The 2007 Gran Canaria PWA Grand Slam – Day 8
Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1 /North) makes his move as the final day approaches taking 2 back to back bullets to pile pressure on event leader Antoine Albeau (Starboard /NeilPryde) and second-placed Matt Pritchard (Tabou / Gaastra).
Fierce conditions this morning whipped the ocean at Pozo into a frenzy, spoiling the final party for the women’s freestylers. Even with sails as small as 3.0 the ladies were left with little flat water or any chances of control to exhibit their skills. Sadly the decision was made to cancel the final single elimination.
However the predominantly heavyweight race fleet dared to venture out to the shorter 5-leg course, meaning technical skills at the marks and a level head where mandatory to succeed.
Many riders were on their smallest registered sails of 5.0 but the heavyweights muscled it out on larger rigs of around 5.4 to 5.8sqm.
Many top names struggled around the shorter course and a few fell victim to the tough conditions. Even experienced racers Finian Maynard (F2 / NeilPryde) Steve Allen (Tabou / Gaastra) and Cyril Moussilmani failed to make the final in the testing environment.
Taty Frans (Starboard / MauiSails) once again showed total windsurfing skill to qualify for another final – the Bonaire Freestyler showing his junior racing experience as others flailed around him. Another impressive finalist was youth racing champion Julien Quentel (Starboard / NeilPryde) of Guadeloupe who showed he’s really got what it takes to compete at this level in his first full season on tour.
The final was a brilliant example of high-wind slalom racing. Antoine Albeau (Starboard / NeilPryde) led the fleet down the first reach before tail-walking as he slammed-on the brakes approaching the first gybe mark to subsequently allow Dunkerbeck the lead, and subsequently the race win.
American star Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / MauiSails) scrapped with Albeau for second all the way around the rest of the course but couldn’t quite catch the Frenchman. ‘I had a great start’ Pritchard explained. ‘I really thought I’d nailed it, and I didn’t even see Bjorn or Antoine until right near the mark. I didn’t want to risk too much playing catch-up so I stayed focused on finishing the job and claiming a top 3 finish’
Albeau was also sure to stay on the conservative side and prevent any drama on this the penultimate day. ‘Yeah I slowed down a bit approaching the mark, and then went super-wide as Kevin tried to go inside. I didn’t push-it after that as I made mistakes yesterday so I settled for second’
Dunkerbeck agreed that it was the windiest race of the event so far. ‘I was on a 5.8 and I took it easy on the start. I could see Matt Pritchard (Tabou / Gaastra) and Kevin really on the gun, but I really wanted to be first at the first mark, especially in this type of short course race. I also knew Kevin was near me at the first mark. Luckily I came out well and the strong wind really helped me to accelerate away into the lead’
Race 11 results:
1. Bjorn Dunkerbeck
2. Antoine Albeau
3. Kevin Pritchard
This time a half-fleet format was chosen and the shorter course kept to really keep the pressure on and the demand for skills high. Dunkerbeck’s fighting spirit was fortified with the extra wind and he made no bones about taking a consecutive race win here in his own backyard.
Everyone’s breath was held as Dunkerbeck and Maynard screamed along the last section of the first reach and around the critical gybe. Perhaps only a miracle prevented the two giants colliding as they skirted the buoy whilst Albeau cruised around wide and into third place.
‘In the old days before the no-rules environment I’m sure Bjorn wouldn’t have come down so hard from above me like that as before I would’ve had priority’ said the Virgin Islander who finished in fourth. ‘I fully clipped the mark and I’m sure he hit me as we rounded it just millimetres apart from each other. After that I struggled for speed as I’m not so fast on Port-tack in these super-choppy conditions.’
Albeau had to settle for second once again as his calculated strategy protected his narrow event lead. ‘It came good for me really as I needed a good result - these were difficult conditions and so it was a great day for Bjorn who made no mistakes at all. It was scary during the last race as we had a couple of general re-calls, so that means your chances of making a mistake yourself are tripled with three separate starts. I’m not taking any risks tomorrow'
Dunkerbeck seemed pleased with his day’s vital work. ‘Finian and I arrived at the mark at the same time and we were pretty close to each other around the buoy. The wind was strong and consistent and I went easy on the start but as I’m confident in my speed I knew I could drive my way up to the top over the first reach. It’s tight in the top 5 now. Tomorrow I’m going to play hard and try and avoid mistakes and see if the other guys can keep their cool’
Race 12 Results
1. Bjorn Dunkerbeck
2. Antoine Albeau
3. Matt Pritchard
The podium race is still open and Albeau keeps a slim lead overnight. Be sure to check in tomorrow to see how the game plays out in what are forecast to be super-strength winds once again.
Overall Results after 12 Races
1. Antoine Albeau (Starboard / NeilPryde)
2. Matt Pritchard (Tabou / Gaastra)
3. Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1 / North)
4. Micah Buzianis (JP /NeilPryde)
5. Ross Williams (Tabou / Gaastra)
Also set to treat the crowds tomorrow in the waves is a bonus super-session sponsored by Canary Islands surf sports magazine El Maquinola. The format is likely to be jumping only and the action promises to be spectacular.
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© PWA / Brian McDowell