The 2007 Gran Canaria PWA Grand Slam – Day 6
The slalom racers were given centre stage this morning and the chance to showcase their skills to the sizeable weekend crowd.
Good wind of around 25-30 knots made for exciting racing and so three races were placed on the schedule
A few top names had trouble advancing from the qualifying heats. Finian Maynard (F2 / NeilPryde) suffered in heat 3 and just missed the last slot for a semi-final shot and and Cyril Moussilmani (Fanatic / North) was also denied a crack at the final by Jesper Orth (Starboard / Severne) in the first semi-final.
Pieter Bijl (Fanatic / NeilPryde) struggled in the second semi-final after suffering from concussion after a collision with Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1 / North) earlier in the competition.
The race 5 final turned-up a few surprises as team mates Ross Williams (Tabou / Gaastra) and Matt Pritchard (Tabou / Gaastra) capitalized on confusion at the first mark to slip past to allow Williams the race win and team boss Matt a second.
‘There was a big ‘ol splashabout at the first buoy’ explained Pritchard. ‘I just roosted around the chaos and emerged in third place. After that I simply followed Ross around the rest of the course and of course I didn’t want to push a team buddy too hard on a few of the marks!’ winked the experienced American journeyman.
Williams’ victory had started a good day for him ‘I had sick start with Micah below me and Bjorn above me. Micah Buzianis (JP / NeilPryde) gybed really tight to the mark and Bjorn started wide and rounded close to the buoy. Micah had left me space so I took him inside and pumped into clear air and accelerated away really quickly. I was on my Manta 54 and a 5.5 which worked really well. That board comes out of turns so quick so I could be sure to make all the rest of the gybes and keep the lead all the way to the finish line’
Race 5 results
1. Ross Williams (Tabou / Gaastra)
2. Matt Pritchard (Tabou / Gaastra)
3. Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / MauiSails)
Widespread nerves spread like wildfire through race 6 as many top names slipped-up under pressure, and once again Williams was primed and ready to pounce on the unwary.
The first blunder was from event leader Antoine Albeau who made an uncharacteristic mistake to miss out on a berth in the final. The 2006 champ missed his boom after flipping the rig on the third gybe of his semi-final heat and fell backwards into the drink.
But the story had another cruel twist for his leaderboard rivals. The final had to be re-started after Buzianis and Dunkerbeck were disqualified for premature starts.
Williams and Matt Pritchard were once again at the ready to make it count in the re-sail, and to try their best to deny Buzianis or Kevin Pritchard the chance to own any of the key podium slots.
‘I had a pretty average start really’ explained race winner Williams. ‘I was on the pin-end and at the first turn I could once again see an option to go inside and so I grabbed the opportunity and emerged in 4th place. I wasn’t expecting to make many more places from there on but at the second last mark I saw Finian rounding and leaving a fair bit of space because Patrick Diethelm (F2 /North) had just fallen-off unexpectedly in front of him! So I gybed on a swell and cruised by both of them and knew Matt was behind me and had done the same so we made it another team 1-2’
‘Yeah Ross stole my bullet’ joked Matt once more. ‘He and I both had poor starts because we thought everyone might have been over early. I came out of the first mark and played catch-up with some of the big guys like Finian, but then Ross snuck inside me after Patrick crashed!’ This kind of super-fun racing we’ve had today is what it’s all about!’
The seventh race was run using the magnificent half-fleet format to treat the spectators to a spectacular sight of 22 racers streaking across the ocean and through the start line simultaneously.
After 2 qualifying heats all the favorites made it to the 22-man final which brought a straightforward victory for Albeau. In a perfect lesson on how to race, The French racing force made a textbook start and built an unassailable lead all the way to the finish. ‘I was happy as I’d made some mistakes earlier in the day’ explained the modest Champion. ‘I used the same sail all day a, 6.2sqm, and was determined to make this one count’
Following Albeau was Dutchman Ben van Der Steen (Exocet / Naish) who raced a blinder to seal second place. ‘In the heat before I was so annoyed as Arnon Dagan (Fanatic / NeilPryde) ran into me and I only just recovered enough to qualify. Starting the final I said to myself that ‘I’m just going to nail it’ and I did! I reached the first mark in 2nd and held that all the way around. In a way Arnon helped me to achieve a top-3 race finish and my best ever PWA final result!’
Women’s Freestyle Single Elimination 2
The afternoon meant a switch to women’s freestyle and the start of the second single elimination.
Yoli De Brendt (Fanatic / North) came close to an upset against Daida Moreno in the early heats. Her off-season training nearly paid dividends when she forced a tie-break decision that edged the victory into Moreno’s favour.
It was also a day to remember for Japan’s Junko Nagoshi (F2 / Simmer). She turned heads when she elbowed-out tour leader Sarah-Quite Offringa in the second round. ‘I just got lucky’ said a sportsmanlike Nagoshi. ‘I always try to do my best in any heat and I try not to think about who it’s against. I don’t think Sarah-Quita sailed very well by her high-standard but I used-up all the tricks I can do - I’m sure she can afford to let me win one now and then!’
After the dust settled from the tough semi-finals the two finalists left standing were Daida Moreno and Laure Treboux.
Continuing the trend of the day it was another close call and a 3-2 decision from the judges that gave the Swiss freestyle specialist the win. Treboux successfully pulled a Puneta 540 and a one-handed clew-first Spock to impress with the technical difficulty scores, but failed to land a clew-first Puneta.
Keeping it on a knife-edge, Moreno completed a stylish combo of Spock into a clew-first Spock, a one-footed forward loop, and a shuvit before crashing a ponch that may well have swung the decision to her favour.
An elated Treboux explained the final from her perspective for us. ‘I tried to go into the clash relaxed and positive –I also always listen to my favorite tunes because I sometimes get a little nervous against Daida. It didn’t start well as I crashed my first trick, but somehow I relaxed again and strung some nice tricks together. I really hope I can stay focused and on top of the tree for the double elimination’
The first start tomorrow is at 10.30 and the plan is to run slalom in the morning and to start a 2nd freestyle single elimination in the afternoon.
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© PWA / Brian McDowell