The Travers Grand Prix never disappoints and the 2023 edition was no exception. It gave us the highest scoring men’s round of skiing ever seen with the win decided on the 9.75m (43’ off) line for only the second time. In the women’s final no fewer than four skiers ran 10.75m (39.5’ off). It was a fitting end to this season’s Waterski Pro Tour and the best possible curtain-raiser for the World Championships next month.
We knew we were in for another mouth-watering Sunday at Sunset Lakes when we saw the cut for the women’s final. Two skiers who scored 2 @10.75m didn’t even make it through to the last eight. Alice Bagnoli (ITA) had the lowest score going into the final with two solid rounds of 2 @ 10.75m. She couldn’t match that in the final, however, and was one of three – the others being Manon Costard (FRA) and Chelsea Mills (USA) – who went down early on the 11.25m (38’ off) line.
Elizabeth Montavon (USA) did better with 2 @ 10.75m but that was only good enough for 5th. Allie Nicholson (USA) set the bar high, running 10.75m for the third time ever but, remarkably, her 0.5 on 10.25m was not enough to get her on the podium this time and she finished 4th.
The victory went to Regina Jaquess (USA) with 2 @ 10.25m. Whitney McClintock Rini and Jaimee Bull tied on 1 @ 10.25m for the remaining spots on the podium but McClintock took second ahead of her Canadian teammate by virtue of a higher back-up score.
The big question was whether the men could live up to that? The answer was a resounding YES.
Adam Sedlmajer (CZE) had had to battle his way through two run-offs against Italy’s Thomas Degasperi to secure the last spot in the final after both had scored 3 @ 10.25m in both preliminary rounds. Corey Vaughn (USA) had his own, rather different, fight to make the final. His 3 @ 10.25m in the first round didn’t count – he was disqualified when his handle was found to be too long. He knew he needed more than 3 to make the final and threw himself round 4 ball in the second round to get 3.25.
In the final Sedlmajer was unable to repeat his season’s best scores of the earlier rounds, with 2 @ 10.75m. Vaughn was the early leader with 3 @ 10.25m, a buoy count later matched by both Jon Travers (USA) and Brando Caruso (ITA). It would need something special to beat that and it came first in the form of the 2022 Travers Grand Prix winner, Will Asher (GBR). He got 5 @ 10.25m, matching his score from round two, guaranteeing a place on the podium with two to go.
Next up was Nate Smith (USA). He had already run 10.25m once over the weekend and he did so again, making it look as easy as his 12m pass. A betting man or woman would have put money on Smith getting all the way round 1 at 9.75m to score the full buoy. But his attempted S turn to get back to the wakes after 1 took him scarily close to the jump ramp and he was forced to take the half buoy. In hindsight, he might think he should have taken a look at 9.75m in round two after running 10.25m rather than skiing back to the dock.
Unlike Smith, Freddie Winter (GBR) had taken a look at 9.75m in round two, fully rounding buoy one to go into the final as top seed. As he left the dock as the last skier out he knew he would have to do the same again to take his third win of the 2023 Waterski Pro Tour. The Brit, who was desperate to end the Tour on a high, held his nerve and was ecstatic to win with 1 @ 9.75.
We’ve got used to seeing the very best skiing at Sunset Lakes. Expect more in a couple of weeks’ time. The IWWF World Championships take place at this very site with competition beginning on 10th October. You can watch every buoy, trick and jump on TWBC.