A week before the foiling AC50s began racing in Bermuda, much-smaller, far-less-expensive flying machines gathered at the Toms River YC in New Jersey for the inaugural Waszp Atlantic Coast Championship. It was the first official domestic regatta for owners of the 11-foot one-design foiling dinghy.
Barnegat Bay in mid-May might seem an odd place for these wet, crash-prone boats, but the area has become a Waszp hotbed, partly because of the promotional efforts of Clay Johnson, who as owner of Colie Sails is the Waszp East Coast distributor. It’s also driven by a local group of 30-somethings who grew up racing Optimists in the river, moved onto E-Scows after collegiate sailing, and are now looking for a fresh challenge.
Some bought a Waszp when it first became available in summer 2016. Others played around with Johnson’s demo boat, learning to foil in the puffy breezes of Toms River. Despite frequent capsizes, they were hooked, and several of the sailors purchased boats in partnership with older local sailors interested in foiling.
A Waszp runs about $13,000 delivered from China, and Johnson has sold 19 of the 30 boats from his inventory. He estimates there are close to 100 of them in the States. Owners range from world-class racers like Argentinian Olympic 470 bronze medalist Lucas Calabrese to two sailors from Massachusetts who called Johnson to order boats “sight unseen” after reading an article about foiling in The Wall Street Journal.
“It’s incredible,” says Johnson. “There are buyers of all different ages, sizes and sailing abilities.”
In New Jersey, they include 70-year-old E-Scow sailors Peter Wright and Dick Wight. Wight bought his Waszp this past October in partnership with a young married couple from Toms River, Carl and Molly Horrocks.
The arrangement benefits both parties. The Horrocks got Wight’s financial support to help buy the boat, while Wight can count on Carl — who campaigned a 49er and is a top E-Scow crew — to handle maintenance and tuning. That allows Wight to jump in and sail without sweating the details.
“I wanted a boat to go out and have fun,” says Wight, an E-Scow champion. “I wasn’t looking at it from a racing standpoint, just as a recreational vehicle.”
Wight was a distance runner in college and remains in excellent shape, but he struggled when he began sailing the Waszp. “I was a wreck, physically, as I was going 10 feet and then crashing,” he says, but he has the hang of it now — for the most part. “You must be very careful with the mainsheet, and you have to make sure your form is good,” he says. “The whole thing is more balance than anything.”
Horrocks, 33, sailed the trio’s Waszp in the ACCs, placing 10th in a fleet that included two members of the Next Generation USA team for the 2017 Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, Reed Baldridge and Markus Edegran, and 2015 Pan Am Games Sunfish representative Conner Blouin. Baldridge won, Blouin was second, and Edegran was third. Horrocks’ former 49er teammate, Peet Must, led the locals in fourth place, while 15-year-old 29er sailor Ben Rosenberg from Rhode Island placed fifth.
While Wight was content to watch, his other partner borrowed a boat from Johnson and beat her husband in the process. At 118 pounds, Molly Horrocks struggled in the breezy conditions of the first day, but she excelled in Sunday’s lighter breezes and placed seventh.
The 27-year-old is enthralled by the Waspz, the first boat she’s regularly skippered since giving up Optimist sailing at age 12. She now sails regularly after work and has become Waspz’s class secretary, in charge of its website and social-media promotion. While she enjoys crewing on E-Scows and Melges 24s, Horrocks prefers foiling: “The Waszp is more fun. It’s one on one, and I’m in control.”