The W.I.S.S.A. 25th Anniversary Jubilee was one of the greatest events in W.I.S.S.A. history! Never before have we had fireworks, outdoor music, a light show, and a hot air balloon on opening night. The head of the Finnish Parliament gave a speech at the opening ceremony as did the mayor and other dignitaries.
Organized by Olli Kotilainen and Virpi Tikanmaki, with help from sponsors, family and scores of volunteers, the event set a new precedent for attention to detail, and excellent planing.
At one point, next year’s organizer Francois Vinet of Montreal, Canada, became nervous saying that he would have a hard time matching this. Past organizers Juha Mannermaa of Kajaani, Finland, and Klaus Faisst of Toronto, Ontario, assured Francois that not every year was like this, and that a simpler event is more the norm. This year was a special celebration, and Olli had been planning for almost 2 years.
We had competitors from 11 countries. There were plenty of participants in all three classes, and all age groups were represented. Overseas travelers were very well looked after. Airport pick ups, baggage handling, visa requirements, and such were all expertly taken care of.
There are some North American competitors who look forward to reciprocating the hospitality next year in Montreal. I am one of them!
The Pyhajarvi area of Finland is quite majestic. It is a bountiful land populated by hard working attractive people. I know that I am not the only one who left wishing that I could come back in summer to enjoy the lake’s broad sandy bottom, big winds and rolling waves. The lake is also home to all kinds of fish including some very tasty crayfish, which look like lobsters only smaller.
The surface of Lake Pyha [jarvi means lake, and pyha means sacred] was perfect for racing. The hard ice covered by only a few centimeters of fast snow meant that sleds with blades could race against sleds with skis and no one had a big advantage over another. It allowed for a test of skill rather than a test of technology, or money.
The talent level was very high.
OPEN CLASS: The team from Poland is remarkably well organized and trained by coach Witold Nerling. One look at the results in Open Class will show this. They were always on time to the skipper’s meetings, and always prepared to race. The team took first and third places. Congratulations to Robert Graczyk and Michal Majewski.
Another group of sailors that usually turns up in the top five is the STAL, which is the organization of Finnish Winter Sailors. Ville Laitala of Kalajoki, Finland, took second place on a two ski sled. Finland has produced World Champions before, and is sure to do so in the future. Nice job Ville!
This year, my personal favorites just missed the top 3, but filled out the top 5. These are of course, the monoski sailors from Russia. They are my personal favorites because I admire their skill. I have 3 monoski sleds but I can not imagine staying on top of one for long enough to make a W. C. race course. The monoski is unquestionably the most difficult of all sleds to ride, but people like Alexie Nozdrin [Moscow] and Slava Maltsev [Murmansk] make it look easy. Cheers to Egon Buchalla of Switzerland for making so many races on one.
Congratulations go out to Kamilla Smektala of Poland. At age 12, she is already a formidable racer. She is sure to be a champion in the future.
FREE SAIL: This year the free sail class was ALL Skimbats. This makes sense since the Skimbat is so well refined that it would be very difficult for any home builder to compete. Claude Chasse of Rimouski, Quebec, and Jocelyn Marceau of Quebec City, have both made wing sails in the past, but they were not in Finland this year so it was all of Skimbats on the start line.
I had the pleasure of using the new Skimbat 5. 5 meter wing, winner of this year’s Best Design award. It is 0. 5 meters larger than the regular 4. 8m Skimbat, but, in my case, no amount of extra sail area will help me when competing against champions like Vesa Leskinen [Espoo, Finland], Rainer Salo [Rauma, Finland], Yrjo Hokkanen [Helsinki, Finland] or North America’s fastest Free Sail sailor, Claude Chasse [Rimouski, Quebec].
At this point, I will be happy when I take just ONE race away from Klaus Faisst [Ontario, Canada]. Maybe I’ll get my chance when Skywings comes out with the new Skimbat 6. 2 meter.
A special welcome goes out to Sergei Akeliev, and Dimitri Li, both of Moscow, Russia. Welcome to the Free Sail Class. As a racing class, Skimbats are the closest thing to a one design class that W.I.S.S.A. has.
We hope to see this class grow in future years. The next time that we get clear ice, and/or a lot of wind, the Free Sails will really get a chance to show what they can do.
Kites have been an area of huge growth for the sport of ice and snow sailing. So much is happening now that it is nearly impossible to keep track of all of it. New snow kiting competitions are cropping up all over the world but almost all of them are based upon freestyle jumping and tricks.
The W.I.S.S.A. World Championships is one of the only international snow kite course racing venues in the world. As far as I know, it is the oldest continually run international racing venue for kites. Our first year for kites on the start line was 1993 in Choinice, Poland, and we have welcomed kites every year since.
This years top three was a clean sweep for Russia. First and second places went to what Kalev Alikveer [Tallinn, Estonia] calls “Open Class deserters”. Former champion monoski sailors Aleksie Rajev, and Anatoly Sarafanikov [Tumen, Siberia] demonstrated remarkable versatility by winning first and second places in kite class. Third place went to Roman Lubimsev [Moscow, Russia].
Very close behind in fourth place was Armand Trahan [Montreal, Canada]. Armand was using a flex kite similar to the one that won Best Design at the 2004 W. C. in Ontario, Canada.
We want to give a special welcome to the husband and wife team of Raimo and Christelle Sel’en [Helsinki, Finland], we hope to see them in Montreal next year with their adorable bilingual daughter.
We were also delighted to have Gatis Satiks, and Ralfs Resetnika join us from Riga, Latvia. There are many more ice and snow sailors in Latvia and we hope that they will join us every year for the W. C. . Special thanks to another Open Class deserter, Dietmar Boess [Turkheim, Germany] for always making the trip with Egon Buchalla [Switzerland]. Think of the adventures these two have shared in over 20 years of attending W.I.S.S.A. World Championships!
Thanks again to all of the organizers, sponsors, volunteers, and competitors who made this 25th year celebration possible. It can not be said often enough, it doesn’t matter who you are or how you place, EVERYONE who makes the trip and takes part in the competition is a winner.
As summer takes over the Northern Hemisphere we can think of our snow sailing friends in Australia, New Zealand, and South America. We can also plan for next year in Montreal, Canada.
Information about dates and places will be posted on the W.I.S.S.A. web site. Best wishes for a wonderful summer.
SEE YOU IN MONTREAL!
William Tuthill, W.I.S.S.A.