My Worlds – Elisa Falcon

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A World Championship experienced with a good team, is a good world championship.

I could say that I had a good experience, but really, I prefer to say, it’s Worlds that should appreciate to have experienced me and my South African team. The team was made up by Mark as coach, Stefan as Team Manager and Sean, Theo, Nicola and I were the sailors.

Said that, the opening ceremony was amazing and held outside. It started with funny Italian music and the same crazy man who did the prize giving of the Meeting shouting in the microphone with a lot of enthusiasm. Afterwards, in alphabetical order, all the countries walked through the centre of Riva del Garda. All the sailors wearing team uniforms carried their flags. When it was our turn, we did encounter some South African tourists that cheered us on.

We had flown into Milano three days earlier and drove to the venue in a rental car. When we rented the car, we didn’t realise that there wasn’t enough space to fit all the sail tubes and be comfortable for the drive. So, we came up with the plan was to squash Theo in the back with all the bags. Then as soon as the coast was clear, we stopped at a petrol station, (or as the Italians call it: Autogrill) and took some pool noodles that we had and put them on the roof of the car. Let remind you, there was no roofrack. Anyways we tied the tubes to the roof and Theo and the rest of us were comfy again.

We arrived in Garda two days early, so that we could take delivery of the charter boats, train and learn about the venue. I was the only one in team SA who had her own boat, and when we went to measure, I was the only one underweight and had to add correctors. All boats had to be measured. It was one of the hottest days of the event and everyone had to stay outside the measurement shed in a queue with their boats and there was very little shade.

I must say the weather there is very odd. One day it’s raining while it’s still warm with no wind and other days is  windy, raining and flooding the apartments of the Royal House, where we were staying. That night it rained so hard, and because the gutters were clogged, we ended up having 5 centimetres of water in the apartment. We took the spare bailers and bailed furiously until the apartment was dry again.

Because of the steep chop, sometimes our tows to the racecourse would last up to 45min. You’d sometimes see the committee boat just motoring past while we’d be constantly bailing water out.

Anyways, some days we would have light wind coming from the north. With that  wind in the early morning, it was hard to get at least a race in, without having to postpone. The wind would normally come from the north and then would turn 180 degrees to the South, this is what the locals call the Ora (the Time). When the Ora or the southern wind comes through at 12:00, it pick up  to 12 to 20 knots. What I had learnt from the coach and my own experience is that when the wind is strong the right is favourite and in lighter wind, the left and the middle right are better for the pressure.

As the qualifying racing days went by, some good, some bad, we qualified for the team racing, which for me was the highlight of the event. I was happy and excited that South Africa got into the team racing. During team racing only the teams who qualified were allowed on the water. Everybody else had to stay and watch from land. All teams had two chances: if they didn’t win the first round, then they’d have another chance, and if they also lost that round, then the whole team sailed back to land. Our first match was RSA vs HUN, and we lost. Then it was RSA vs GER, and we won, so we were given another chance against NED. In that race there was a lot of confusion and miscommunication, so we did lose and were sent to shore. But it was a phenomenal and exciting experience that day. Overall, it was tough, but looking on the bright side of things, we got to have a rest day.

This meant we could go and visit Venice! We started with breakfast all together and then Stefan, Theo and I went to visit this incredible city on water. It took us a three-hour drive and a ferry trip. We spent the whole day in Venice; we went on a Gondola and went to St Mark’s Square. By the time we had finished seeing the Bridge of Wishes it was time to head home.

The teams we talked with the most were Bermuda, Hong Kong, and the Americans. The Italian and the Bermudans were the teams next to us in the boatpark. I must say that the Italians did take a while to realize I was Italian. They also have a very PG vocabulary; you could spot Nicola and I sometimes smiling at each other, understanding what had been said by some Italian kid.

Elisa Falcon with a port start at the World Championships in Italy.

This event was very well organized, and the effort of the Coaches and Managers were great. In between races, it was hard to find the coach boat because from far away you could only see the color of the duck., not the country’s flag.

The Measurement shed was converted to canteen for the championship and we had all our dinners and breakfasts catered for there.

Sometimes, though, we were a bit late for breakfast, because we needed to wait for Sean to finish his Pronutro breakfast back at the apartment.

This regatta was an opportunity so see my Italian family. Charlie is a good and old friend of my parents, and he came to visit me on the last day of the Finals Series.

I had not seen him since I was 4yrs old when he came and visited us in SA. Charlie was a 470 helmsman and represented Canada in the 90s. My father introduced him to the team, so he took some amazing photos of us. Charlie has a very interesting way of talking with his two accents. One minute he has a very Italian accent, the next he is talking to you with a strong Canadian accent. While Charlie was there my results improved a little, but by then we were already locked in the final fleets. Anyways, it was wonderful seeing him again and I hope I can see him again soon. Chiara Fruet even came to visit us twice; she was nearby in Malcesine to train with her Waspz but came to have dinner with us and spent the afternoon taking pictures of us for our sponsors back home.

Also, my uncle Andrea, my aunt Elena and my cousins Eddie and Finn arrived to visit me with a Camper they rented out for the occasion. It made me feel happy and excited to see them there.

Unfortunately, the World Championship 2021 had to come to an end, and that meant saying goodbye to my good friend and teammate Nicola, who then went home to Spain, and to all the friends I made there. The team that travelled with me from Cape Town I would see later in South Africa.

The morning after the prizegiving I took off to Tuscany on the camper with Andrea and family and then to Rome where I met grandparents and uncles. I had a wonderful and memorable time with them after my Championship. On my trip back to Cape Town, at the airport I met an NBA player who was travelling to Tokyo for the Olympic Games. He was twice my height, literally. So, to sum it all up I have amazing, special, and everlasting memories of the Worlds in 2021 and maybe some unfinished business, watch out!

Thank you to everyone who made it possible.

20 July 2021