November 2023

Looking ahead to the 1/16 Finals of the SSL Gold Cup in Gran Canaria

So far, the SSL Gold Cup in Gran Canaria has highlighted the dynamic nature of elite racing, with strategic decisions, teamwork, and adaptability all playing a pivotal role in success.

Up until this past week, the teams hadn’t sailed together in the SSL47 since the qualifying rounds in Switzerland over a year ago. Early races in the 1/32 Finals doubled up as training practice for the crews onboard, but they’ve now got to grips with the boat and team dynamics - a luxury not afforded to the new teams arriving for the 1/16 Finals. Will this prove decisive in the upcoming days of competition?

SSL Gold Cup Final Series (c) Martina Orsini
SSL Gold Cup Final Series (c) Martina Orsini

Here’s a look at what to expect in the 1/16 Finals of the SSL Gold Cup in Gran Canaria.

(*) indicates new arrivals to 1/16 Finals

Fleet 1


‘The Austrian Eagles’ enter the 1/32 Finals led by captain Thomas Zajac, an Olympic medallist in the Nacra 17. Known more for its Alpine vistas than open seas, how will Austria fare in Gran Canaria? Only time will tell.


The ‘Finis Terrae Sailors’ exploded out of the gates with back-to-back victories, but dropped to third place for the next two races. However, it was enough to scrape a Lucky Loser and keep their championship dreams alive.


Supported by their patron His Highness Tengku Amir Shah, the Malaysian ‘Monsoon’ were a force to be reckoned with, comfortably topping their group in the first round, saving their best for last, winning the double points race.


Dark horse of the competition so far. With humility and smiles on their faces, the Estonian ‘Icebreakers’ quietly sailed to victory in the 1/32 Finals, placing second in their fleet.

SSL Gold Cup Final Series (c) Martina Orsini
SSL Gold Cup Final Series (c) Martina Orsini

Fleet 2


'Northern Magic' sails under the command of Thomas Johanson, one of Finland’s most accomplished sailors with an Olympic gold in the 49er and Laser World Championship title. With recent experience in larger boats, Johanson promises to bring passion, teamwork and a never-give-up attitude to the Finnish team.


With 28 national championship titles, captain Zsombor Berecz is undoubtedly the best active sailor in Hungary. However, this is his first venture into leading big boats, and as another landlocked country arriving to the competition, do ‘The Shamans’ have the experience for the waves?


With 4/4 wins so far, the ‘Black Pearls’ make it look easy. They sail beautifully as a team, and are super-fast through the water. Are they more dark horses than black pearls?


After a couple of last-place finishes, it wasn’t looking good for the ‘Privateers’. However, one win and a second-place was enough to turn it around and get them through to the 1/16 Finals. The momentum is now with Team Bermuda - can they go even further in the competition?

SSL Gold Cup Final Series (c) Martina Orsini
SSL Gold Cup Final Series (c) Martina Orsini

Fleet 3

Republic of South Africa

‘Team Ubuntu’, which means ‘humanity to others’, have been sailing very consistently, with one win and three second-place finishes. The inspiring team has crewmembers first introduced to the sport by Ian Ainslie’s sailing school, who are now competing alongside their captain on the world stage.


Despite a few mistakes made early on, the Portuguese ‘Navigators’ emerged victorious in their group. This is a team full of talented sailors, and the more practice they get, the harder it will be for other teams to beat them.


Olympic gold medallist Šime Fantela’s winning instinct and deep sailing knowledge make him the ideal person to captain the Croatian team. Alongside Laser legend Tonči Stipanović at the helm - recently #1 in the SSL Gold Cup Rankings - the world will be eagerly watching to see just how far this formidable duo can steer their team in the competition.

Antigua & Barbuda

After a strong start in the competition, the ‘Rum Runners’ fortunes dropped for the following races, but their early win gave them enough points to be awarded Lucky Loser. Having previously competed against Bermuda and Malaysia, they’re now in a new fleet, facing two very strong teams from the last round: South Africa and Portugal.

SSL Gold Cup Final Series (c) Martina Orsini
SSL Gold Cup Final Series (c) Martina Orsini

Fleet 4


Captain of team ‘KRPANI1860’ Vasco Žbogar found the level of competition in the 1/32 Finals surprisingly intense, and says the crew is going to get some much-needed rest before the next round.


‘The Ambers’ dominated their fleet in the first round with some spectacular mid-race comebacks. Ranking just behind Tahiti in points, they've firmly established themselves as top-tier contenders.


Captain Richard Clarke's leadership is marked by a deep understanding of diverse sailing disciplines, and his ability to adapt to the dynamic conditions of high-stakes racing. Will it be enough to help Team Canada hit the ground (water) running when they join the competition tomorrow?


Leading team ‘Rising Sun’ is seasoned 470 sailor Eiichiro Hamazaki. Pitted against the world's elite, this team not only represents Japan's formidable sailing prowess but also carries the immense pride of a nation eager to make its mark on the international stage.

Each fleet contains a unique mix of countries, with no obvious rivalries, but based on the first round of the SSL Gold Cup, the racing over the next few days  is going to be fast, furious and unpredictable.

Join us Thursday 16th November at 10.30am local time for the beginning of the 1/16 Finals of the SSL Gold Cup Finals series, the football world cup of sailing.


Mark Jardine

Mark has been managing sailing websites since 1996, always being at the forefront of technology, and now manages the combined and network. He has covered events such as the International Moth World Championship and Cowes Week, focusing on the sailors' thoughts and words. Mark has been European Champion in the Farr 30 & J/24 class and has won numerous UK titles, and competes regularly in local and national events in dinghies and sportsboats.