and in race 8, a 2v2 eF50 race. Great Britain picked up a convincing victory in the final race of the series, a 10v10 Nacra 17 race, to seal a 6-3 victory.
eSailing World Championships
However, Great Britian didn't have it all their own way on the following day, 7th November, in the World Championships where it came down to the final with everything to play for in the final match race.
It was a repeat of Friday’s Nations Cup final with GBR’s Mike O’Donovan fighting hard against Spain’s U 23 Finn World Champion and Spanish SailGP Team member Joan Cardona, who won the Medal Race to take the title by one point.
His compatriot Ramon who sailed alongside him in the Nations Cup had led going into the Medal Race, but finished second overall.
This, the third ever eSailing World Championship final was held virtually for the first time, following last year’s final in Bermuda and the first ever final in 2018 which took place in Sarasota, USA. Eight of the finalists qualified through the three-day PlayOffs in early October, with inaugural eSailGP champion and International Topper VR Champion Déjà Vu joining them in the grand finale.
Completing the line-up was Donnie Gillies, also part of the Great Britain side which won the 2020 Nations Cup; previous finalists Kaan Mazlumca (TUR) and Miguel Cruz (ESP); French duo MCES valentinelisa and MCES pepitõ; and number one PlayOff qualifier StipecoachCROATIA (CRO).
Seven qualifying races were held, with one discard available for the eSailors. Ahead of the double-points Medal Race, five sailors could mathematically all win the title.
Going into the final race in third place, Cardona knew a strong finish would give him the best chance of clinching the title – and with nearest rival Ramon only able to place sixth, Cardona stormed to a dramatic victory.
The Finn sailor is currently training in Lanzarote, Spain ahead of the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games next year, with his nation still yet to qualify.
“I struggled a bit at the start,” Cardona admitted. “But I knew everything was going to be decided in the Medal Race, if I was consistent enough to be close in points, so I tried to do my best race.
The Medal Race was gripping stuff from the off, with leader Ramon taking an early penalty and dropping down the fleet. Cardona started well, leading British duo Déjà Vu and Donnie Gillies.
After trailing in last place for a brief period, Ramon worked his way up the fleet, while Cardona and Déjà Vu, level on points before the race, battled away.
MCES Pepitõ of France, who had made a brilliant start to the final and was sitting second overall ahead of the Medal Race, was scuppered by a penalty and could only finish eighth, knocking him down to fifth overall.
With the eF50 making its appearance, all eyes were on real-life SailGP sailor Cardona – but a poor start hampered his race, with fourth the best he could manage after a strong recovery.
Pepitõ, on the other hand, kept his cool and tore ahead, managing the tricky eF50 perfectly to beat Miguel to the finish. Kaan Mazlumca, the only eSailor to compete at all three World Championship finals, clinched his series-best finish of third.
The penultimate race, another outing for the Laser fleet, saw a tactical battle unfold, as the frontrunners sailed with targets on their backs. Déjà Vu in particular made life difficult for Ramon, with Pepitõ also under threat. As Stipecoach took the race victory, Ramon finished third and Pepitõ came seventh.
An enthralling seven races set up the Medal Race perfectly. Ramon held a five-point lead over Pepitõ, with Cardona a further six points behind the Frenchman. But ultimately, it was the professional sailor who held his nerve under pressure and sailed the race of his eSailing career, to claim the virtual gold medal and write his name in the eSailing World Championship history books.
Joan Cardona is the first Spaniard to win the title following L1 of France claiming gold in 2018 and Italy’s Velista71 taking the honours in 2019.