The 2006 Alacati PWA World Cup / IFCA Slalom World Championships – Event Summary
Fresh from the testing conditions of the Fuerteventura Grand Slam, the PWA Slalom fleet descended upon the picturesque location of Alalcati, on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Famed for its reliable thermal winds, azure blue waters and luxurious hospitality, Alacati was all set to play host to the third stop on this year’s PWA Slalom 42 Tour.
After dominating the first 2 contests of the season, all eyes were Antoine Albeau (F-192, Starboard / Neil Pryde) to see if he could maintain his winning streak and take a decisive third event win. Meanwhile, in the women’s division, Karin Jaggi (SUI-14 F2 / North Sails) was hoping to consolidate on her Fuerteventura victory to stamp her name firmly on this year’s title.
Alacati conditions were relatively simple compared to the choppy water and nuclear winds of the Canary Islands, with sailors gliding across the smooth waters, many on sails of 9 square metres or more – as much as double the sail size used by some racers in the Canaries.
Conditions on day one were classic Alacati; the thermal breeze funnelling through the bay and increasing steadily, to reach a suitable strength by late morning. At 11 am on day one, competition got underway.
In the early qualifying heats, Albeau looked as dominant as ever, but he was not alone as all of the big guns made it through easily to the quarter finals of Race 1. In quarter finals, Turkish sailor Icingir Ertugul (TUR-1) delighted the home crowds winning his heat ahead of both Peter Volwater (H-24, F2 / North Sails) and Micah Buzianis (USA-34, JP / Neil Pryde), but in general there were no major upsets and all the expected names made it through to the top 20.
In the first semi final, Buzianis led the pack round the gybes with Maynard and Ross Williams (GBR-83, Tabou / Gaastra) qualifying easily for the final ahead of Bora Kozanoglu (TUR-11) and Jimmy Diaz (ISV-11, F2 / North Sails). Semi final number 2 was a seemingly easy job for Albeau who cruised round the course with only team-mate Pieter Bijl (NED-0, Fanatic / NeilPryde) for company. Long serving Brazilian, Wilhelm Schurman (BRA-999, Neil Pryde) proved he is still a name to watch, also slipping into the top 10 just ahead of Bjorn Dunkerbeck (E-11, T-1 / North Sails) and Kevin Pritchard (US-3, Starboard / Maui Sails).
The losers final was clearly dominated by Ben Van Der Steen (NED-57, Exocet / Naish) who, despite a less than perfect start, gybed into the lead at mark one, narrowly avoiding a huge pile up behind him, that left him unchallenged for the remainder of the course. Ertuglu once again raised cheers from the beach coming in second.
In the final, it was the big dog – Finian Maynard - who streaked off the start first and set a blistering pace to the first mark, hotly pursued by Dunkerbeck and Bijl. Albeau arrived in fifth, trailing behind 2005 champ Micah Buzianis (USA-34, JP / NeilPryde). At the mark, Bijl and Dunkerbeck collided causing chaos for the chasing pack. Capitalising on the confusion, Buzianis and Albeau came through the melee and set about reeling in Maynard. Buzianis simply did not have the speed to make any ground on the world’s fastest sailor but Albeau on the other hand, slipped past the American and set his sights firmly on the leader. Knowing it was now or never, Albeau bore away to an extreme broad course and began to make ground on Maynard who had stayed tight to ensure clean wind. Albeau was catching Maynard all along the final reach, but he had left it too late and the Virgin Island Colossus crossed the line to win just metres ahead of Albeau with Buzianis in third.
Utilising the conditions to the max, Race 2 kicked off after just a short break. The PWA’s finest passed easily through into the top 20, joined by local Turkish talent in the form of Kozanoglu and Icingir, along with seasoned Polish Racer Pavel Hlavaty (POL-11, Starboard / Severne). The big upset in the semi finals, was the failure of Dunkerbeck to qualify for the top 10, following a disastrous start.
In the losers final, everyone expected the white North sail leading, way ahead of the pack, to be that of Dunkerbeck, but it was in fact PWA Chairman, Jimmy Diaz (ISV-11, F2 / North Sails) who won the losers final almost an entire leg ahead of his would be challengers, followed by Schurman, Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (ARG-3, F2 / NeilPryde) and Dunkerbeck, only managing fourth.
The winners final shot across the line with Pritchard leading, ahead of Maynard, Sylvain Moussilmani (F-73, F2) and Albeau, who had taken a very low start at the pin end. By the first gybe, Maynard’s pure speed had once again pushed him out in front, now chased by Williams When Maynard reached the second mark, Albeau was starting his come back and had pushed past Steve Allen (AUS-0, Tabou / Gaastra) into fourth behind Pritchard. Unlike the previous final however, Albeau was buried too deep in the pack to wind up to full speed and he failed to significantly dent the lead of the three forerunners. Maynard took his second win followed by Pritchard in second, who had slipped past Williams on the final reach to leave the Englishman in third.
For the women, races were short and sharp. With only a single heat final in each race, the slightest error could spell disaster for any of the eleven girls signed up. It was Allison Shreeve (AUS-911, F2 / NeilPryde) who set the standard, showing blistering speed in the billiard table flat conditions. Karin Jaggi (SUI-14, F2 / North Sails), who was forced to sail on borrowed equipment as hers had not arrived, was nowhere near her recent event winning performance from Fuerteventura, having to settle for second in the first race, followed by Sarah Herbert (FRA-61, Starboard / Naish) in third.
Catastrophically for Shreeve, she missed the start of the second ladies race and only crossed the line as the other girls were rounding the second mark. This was all the encouragement that Verena Fauster (ITA-31, F2 / Gaastra) needed and she pulled clear ahead, chased by Herbert and Jaggi. Jaggi’s bad luck then continued as she fell at the last mark, allowing Christine Johnstone (GBR-93) to pass. Fauster won ahead of Herbert in second and Johnstone in third.
Fired up by her own mistakes, Shreeve was taking no prisoners at the start of ladies race 3. Straight off the line, she began to pull away, leaving Fauster, Herbet and Jaggi in her wake. There was confusion at the first gybe as Fauster and Herbert got tangled allowing Jaggi to stay in touch with the leaders, but there was no catching Shreeve who won clearly ahead of Fauster in second, Herbert in third and a very respectable performance from Cagla Kubat (TUR-75) who rolled in fifth behind Jaggi
With the golden evening sun illuminating the far side of the Alacati bay, competition was called off for day 1, leaving Albeau and Jaggi to reflect on their less than perfect opening rounds. The opening salvoes of the Alacati slalom battle, had shaken the foundations of the 2006 PWA Slalom 42 Championship, awakening the world to the fact that the outcome is far from a foregone conclusion, as it had previously seemed.
Day 2 began much as the first day, with the wind machine warming up through the morning to provide suitable, if a little gusty, conditions by late morning.
Race number 3 for the men got underway and, despite a few breaks caused by unusually inconsistent winds, the early heats all passed without incident. In the quarter finals Dunkerbeck Albeau, Buzianis and Maynard all looked in contention, winning their respective heats. Notable in the semis were Julien Quentel (FRA-421, Starboard / Neil Pryde) and Turkish star Icingir who both showed they could keep up with the big guns of slalom. Ross Williams (also made his mark by crossing the line early and being forced to sit out the rest of the race on the premature bench).
In the first semi, Pritchard defended his lead well to beat Albeau around the course and Quentel again showed great ability beating Dunkerbeck for fifth and leaving the twelve times Overall Champ out of contention in the losers final. However, more upset was to come when Maynard also failed to qualify in the second semi, joining Dunkerbeck and joint 2005 PWA champ Buzianis in the losers round.
After 2 false starts, the losers final got underway, but with so many of the top names of slalom in the heat, it looked like a final line up. Despite the calibre of his co finalists, Maynard led clearly from the start and Buzianis and Dunkerbeck never really showed much chance of catching him, finishing second and third respectively.
A somewhat rejuvenated Pritchard was the first to reach the mark in the final, gybing just inches ahead of Albeau who was showing the event winning form he had lacked so much the previous day. Through sheer speed, Albeau passed Pritchard on the second reach leaving the American spitting in his wake. Not far behind Pritchard, Jimmy Diaz was sailing as consistently as ever and holding his ground ahead of Quentel and Van Der Steen. Albeau rounded the final mark, now safely ahead of Pritchard and Diaz who in turn had sufficient margin to ensure that Quentel could not catch them. Albeau took the honours for yet another race win on the 2006 tour, with Pritchard in second, Diaz third and Quentel a very respectable fourth.
After a short break, race number 4 was started but had to be abandoned after the first few heats due to failing winds.
On the women’s side, the tables were levelled somewhat by the fact that Jaggi had finally received her equipment, meaning she was now fully armed and, as a result, very dangerous! Straight off the line in race 4, Jaggi was back in the game leading Fauster, Shreeve and an on-form Christine Johnston (GBR-93, Starboard / Gaastra), all the way to the mark. Fauster was pushing hard demonstrating more of the ability that has seen her frequently in the leading pack, but Jaggi was back on the pace and led all the way to the finish. Sarah Herbert (FRA-61, Starboard / Naish) made a valiant attempt to pass Johnston on the final reach but could not quite get past, leaving the finishing positions the same, Jaggi first, Fauster second and Shreeve third.
With a new found lust for victory, Fauster hit the start line for ladies race 5 with renewed venom. Outstripping Switzerland’s finest to reach mark number one first. Shreeve could do little apart from watch the two leaders battle it out in front of her as she tried everything she could to make ground on them, but it was to no avail. Fauster held Jaggi off through the gybes and maintained her speed along the reaches to give zero opportunity for overtaking. Fauster took the chequered flag ahead of Jaggi in second, Shreeve in third and Herbert once again holding her own in fourth.
At the close of day 2, the outcome of the event was suddenly far from predictable, as both leaders were under heavy attack with, in Maynard’s case, only a discard to protect him from defeat. However, overnight, salvation came from a less than expected direction, as the weather patterns changed putting the wind for the remaining three days under a cloud of uncertainty.
Much to the chagrin of the ‘would be’ challengers, day 3 began with remarkably still, glassy conditions across the bay of Alacati. Was it possible that the weather seers had got it right and that there would be no wind? It seemed not, as by early afternoon, the thermal winds had overpowered the prevailing conditions, shattering the calm and reminding Maynard and Fauster that they were a long way from home and dry.
The quarter finals of men’s race 4 crossed the start line a little after 3 pm, but it was clear, by the fact that all sailors had to pump along the first reach just to get planing, that conditions were not quite up to standard for official racing. For Allison Shreeve the frustration of being forced to sit and wait through tantalizingly close conditions was almost unbearable and the dedicated Aussie competitor looked ready to explode by the time competition was finally called off for the day at five o’clock, denying her a chance to strike back.
Day 4 began with a similar serenity and it was easy to forget that the tranquillity of the still morning could be anything other than desirable, but with nothing more than the slightest of sea breezes developing by the 10 am skippers meeting, it was back to the waiting game. Unlike the previous day, the meteorological odds were well stacked against the possibility of wind and, by early afternoon, the existing breeze – as light as it was – was directly opposing the normal thermal winds, making the chances of any substantial airflow very unlikely.
As always, Alacati did not fail to disappoint on the light wind alternative front, with wakeboarding, bungee jumping and plain old lounging around in the sun providing plenty to keep both the crowds and sailors occupied, but by five o’clock it was clear that there was no chance and competition was called off for the day.
And so it would come to pass that the final outcome of the event would rest squarely on the shoulders of the last day and whether it could produce the normally reliable Alacati winds.
Once again, the sunrise spilled out across the oily, flat surface of a windless ocean, as the final day began, bringing both disappointment and hope depending on the individual perspective of competitors. Hour by hour and minute by minute, Maynard and Fauster inched their way closer and closer to final victory as Jaggi and Albeau watched their chances of a comeback slip uncontrollably, further and further from their grasp. Time and tide wait for no man or woman and eventually with all chance of a change in the conditions gone, competition was cancelled for the day and for the event, Maynard finishing first, ahead of Albeau in second, and Pritchard in third, with Fauster winning the women’s division ahead of Jaggi and Shreeve.
Maynard has delivered a sizeable challenge to Albeau’s dominance by winning here in Turkey meaning that the 2006 PWA Slalom title will now not be decided until the final event at the Colgate World Cup Sylt. However, to stand a chance of beating Albeau, Maynard must win the Sylt event outright and hope that Albeau finishes outside of the top 8, a tall order at the best of times.
For the women however, it is all over for another year in Slalom, as there are no further events on the women’s tour. Karin Jaggi’s impressive career chalks up yet another title, but the outstanding array of challengers pushing her this year has undoubtedly opened up the possibilities for the future. Verena Fauster’s performance in Turkey has been impressive and Allison Shreeve is an ever present threat. Another name to watch out for is Sarah Herbert, who has definitely got the top 3 girls looking back nervously over their shoulders.
There is a small break from competition for the sailors of the PWA tour now, in anticipation of the Colgate World Cup Sylt in September, which will decide the Men’s Slalom and Freestyle titles for 2006. Rest assured however, that www.pwaworldtour.com will be bringing you plenty of behind the scenes news, hints, tips and stories on your favourite PWA riders, so be sure to check back daily for the latest juicy morsels!!
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