The 2007 Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam - Event Summary
Another spectacular Grand Slam at Sotavento beach matched the trend of the 2007 season for intense action and extreme competition. 5 days of Slalom racing followed 5 days of freestyle in front of a beach packed with both longstanding fans and bedazzled tourists. As ever, those who witnessed the PWA elite at work were left with lasting impressions of the world most dynamic watersport.
Day 1- 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
Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / MauiSails) gritted his teeth to shove his way into the lead on the first days racing after a miraculous race 2 recovery backed up his race 1 bullet. There was a great scrap for first and second place in race 1 between Dutch Danger-man Pieter Bijl (Fanatic / NeilPryde) and Pritchard over the last leg near the crowds on the beach. But 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.
Antoine Albeau (Starboard / NeilPryde) hit the bull’s-eye in race 2, and there was some surprise when 2006 slalom runner-up Micah Buzianis (JP / NeilPryde) blew-out and failed to finish his semi-final heat.
In the final Kevin Pritchard made a miraculous recovery after a sketchy start left him at the back of the pack. Albeau won the race after a fairly straightforward start, which improved on his race 1 performances.
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. But Jaggi proceeded to send out an early warning shot to any pretenders in the women’s fleet after taking 3 out of 4 race wins. Valerie Ghibaudo (Tabou) stood firm in second ahead of Iballa Moreno (North) in third position, and at this stage both Jaggi’s podium rivals must’ve thought she was about to repeat her unassailable lead of Sotavento 2006. How wrong could they have been? The event would turn out to be the best women’s race event for years and involve a nail-biting final day decider.
Day 2 - Antoine Albeau steadied himself after two early slip-ups during a crazy day of chaos and errors amongst the top seeds. Kevin Pritchard survived his own mistakes to steal second overall ahead of Britain’s Ross Williams whose consistency rewarded him with third overall at this stage. Karin Jaggi won three out of 4 races despite intense pressure from Valerie Ghibaudo, Sarah Hebert and Sarah-Quita Offringa.
Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1 / North) won race 3 convincingly after a solid start in the middle of the line. The overnight event runner-up Antoine Albeau exploded along the second reach and was forced to make an uncharacteristic retirement after his boom and harness lines ripped into pieces.
The fourth race turned-out a bizarre result. In an error-ridden elimination Bjorn Dunkerbeck immediately slipped-up after his solid win by failing to advance from his first round qualifying heat. Next to trip over was Albeau who once again crashed-out in the second semi-final and had to settle for a slot in the loser’s final, which he won, instead. The final resulted in all but three of the 12 competitors being disqualified for prematurely crossing the line.
That left Cedric Bordes (Tabou / Gaastra), Britain’s Ross Williams (Tabou / Gaastra), and Nicolas Warembourg (Gaastra) to fight it out for the guaranteed top 3 results. Williams led for most of the way around the track but Bordes snaked inside Williams as the Englishman made a safe wide gybe at the third mark to take the lead and the race win.
In race 5 the biggest surprise was Kevin Pritchard bowing-out early after he got tangled-up with Cyril Moussilmani (Fanatic / North).That set-up an exciting final for Albeau and Dunkerbeck who’d failed to make the final of the previous race. Albeau won after building a sizeable lead.
The steady wind meant a half-fleet format was chosen for the day’s final race. A lengthened course and speed reach along the beach made for a fresh perspective for the racers and spectators alike. Kevin Pritchard led the race from start to finish after a trademark pin-end start, rounding the first mark in the lead before building a lead in clean air and undisturbed water. Albeau happily settled for second to seal the event lead overnight. Pritchard’s win redeemed his race 5 blooper, and meant he moved into second overall in the event point’s rankings.
The women’s day of racing was also full of drama. There was a collision before the start of women’s race 5 between Iballa Moreno and Valerie Ghibaudo. Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / NeilPryde) led from the start line but fell when rounding the first mark in the lead. Those left the door open for Karin Jaggi to nose into the lead and take the race win.
Jaggi exacted revenge by making a textbook start to finish victory in race 6.
But, in race 7, after a great start Jaggi fell at the first mark to allow Iballa Moreno to capitalise on her misfortune. But Moreno then fell herself at the third gybe to allow Offringa into the lead. But the drama continued as Offringa crashed at the next mark, as did Moreno, which allowed Fauster a famous victory.
After the seventh race excitement and mayhem Jaggi was in no mood for messing about in the ladies final race of the day, race 8. However there was more pandemonium on the cards when Valerie Ghibaudo fell and blocked the racing line around the first mark, and allowing Jaggi a major lead.
As Jaggi crossed the finish line there was an amazing struggle for the remaining places behind her along the last reach. Hebert rounded that last mark in control but Ghibaudo had recovered and streaked through the rest of the fleet into third and showed incredible speed along the final stretch to the finish line. Hebert just couldn’t hold Ghibaudo off and was forced to settle for third after the Frenchwomen’s startling pace earned her a valuable second.
Day 3 - Errors all-round helped Antoine Albeau build a sizeable event lead backed-up by a useful race 9 win. Kevin Pritchard clung onto second position as Micah Buzianis ghosted into contention in third overall. Karin Jaggi’s grip on the women’s event lead was weakened as Valerie Ghibaudo won 2 of the days 3 races. Iballa Moreno continued to hustle hard and climb-up into third overall after an exhilarating race 11 win.
Kevin Pritchard had a shocker in his race 7 qualifying heat and only managed to finish in 8th. That cost him a berth in the second semi-final.
Josh Angulo led the fleet down the first reach of the final after a precise start bang on the gun as Buzianis and Albeau pursued him towards the first mark.
Buzianis however had the speed to round the mark in first before Albeau cut an inside line to hold an upwind position on the second reach. By the third reach Angulo was super-deep, and Albeau had no problems in overtaking him to round the third mark in second.
At the final gybe Albeau and Buzianis both gybed tightly to the mark, but Albeau couldn’t quite slip into a commanding position for the final reach. Buzianis took his first race win of the event and some valuable points to help his uncharacteristically poor performance so far.
Cyril Moussilmani took his second race win of the season with a start-to-finish lead in race 8. The Frenchman started perfectly pursued by Maynard and Buzianis. Buzianis took Maynard on the second reach with Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1 / North), who’d also passed Maynard, hot on his heels.
Over the third and fourth reaches Maynard and Dunkerbeck struggled against each other for second place after Dunkerbeck had edged-out Buzianis at the third gybe.
At the fifth and final mark Dunkerbeck finally got the better of Maynard and stormed down the last reach to score second. Meanwhile further down the fleet Albeau had recovered from a poor start to the race and traffic in his way to fight his way back up to 5th – one place ahead of Maynard who slowed at that final gybe. Buzianis rolled in third.
A clean start all-round and a crash-free first gybe meant competition for the top places was rife in the ladies first race of the day, race 9. Valerie Ghibaudo however kept her initial lead by slowing for control at the gybes and using all her speed on the reaches to build a lead and win.
Ghibaudo started race 10 at the pin-end and streaked towards the first mark in the lead. Behind her Jaggi fell whilst gybing which let Sarah-Quita Offringa into second place. Ghibaudo made sure she gybed safely around the third mark shadowed by Offringa and Iballa Moreno. Ghibaudo won a ruthlessly finished race and Offringa coasted home in second.
Jaggi and Ghibaudo characteristically led from the start of race 11, but then collided with each other as they turned into the first gybe.
Unbelievably Moreno then headed for the wrong mark entering the second reach and had to head-up into the wind hard to get back on track.
The crowds were thrilled to witness a breathtaking final reach as Jaggi, now back in second after the crash, blasted towards the finish in a desperate attempt to catch Moreno. Moreno crossed the line just in time to deny Jaggi a famous race win.
With the results all over the show at this event it was almost no surprise that another big player would take a fall early in this race. Eyebrows were raised in race 9, when Bjorn Dunkerbeck tripped-up in the first semi-final to leave a massive opportunity for the rest of the top 10 to capitalize upon.
Micah Buzianis led the pack down the first reach of the final chased by Albeau and Peter Volwater.
But, as the second gybe approached Albeau looked intent on a passing move on Buzianis which he successfully pulled-off to take the lead. Williams and Buzianis stayed glued to the trail until Kevin Pritchard mimicked Albeau’s manoeuvre by swooshing Williams to slide into third.Albeau coasted home in first and Pritchard couldn’t quite steal second from fellow American Buzianis.
Day 4 - Micah Buzianis scored a three-race hat trick to surge into second overall and Antoine Albeau clung on to the event lead on the eve of the final day's racing. Kevin Pritchard stayed firmly in the frame in third overall. Karin Jaggi and Valerie Ghibaudo took a race win apiece to turn the heat on in the women’s event.
Micah Buzianis’ (JP / NeilPryde) sail could be seen streaking off the start line and along the first reach in the lead of race 10 which he dominated to set the tone of the day.
With Buzianis still clear out in front; Albeau was working his magic further down the pack. By the final mark Albeau was in second, and, as Buzianis crossed the line to win, the two French representatives fought-it out for second and third.
A shorter-legged course including a speed reach from the start was set for the day’s final race. Albeau appeared to lead the pack from the start and along the speed reach chased by Dunkerbeck, but, by the second mark, at the end of the super-broad leg, Buzianis rounded in the lead. NeilPryde team-mates Buzianis and Albeau rocketed along the final stretch to the finish with Albeau taking the downwind line to gain on last season’s runner-up. But, the reigning world champ just couldn’t make it time to deny Buzianis the maximum points from the day.
The women completed two races leaving two for the final day showdown Race 12 was on the first course earlier in the day and race 13 was on the shorter speed-reach layout.
Predictably Valerie Ghibaudo and Karin Jaggi led off the line of race 12, and took a similar route from the start to the first mark. But jaws on the beach then dropped when Jaggi sailed far too far downwind towards the 4th buoy instead, forcing her to turn and re-round mark 2 in last position.
Ghibaudo finished the race un-hassled and Moreno took home valuable points for crossing in second ahead of Sarah Hebert (Starboard / Naish). Jaggi’s determination to finish rewarded her with an admirable 8th place.
Jaggi’s resolve to make up for her earlier errors was evident as she led off the line ahead of Ghibaudo in race 13. Ghibaudo and Jaggi tried their hardest to out-do each other at the second mark, with Jaggi going tight and on an inside line and Ghibaudo going wide, fast and safe. Ghibaudo’s method seemed to work well until Jaggi’s superior acceleration pushed her clear in front once again.
At the third mark Ghibaudo switched tactic to try for the inside track, but she couldn’t get past the Swiss legend. Now far ahead of Offringa and the rest of the pack it was France vs. Switzerland all the way to the finish, but Jaggi’s speed sailing experience allowed the win.
At this stage Jaggi lead the event and would win unless she achieved two thirds or worse, even if Ghibaudo won both the final two races.
Day 5 - 18-25 knots and much flatter water than previous days treated the racers to a speedy final’s day racing. Christmas came early for Micah Buzianis’ fellow podium contenders when stage-fright gifted them valuable points as the American started prematurely in 2 out of the day’s 3 races.
Antoine Albeau wrapped-up the event crown and stole the 2007 world title with three back-to-back wins on the final day’s racing. Kevin Pritchard snuck second overall after consistency rewarded him throughout 15 brutal races. Bjorn Dunkerbeck powered his way into third overall. Karin Jaggi took the critical final race win in the women’s event to deny Valerie Ghibaudo the tour lead. Iballa Moreno’s return to slalom rewarded her with an impressive third overall.
Micah Buzianis pushed the start of race 14 hard in a last chance bid to win the event, but was caught-out for jumping the gun far too early. That left a massive opportunity for Bjorn Dunkerbeck and Kevin Pritchard to exploit in his absence.
In the final there was no messing about for Albeau. He didn't push the start but sped into the led on the first and was pushed really hard by Dunkerbeck but the Frenchman was uncatchable after a fast safe, wide gybe saw him hold his lead all the way to the finish.
For the final race of the event a long distance course was set, with a start around 2km upwind and a massive long leg towards a short 5-leg zigzag including a speed reach along the beach in front of the waterside grandstand.
There were two general re-calls as the top-10 launched a final all-out assault on the point’s rankings. Unbelievably Buzianis couldn’t hold back enough to cross safely and he was despatched back to the beach along with Maynard and several others.
After the initial nerves had settled the third start was successful with the magnificent sight of 46 sailors screaming towards the beach from Costa Calma.
Albeau was predictably at the head of the pack at the first mark despite the pack being less spread-out than would normally be expected. Josh Angulo was right in Albeau’s wake as they rounded the buoy with Pieter Bijl just inches behind him. A gigantic pile-up soon followed behind as rider after rider poured in trying to avoid the carnage, but stray masts and boards just axed even more chancers who tried to skirt the fringes of the havoc and mayhem. Angulo finished second and Dunkerbeck bagged third and subsequently booked the last place left on the podium. Pritchard’s 6th place finish was enough to see him into the runner’-up slot after Buzianis’ shortcomings at the last start.
Valerie Ghibaudo headed the pack away from the start of women’s race 14 and showed superior speed from Karin Jaggi along the opening reach. She held the lead despite pressure from Jaggi at the second mark which caused the Swiss girl to fall after attempting an inside overtaking manoeuvre. Ghibaudo surged ahead to win as Offringa and Moreno slugged it out for second and third.
The final women’s race would settle the title in a fitting end to a week’s fantastic racing. Jaggi made no mistakes with a clear-cut victory. Ghibaudo tried several times to sneak an inside line or to push hard for a direct downwind line along the reaches. Jaggi was in no mood to lose the event after this many mistakes and she drove it home ruthlessly to take the event title and 2007 tour lead. Ghibaudo followed soon in second and Moreno snaked Offringa for third.
Day 6 – And the Freestyle event gets underway…
Men’s Single Elimination 1 - Marcilio Browne (Mistral / Gaastra) elbowed-out tour leader and reigning world champion Jose Estredo (Fanatic / North) to win the first single elimination final against Thomas Traversa (Tabou / Gaastra). Daida Moreno (North) stood her ground to win the women’s final against a spirited performance from Sarah-Quita Offringa.
But the biggest shock of the day was the exit of 2006 world champion ‘Gollito’ Estredo when ‘Brawzinho’ Browne comprehensively defeated him on his route to the final. Browne really gave Gollito a hard time, although he’d landed fewer tricks, he hardly fell and executed super- polished moves such as one-handed ponches and air-flaka’s. Gollito suffered further by crashing moves such as his trademark burner.
Anthony Ruenes (Tabou / Gaastra) also took another massive scalp in the quarterfinals when he slapped-down number 2 ranked rider Kiri Thode (Starboard / Gaastra). Thode is the busiest heat sailor by far and despite landing a clew-first shuvit-spock he lost out on a 2-1 decision by the judging panel. Thomas Traversa (Tabou / Gaastra) also pulled off the clew-first shuvit Spock on his first ever attempt of the stunt in his semi-final heat against Tonky Frans (F2 / Gaastra). Frans however was entertaining the crowds on the beachside grandstand as usual rather than solely focusing on his heat!
The final was certainly not as intense as the semis but the there was still a barrage of top-drawer tricks to be seen. Traversa fell a little more than the Brazilian youngster who threw down clew-first ponches, and ponch flaka’s amongst the standard repertoire the elite sailors all possess. The victory visibly helped the youngster find relief from all the pressure of expectation that’s heaped on his shoulders. The win also allowed Brawzinho to take a big step towards living up to the hype that surrounds him, on a day that cements his footprint in windsurfing’s elite.
Tonky Frans’ Goytas and shuvit Spocks just inches from the sand in super-shallow water won him the loser’s final against Ruenes.
Women’s Single Elimination 1 - The flatter water conditions brought the standard of the women’s competition to a higher level than earlier in the season. This was predicted to favour the freestyle specialist like Laure Treboux (Naish / Naish) and Sarah-Quita Offringa, but no one expected Moreno to find the lack of ramps suitable for success either.
The first round heats inevitably favoured the higher seeds but the going got tough in from the second round onwards.Things got serious at the semis though when world number 3 Laure Treboux was crushed by joint tour leader and 2006 world champ Daida Moreno. Treboux was billed as a hot-favorite here in conditions ideal for her style but Moreno found the smoother water to her advantage too when she showed she’s got more than just air-moves to brag about.
Offringa beat Alba fairly easily in the other semi with her wide range of switch moves and flaka’s.The final started out looking better for Offringa as Moreno fell a few times at the start. The 16-yr old Aruban was racking-up points but Moreno soon hit back and gained momentum. Neither competitor looked certain of victory before the prize-giving announcement, and Moreno certainly looked grateful for the win.
Men’s Double Elimination 1 - The double is always about the fight backs, and as the shadows got longer a couple of names emerged from the settling dust of the single. Ricardo Campello came into form late in the day, obviously loving the lighter and flukier conditions that his opponents found harder to handle.
But the most impressive claw-back came from someone who’s not frequented the scene for some time and whom many thought had fallen by the wayside. Colin Sifferlen (Starboard / Simmer) of New Caledonia however had other ideas and showed he’s far from being a written-off just yet. The French-based rider bolted out of the blocks in the double after an early single elimination exit.
Day 7 - Continuation of Men’s Double Elimination 1
The day’s first heat contained drama from the off with Kiri Thode of Bonaire preventing reigning world champion Jose ‘Gollito’ Estredo staging any form of backlash through the ladder. The youngster beat the Venezuelan comprehensively in the lighter flatter conditions that must have reminded him of his Caribbean home spot of Lac Bay.
Also paired in that heat were Ricardo Campello (JP / NeilPryde) and Colin Sifferlen Campello dominated in the fluky wind around the competition area and scraped a narrow victory in a close fought encounter.
All eyes were then on Campello and Thode to see which one might be able to launch an offensive on the final four. Thode surprisingly struggled at the start of his heat and rapidly ended-up in the downwind part of the course area, meaning some of his movies could not be counted. Campello was consistent and upwind, but the time Thode was in the zone was spent landing a barrage of combination moves and air tricks.
The decision was predictably close and it was the former world youth freestyle champion Thode who took the win and ended Campello’s ambitions on a crack at the final.
Thode’s run at the top gained some momentum when Anthony Ruenes became his next victim. The wind was really strong in the gusts and outside the course, but was choppy and light on the inside near the flatter surfaces for sliding tricks.
An all-Bonaire match was next on the agenda when Thode took on his friend, rival and Gaastra Team mate Tonky Frans (F2 / Gaastra). Tonky’s power moves were hard to pull outside in the chop and it was probably too light for him on the inside. Frans still had some impressive and higher tricks scored which were smoother and more powerful than many of Thode’s replies, but youth won through and Kiri moved on to the next stage against single elimination runner-up Thomas Traversa of France.
Featherweight Thode prevailed against Traversa who’d drifted pretty far downwind before springing back with a high shaka and a clew first flaka. The judges certainly had their work cut out but it was Thode’s time once again to make the final and to apply pressure on single elimination winner Marcilio Browne).
The conditions in the final once again favoured Thode and he predictably racked up the points as Browne stuttered and frequently fell. No one was surprised to see Thode had won after he’d clearly outscored modern windsurfing’s much-hyped sensation. Under the double elimination format that meant there had to be a re-sail to break the tie, and so after a short break they headed-out to do battle for a final time.
Browne was a hundred percent more active in this critical deciding heat and the crowds certainly appreciated the action close to the beach. He got the nod from the judging panel and sealed a famous victory that justified the hype that surrounds him as a force of the future.
Women’s Double Elimination 1- Yoli De Brendt (Fanatic /North) made a breakthrough in the women’s double elimination when she beat Iballa Moreno for a shot against the final four contenders.
De Brendt loved the flatter conditions, which were similar to her home spot in El Yaque, Venezuela. Margarita's top female competitor showed us a full range of switch tricks and jumps to earn a tie against Nayra Alonso (Fanatic / Severne) of Gran Canaria.
All in all Alonso stuck a solid 4-heat streak together today beating Junko Nagoshi (F2 / Simmer), De Brendt and Silvia Alba before she finally fell exhausted at the hands of Laure Treboux.
Treboux revelled in the flat parts of the course, pulling clew first Spocks, Puneta’s, e-sliders and grubbies. After beating Alonso she challenged single elimination runner-up Sarah-Quita Offringa).
Initially the heat went Treboux’s way. She completed an E-slider, a Clew-first Puneta and a Grubby whilst Offringa completed a Flaka an E-slider and a Puneta too. Most people expected her to go for the Switch Chacho too but time ran out and the judges deemed she’d done enough to make the final against Daida Moreno.
The final opened up at a frightening pace. Both girls opened with one-handed Spocks and Moreno launched full pelt into high speed Flaka and a Clew-first Spock. Sticking to the windier parts of the course her assault continued. An E-Slider 540, a forward, and a one-footed forward all added to the sliding tricks and spelt disaster for Offringa who could only reply with a flaka and sketchier switch moves compared to her usual high standards. A unanimous decision from the judges awarded the 2006 champion the victory eliminating the need for a re-sail.
The first round of the second single elimination was started but abandoned, as the wind was just too light to continue. Instead, during the odd gust along the shoreline, the competitors entertained the crowds by coming at full speed into the super-shallow water to twist Goytas, Wymeroos and much much more off the tiny waves lapping at the shore.
Day’s 8, 9 and 10 tested all the competitors as Kalima wind snuffed-out the chance of further competition which left a windless Sotavento in baking temperatures. Eventually by mid afternoon on day 10 the event was called-off and the champions announced. Browne and Moreno were awarded their event crowns at the typical Fuerteventura party-tent closing ceremony.
The tour now heads back to the Mediterranean for a slalom extravaganza in Alacati, Turkey from August 13th through 18th.
You can review the Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam at www.pwaworldtour.com to check online elimination ladders, results, outstanding action photo galleries, video footage, read daily news summaries and more.
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© PWA / Brian McDowell