Author: Oana Waeldchen and Razvan Adam

Flying Dutchman Worlds, Univela Campione, Italy, Sept. 3-10, 2022

“Breathe – you are in Campione del Garda” this is what they tell you when you first arrive at Univela. For many, Campione is the most beautiful spot on the Lake Garda, located on the western shore, about 20 km south of Riva, and can only be reached via a very spectacular system of tunnels. The mountain is a very rugged terrain made from limestone. The impressive rocks face erosion by strong winds, rainwater and rivers.

Tristiano Vacondio, the event manager holding the strings of Univela, was so kind to offer some information about this special place, which we`ll share with you. The tall cliff next to the sailing hostel is evaluated each winter with built-in sensors, whereas the fine crevasses are measured and read by drones. The safety of the rock structures provides the certification for the seasonal activity for the following summer. During the competition week, on a morning with strong winds, a relatively small limestone dropped in an unprotected area in the lake, the loud echo on the tall wall, sending the mobile homes’ inhabitants outside, in a frenzy.

The region around the Lake Garda has been in private property since 1850. A large cotton factory was the only industry on the Garda Lake, until it was closed in 1980. Starting with 1980, tourism seemed to be a promising kind of merchandising of the region. In 2012, the Univela Hostel opened its doors for the Italian Federation of Sailing. It was sending to this place, sailors for the Olympic classes consisting of 2-3 teams plus coaches. But it was a short time of exclusivity (approximately two years), then the Federation decided to split over several locations, so that the Hostel could offer its services to more than these unique customers. Any customer enjoying activities related to water and other sports around the lake is now welcome in this special house. The building is also special since it was built with a layout inspired from other sailing clubs (as in: Weymouth, Medemblik and Santander) but it was developed to promote competitions in addition to a venue where you can sleep, eat and have nice conversations with people coming from the whole world and of various heath conditions, since it was built to meet the needs of people with disabilities. Univela has a partnership with the AIL (Italian Association against the Leukemia/ Lymphoma/ Myeloma). According to the information of Tristano Vacondio “it has been discovered that one hour of sailing allows the strength of the pain medication to be reduced to half”.

Univela Sailing has organized the Flying Dutchman World Championship in September 2022. Unlike at other racing places, the place of residence was also at the venue of the boat slips. You can practically spit out the window, into the boat. Regional foods and drinks were served in a pleasant atmosphere by  mostly young staff, who made all possible that the guests feel at their best during their stay.

The yard layout allowed barely tight room for cars, mobile homes, trailers and the narrow slips for boats with marked berths. A siren with the D flag would announce when the boats were allowed to be moved out of the slip, for boat launching to navigate to the regatta. But there was also sufficient place for the kite surfers, who stretched their 13-16 square meter sails next to the deckchairs and sunbeds, on the lush green lawn. Swimming in the crystal-clear water of the glacial lake was a treat for the participants and their supporters alike, the strong August sun on the tall rock warming the water at a reasonable temperature. Participants were surprised even by directional parachutes, whose flyers dared jumping from the tall cliff next to the Hostel, and then found a narrow landing place in between the boat trailers. 

Overall, the trip was also worth due to plenty of opportunities available to explore the stunning area around Campione.

The FD Worlds races were marked by variable winds. The morning north wind put the skills of the sailors to the test, with speeds frequently above 20 knots, (with one day of even 38 knots) getting everything out of the boats, sometimes requiring postponement or cancelling of the regattas. The races allowed a splendid view of the multicolored spinnakers enriching the wonderful blue of the lake and contrasting to the soft green of the trees on the mountainous background. Not all the boats were able to cope with the high winds and so were some of the sailors: some masts broke, some sailors took an unwanted bath, in addition to capsized FDs. 

The race ranking varied within the days of the competition. Some competitors who did not win any races, had top ranking on some days, while others have claimed the first place in different days. Strong winds brought some competitors in survival mode, while drifters challenged their patience. The last day was decisive for the trophy keeper. GER 88 proved to maintain its lead from the previous day, while the contenders DEN 2, HUN 70, GER 87, ITA 4 settled for this final order. Paul Hemker, the only USA team participating sailor had an ambitious goal to compete on an unfamiliar boat with a goodhearted, but unfamiliar crew. The other USA sailor, Razvan Adam’s plan to crew for a multinational team unfortunately did not come to fruition, due to last moment unforeseen logistical problems. Final results can be observed here.

The ceremony with the various trophies completed the fancy setup of the event. Additional prizes have included: best total with no discounts, best female helm, best skipper under 25 years old, best team on an over 25 year old boat, best team with an under 18 year old sailor.

Razvan’s interaction with Marc Strittmatter unveiled an interesting possibility of chartering or buying race worthy FDs during future competitions in Europe. During the competition’s week Marc’s entrepreneurship was in full display, buying the fully geared AUT 60 boat, that was put up for sale after only 2 days of races.