The 2007 Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam - Day 1
Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / MauiSails) grits his teeth and shoves his way into the lead on the first days racing after a miraculous race 2 recovery backs up his race 1 bullet. Antoine Albeau (Starboard / NeilPryde) hit the bull’s-eye on race 2 to stay ahead of Dutch Danger-man Pieter Bijl (Fanatic / NeilPryde) in third. Karin Jaggi (F2 / North) sends out an early warning shot to any pretenders in the women’s fleet after taking 3 out of 4 race wins. Valerie Ghibaudo (T1) stands firm in second ahead of Iballa Moreno (North) in third position.
Wind of around 22-30 knots prompted race Director Juan Antoine Aragon to kick start the Slalom racing event shortly after the morning skipper’s meeting. There were sizeable patches here and there making for gusty and fairly tricky racing conditions. Two women’s races were inserted into the running order of each men’s elimination.
Men’s Race 1
A larger fleet than last week at Pozo meant the competition for semi-final and final berths was intense, and many experienced pro’s struggled to secure places in the later stages of the race.
In his first start for many seasons, Josh Angulo of Cabo Verde won his qualifying heat to make it into the semi-finals before securing the runner’s-up slot in the loser’s final. Angulo couldn’t quite catch Taty Frans (Starboard / MauiSails) of Bonaire who won the loser’s final after a respectable top-10 finish in Gran Canaria.
The finalists included Wilhelm Schurmann (Starboard / NeilPryde) who barged past some pretty big players to earn his berth in the final. He gave us a great insight into the action around the course.
‘It was great to start the event this way and make a final in race 1 of the first day’ the Brazilian said. ‘I had a great race here with Julien Quentel (Starboard / NeilPryde) in the second semi-final today. In the final I was slow and behind a swell at the start boat so on the first reach I could see Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / MauiSails) in first place going into the first mark with Antoine Albeau (Starboard / NeilPryde) and Pieter Bijl (Fanatic / NeilPryde) bearing down on him hard from above (Upwind). I saw Robby Swift (JP / NeilPryde) fall after I rounded in about 9th and Finian Maynard (F2 / NeilPryde) then gybed real close inside of me and his boom hurt my hand as he flipped his rig. I couldn’t see much of the rest of the race after that – everything goes so fast out there it’s a bit of a blur. I followed Finian around the rest of the track but it’s so hard to overtake along this short course – so that makes the start worth about 80% of the race. The holes over the course made sail choice a bit of a lottery too. I was on a 6.7 but some people were on 7.8’s’
There was a great scrap for first and second place between Bijl and Pritchard over the last reach near the crowds on the beach. Bijl, who finished second, described the race. ‘It was a bit light on the start line and I wriggled into a good position by pushing some people out at the first mark – I was a little lucky to challenge for the win as I spun-out on the second reach too! Anyway, I gybed clear of everyone else at the second mark and tried to undertake Kevin on the home-straight, but he punished me when the wind shifted and he made it over first. It feels so good to be back here in Fuerteventura and the racing is great as it’s so different to Pozo’
Race winner Pritchard had made a textbook start and broke away early and rounded the first buoy in the lead, and, despite Bijl’s challenge, never looked back before he won. ‘It feels like everything’s in slow motion here after Pozo’ explained the American, who’s currently in second overall for in the rankings for this season. ‘I didn’t do anything different to my start or method to normal, but I was lucky to get around that hole at the start line. I was on a 6.7 and my 101 litre board, and that combo really helps in these types of conditions - especially coming out of the gybes’
Women’s Race 1
With a fleet full of new faces and some tough competition from established competitors, Karin Jaggi (F2 / North) had her work cut out in the women’s fleet.
Straight away her French rival Valerie Ghibaudo (T1) came out fighting in bold statement of intent after Jaggi’s domination here last season. Ghibaudo, last year’s runner-up here in Sotavento took the win in difficult conditions. ‘I was first at mark-one with good speed but I really felt pressure from Karin behind me’ said the Frenchwomen. ‘My first gybe was OK but it was tricky after that. I hurt my arm later in the afternoon but I really hope I can win another tomorrow’
Jaggi, who finished second, rued her choice of sail I the first race. ‘I took a 6.3 and we all got good starts. I was quite tight with Valerie at the first mark but she got away – I should’ve tried to go inside her!’
Women’s Race 2
This time it was easier for Jaggi who won the start line challenge and was simply un-catch-able from there to the finish. ‘I was underpowered this time’ said the Swiss all-round windsurfing star. ‘I chose a 5.8 and it was also closer than the first race as no-one fell at the first mark so it was harder to get away sooner but on the second reach I pulled away and built a good lead’
Men’s Race 2
The wind teased the fleet for the second race as it flipped between being light and onshore and the typical gusty offshore direction. Race 2 involved several re-started heats and a fair amount of the afternoon was spent on standby as the competitors remained on the beach anxious to race once again.
Luckily the wind filled back in and the games commenced again.
There was some surprise when 2006 slalom runner-up Micah Buzianis (JP / NeilPryde) blew-out and failed to finish his semi-final heat. That heat had a tough battle for the last few qualifying spots with Nicholas Reynes (Tabou / Gaastra) taking one of them ahead of Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1 / North).
In the final Kevin Pritchard made a miraculous recovery after a sketchy start left him at the back of the pack. ‘I was more stoked with that race than my race 1 win!’ said Pritchard obviously enjoying the buzz. ‘I was like 10th or 11th at the first mark. I started OK but got away slowly with hardly any wind along the first reach and everyone rolled over the top of me at the gybe. But then the wind picked-up and the chop picked-up, Finian went down and I got inside Peter and Bjorn at the final gybe to score second’
Albeau won the race after a fairly straightforward start which improved on his earlier performances. ‘I found a really good trim level for the chop and just concentrated on the gybes’ said Albeau. ‘Finian was behind me at the first buoy and I saw Kevin do a nice gybe near the end to climb back up, but I didn’t really look back as it was so gnarly and easy to make a mistake and crash if you were not focusing ahead’
Women’s Race 3
The wind had whipped-up to well over 20 knots for final two women’s races. Jaggi built momentum by taking another well crafted race win to pressure the rest of the fleet hard on this the first day of competition. ‘We’ve never had it so choppy here’ she explained. ‘It was awful with waves against wind. I wanted to have control on my side to edge an advantage so I took my smallest board, sail and fin and still we were all close at the start line. I wanted to go wide at the first mark so I could be set-up nicely for the second reach heading out to sea but I couldn’t risk the manoeuvre so Valerie and I were super-close at the second mark. But luckily she fell although she did well trying to catch-up after I was playing it safe to the finish’
Women’s Race 4
The final race was held in even harder conditions than anything the men had raced in all day. This environment called for experience and a level head and only one person had the total windsurfing skills to sensibly and skilfully handle this scenario. Jaggi’s third successive race win sent out a terrifying message to her opponents for what the rest of this contest will hold for them if they want to topple her from her pedestal. ‘I was a little to far upwind on the start but it was survival conditions out there’ described Jaggi. ‘I was so high upwind by the first mark that I had to gybe super-wide around all the other girls. I didn’t get to press a lead until later when Valerie fell where I think she hurt herself. I got better with each race today as until now we’ve not had any practise in high-wind so I got more and more comfortable with the conditions’
Iballa Moreno (North) showed her heavy-wind experience by finishing in second place ahead of Sarah Hebert (Starboard / Naish) in third.
The first possible start tomorrow is set at 10.30 from when you’re welcome to join us at www.pwaworldtour.com to follow the action with our live event ticker, daily news summaries, video footage, awesome photo galleries, online elimination ladders and more!
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© PWA / Brian McDowell