After 23 days and 64 races in Gran Canaria, the SSL Gold Cup reached the final four and the Grand Final. The exciting finale of the first ever sailing World Cup.
It all started with 56 nations, qualifying on Lake Neuchâtel to be part of the 40 finalists of the Gran Canaria Final Series, with five rounds of racing to get to this stage.
The wind may have been light, but when the five-minute countdown to the race began, the tension was the equivalent of a hurricane.
In sailing, the racing begins long before the starting gun, as teams jockey for position, aiming to start in the perfect place at full speed. In this race for the title of World Sailing Nations Champion, there are no second chances. It's all or nothing.
The winners of the start were Spain and the Netherlands, who crossed the line at full speed and in clear air, while Hungary was left out at the committee boat end by the Netherlands and Italy, who came too low to the line, having to squeeze around the pin end, which pushed them into the rough air of the Spanish boat.
Recovering from their poor start, the Hungarian team chose a perfect course on the first upwind leg and, in a maneuver a chess grandmaster would be proud of, overtook the Spanish team on the final approach to the windward mark, turning a 10-second deficit into a 20-second lead, leaving the Spaniards open to attack from the Italians. This was tactical sailing at its finest.
On the downwind leg, the Hungarians risked everything by going left while the rest of the fleet went right, a brave move by the charismatic Hungarian skipper and tactician Zsombor Berecz.
The Dutch team was charging, but Hungarian helmsman Robert Bakoczy was in the zone, while his tactician Zsombor made all the right decisions. With amazing foresight, the team that started racing in Gran Canaria in the Round of 32 was interpreting the local winds and waves to perfection.
Behind the Hungarians, the other three were engaged in a close battle. The Italians tacked the Dutch, who in turn kept the Spanish team on their tail. These exchanges favored the Hungarians, who rounded the windward mark with a 46-second lead, as only 14 seconds separated Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.
As the wind continued to drop, the Italians were getting faster and faster, but the Hungarians gave no options, and ended up winning the SSL Gold Cup. Zsombor Berecz, Robert Bakoczy, Marcell Goszleth, Csaba Adorjan, Kos Lillik, Levente Takacsy, Balazs Tomai, Zsombor Gyapjas and Aron Nemeth have written their names in the history books as the inaugural Sailing of Nations World Champions.
Behind them, the Italians took silver, while the Dutch won bronze. Agony for the local team, which finished fourth.
They have been in Gran Canaria since November 16, have played four rounds, have faced 13 other teams on the water and, for the past 17 days, the Hungarians have enchanted us all with their victory in this inaugural edition of the SSL Gold Cup. Back in Hungary, they are sure to inspire a whole new wave of sailors to take to the water.
On the winning maneuver at the first windward mark, the Hungarian skipper and tactician said:"It was a great maneuver, yes. The boat was going super well and I trusted our team, no one can run the boat faster than us, so from that moment on a fast boat it's a pleasure to be a tactician."
Zsombor had kind words for his team:
"Individually we may not be the best sailors in this whole competition, but as a team we are the best, and I'm super proud of that." "If you believe you can win, and you can make everyone believe you can win, then that's it. It sounds simple, but it's all about the team."