There were two British Sailing Team medals at the iQFOiL International Games in Campione del Garda, Italy, from 17-22 May 2021 as Islay Watson claimed silver and Matt Barton took bronze.
This is the how the event played out for Matt Barton, the 25-year-old from Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, in his own words.
At the start of the event you are really just aiming to make it in to the top 12 because with the new system the top 12 are the ones who go through to finals racing for a chance at the medals. So, your priority is consistent results.
I started off a little slowly. We are testing some new formats and on day one there was high-wind slalom racing and I was a little off the pace. I managed a few reasonable counters. It wasn’t a great start but it was solid enough.
If you don’t start well it does add a bit of pressure but I didn’t have any results that would be too detrimental to a long term scoreline so I knew a few good results could overturn a few mediocre ones at the start. But top 12 was still the aim at that point so I was relatively stress free.
Day two we had lighter breeze with a downwind race and I won my slalom heat in that. It was nice to feel on the pace in the light winds.
It was booming on day three. About 20, maybe gusting 25 knots in the morning so we went super early. We did some course racing and banged out five races quite quickly. I had a mediocre first race and even crashed, but I managed to get myself back up. I had another crash in the fourth race but it was nice to finish with a third in the final race of the day. There were good solid results and no one really was being that consistent as it was a really big fleet and tricky conditions. All in all, a good day despite a couple of swims.
Day four was marathon day. At that point I was in seventh. I had a 30-point buffer in the top 12 and about 14 points off fourth so I was kind of pushing it to get top four as you automatically qualify for the semis.
The marathon is all about minimising risk. Lake Garda is massive so if you are on the wrong side of the course you can lose a lot of ground. I had a great start and felt I had some good speed and managed to pop in a nice sixth place finish.
They actually sent us back out for a very quick light wind slalom race after the marathon and I managed to win that. I like the light winds.
I had made it in to the top 12 and I was into the finals series. The quarterfinals is for the people ranked fifth to 12th from the opening series. The top four out of those go into the semis. So, from that point on you have clear targets and you don’t want to take any big risks, you just need to keep on progressing.
I played the risks. I had a solid, safe start. A few pinged off hard to one side but the majority went the other way, so that’s where I put myself. Nice, controlled racing. I finished in fourth, which was all I needed to do.
On to the semis, which in my opinion is the hardest. You have to be top two to progress and everyone is pretty quick at this stage. Luckily I had a good start and I could hold it all through to the end and make it into the final race.
I was now buzzing at this stage. I went into the qualifying races in sixth so I had already gained. Now I was one of four people in with a chance of the three medals up for grabs.
I absolutely smashed the start at the pin end and was leading to the first mark. I was sending it downwind, the French guy [Nicolas Goyard] gybed just before me, I gybed below him. We were pumping down. He gybed, I gybed inside. I slightly underlayed it which allowed him to get around me at the leeward and we were fighting it out to the corner. Meanwhile fourth place had gone and messed it up so as we were pumping back upwind I look back and see realistically we are racing for 1-2-3.
I had a tight lane on one. Three [Huig Jan Tak – NED] was coming tight up the inside. All racing up to the corner, one has a little bit of a lead, me and the other are neck and neck. I get a bit of a better tack and round the windward mark in second, but then he low modes underneath me and just does enough on the reach to get room. We gybe together and then it’s a full drag race with us pumping to the line. It was so close, like half a board length, but he just got ahead of me.
It was such a good race! But I had a medal. There was relief and excitement. Just knowing the hard work paid off and you are going in the right direction, but also more than anything medalling just re-energises you to push on and look to the next event.