Britain’s windfoilers are hoping to assert their dominance in the biggest regatta so far for Olympic sailing’s newest discipline when they take on the iQFOiL International Games in Campione, Lake Garda, this week.
Unlike traditional windsurfing the iQFOiL flies above the water on a hydrofoil, allowing for much greater speeds, and is among three new sailing disciplines that have been slated for inclusion in the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Although named the International Games in light of global travel restrictions, the regatta is the class’s de facto world championships – and a strong contingent of 19 Brits including six British Sailing Team athletes will be looking to make their mark when racing starts today.
Leading the charge is 20-year-old Scots athlete Islay Watson (pictured above), who impressed at the inaugural class European Championships in Silvaplana, Switzerland, in August, with a silver medal.
“After a successful Euros in August and a great summer training in the UK I am going into the iQFOiL International Games excited to see how my sailing has improved since then and hoping to achieve a similar result against more competitors out here in Campione”, said Watson, from Aviemore.
Watson will be joined on the women’s fleet start line by team mates Saskia Sills, who makes a welcome return from illness after a year off from competition, and Alysia Gibson, who took bronze at the Formula Foil World Championships earlier this year.
The British Sailing Team’s male entries will be looking to mirror their own success at the Formula Foil World Championships when Matt Barton (pictured above) took gold in the iQFOiL division followed by Andy Brown with silver and Team GB Tokyo 2020 windsurfer Tom Squires with bronze.
“I’m very excited for the upcoming iQFOiL International Games,” said the 24-year-old Barton, from Bury St.Edmunds, Suffolk. “The event is very well attended despite the difficult period with all the best foilers from around the world fighting for the title.
“We have had a really great training block since our last international in Silvaplana, so I am feeling really positive going into our main regatta of the year. With a new format being trialled it’s all on to make the top 12 by end of play on Friday in order to compete in a winner-takes-all final series.”
Squires, 27, from Kingston Bagpuize in Oxfordshire, added: “Although this kit isn’t directly relevant to my Tokyo campaign it will benefit me by keeping my racing skills sharp as there is limited competitions this year on the RS:X. Should be fun, let’s see what we can do.”
Rising star Finn Hawkins, who topped the table in the youth division of the European Championships, will be on the start line along with a host of well-known British names from the world of windsurfing including Olympic coach Imogen Sills and her brother Sam, racing legend Guy Cribb, and IFCA Slalom Windsurfing Female World Champion Jenna Gibson.