The winners of SailGP Inspire’s WASZP racing in Chicago have reflected on the ‘amazing’ chance to race on the same course as the league’s 10-strong F50 fleet.
Seventeen-year-old Rachael Betschart and Tommy Sitzman, 18, were crowned the female and male winners of SailGP Inspire’s WASZP racing program in Chicago after going head to head with a line-up of talented youth sailors.
The pair undertook a five-day program on the waters of Lake Michigan where they went behind the scenes of the Tech Base and battled varied wind conditions to emerge victorious.
Rachael Betschart, who also won SailGP Inspire’s WASZP racing in Bermuda last season, said the success of her Chicago campaign lay in her starting strategy.
“It’s a big thing when you can pull out in front of everyone - I want to be at full speed, in a good breeze, clear of other boats and on the inside with the right of way.”
Once she had secured her place in the gold fleet, Betschart said she was ‘racing against everyone - not just the girls’. “Everyone is there and everyone can affect you.”
Sitzman meanwhile got off to a flying start when racing got underway, winning every qualifying race. But when the gold fleet racing got underway, Sitzman was hit by a series of ‘really bad starts’. “I was coming back from the starts the whole time, which made it a lot trickier.” However, he fought back by ‘adjusting and setting up differently” to finish the racing as the top male.
Both Betschart and Sitzman will go on to compete in the SailGP Inspire WASZP Grand Final - Championship of Champions in San Francisco, where they will battle it out for the ultimate prize against fellow qualifiers from the season.
Sitzman, who has ambitions of becoming a professional sailor, said reaching the Grand Final was ‘always the goal’ and encouraged other young sailors to apply for the program.
“It gives you a lot of perspective and motivation - you get to see the big guys out racing and you can see the pathway and the steps you need to take to get there.”
Betschart said she ‘100%’ agreed. “It’s a great opportunity to be involved - they’ve inspired me to pursue my goals, as well as having a chance to meet the best sailors in the world and learn from them.”