The 2007 Pegasus Airlines PWA World Cup, Alaçati – Final Day
Antoine Albeau keeps his head to claim victory as an adrenaline overdose floors his rivals. Bjorn Dunkerbeck’s Swiss efficiency rewards him with second overall after Kevin Pritchard’s final day blow-out relegates him to third. Valerie Ghibaudo rounds-off a magnificent double coup for France with two straight race wins to secure her the event title. Karin Jaggi falters and settles for second ahead of Verena Fauster, but has the last laugh as she raises the trophy for the 2007 overall title.
Turkey coughed up the goods for a fifth consecutive day with enough breeze to smash the negative forecasts and allow the final days racing to play-out.
The men completed their 10th and final race while the women completed races 14 and 15 to reach the maximum amount of races allowed per event. Alaçati was the final event on the women’s racing tour and the also last chance to settle any outstanding scores on the water.
True to the forecast, light winds kept everyone on hold until, out of nowhere, 13-18 knots of breeze arrived to allow the games to commence.
The day started with it still possible for Antoine Albeau (Starboard / NeilPryde) to lose his grip on the event, and for Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1 / North) and Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / MauiSails) to wrestle for the final podium position order.
Men’s Race 10
By the time the 6-leg medium length course was set and racing was underway the wind had elevated to between 18-23 knots.
But disaster struck early for Dunkerbeck, when, like so many occasions this season, he catapulted violently along the first reach of his crucial quarter final heat.
In the process Dunkerbeck nearly took out Ross Williams (Tabou / Gaastra), who, despite being nearly floored by the 35 times world champ, recovered in time to steal the fourth and final semi-final slot from that heat.
This marked the Swiss racer’s worst race result so far in the event after he’d made every final to date. But later on, back at the beach, there must have been even the slightest of smiles from the ice-cool contender as he watched the semi-finals unfold with good news for him and his final placing.
First, Finian Maynard’s (F2 / NeilPryde) sail exploded free from the mast head before, at the back of the pack, Pritchard and Albeau became locked into a battle for the vital last qualifying slot for the final as Patrik Diethelm (F2 / North), who started the day well out of the top 10, led the fleet to victory.
Pritchard was trying his damndest to gybe tight inside Albeau at each mark, whilst pumping hard and deep downwind on the reaches in a desperate attempt to gain speed. Eventually that tactic cost the American as he was too far below the finish marker and had to tack back upwind to finish as Albeau coasted home to snatch the last berth in the final.
The closing day nerves also meant a plethora of general re-calls. With everyone going for it at the start line pushed hard every time, and although it was frustrating as a spectator, the pros were never going to relax during the desperate scramble for final day positions.
Once Pieter Bijl (Fanatic / NeilPryde) and Julien Quentel (Starboard / NeilPryde) were disqualified for their premature starts, the final eventually got underway with Ross Williams blazing along the first reach protecting a narrow lead from Italian rocket Patrik Diethelm.
At the third mark though Williams blundered by burying the nose exiting his gybe, and his fall allowed Albeau and Arnon Dagan (Fanatic / NeilPryde) the advantage, followed closely by Steve Allen (Tabou / Gaastra).
Albeau rapidly forced his way into the lead over the next few reaches extended that gain to forge his well deserved victory ahead of Dagan in second and Allen in third.
Pritchard’s last day banana skin trip cost him dearly, relegated him to third overall, and gifted Dunkerbeck the runner’s-up spot that his regularity deserved.
Albeau’s triumph gave great significance to his remarkable ability. The Frenchman, who’d already wrapped-up the 2007 title, came here relaxed and without pressure. However, Albeau still managed to coast his way into glory despite his concentration levels not being at their sharpest, the wind lighter than he prefers, and with a volatile pack of ravenous podium contenders devoted to blasting anyone from their path until their season concludes. It would have been easy for the champ to sit back and duck-out of the limelight, but one as competitive as Albeau will simply never let his consistency slide or lie down and accept defeat.
Women’s Race 14
Just as in the men’s event the tension to perform on the last day spread throughout the women’s fleet. Karin Jaggi (F2 / North) blew her chances by crossing too fast in a last-bid attempt to avoid another defeat by Ghibaudo. Jaggi was disqualified along with Femke Van Der Valk to leave a thinner bundle of racers at the re-start.
With her trademark pin-end start, Valerie Ghibaudo (Tabou) led the pack along the first and second reaches of the re-sail, but her stall at the second gybe slowed the convoy behind her down significantly as almost no-one took the opportunity to turn wide around the traffic.
Valerie Fauster (F2 / Gaastra) was the only one who reacted fast enough to take a chance and pumped herself into the lead which she held until the final reach when Ghibaudo overtook using her considerable speed advantage to win ahead of the Italian who’s recovered well sine early season surgery on her knee. Local star Cagla Kubat (Starboard / North) showed once again how she can compete seriously at this with another third place.
Women’s Race 15
After race 14’s drama all the ladies took it really easy, barely planing, as the start gun cracked-off for the final race of the event.
Ghibaudo predictably kept low and on a direct line to the first buoy, whilst Fauster chose to come from higher up and windward near the boat. Jaggi however chose a middle line and used her choice wisely at the mark to carve inside Fauster to steal second.
Ghibaudo sped at full-tilt along the second reach to build a lead but wasted her good work with a slow exit from the second gybe whilst Jaggi pumped furiously to plane away early and take a high line for the third leg.
Despite her best efforts Jaggi just couldn’t dig deep enough or find enough pace to reel Ghibaudo in before the finish and the elated French women crossed the line to seal a double victory for her country at this event.
Ghibaudo has found renewed appetite for racing late this season and new boards, and new-found techniques have allowed her to discover a startling turn of speed. Jaggi has received a slap in the face here in Alaçati that only her spectacular world title can remedy, and deep down she’ll be both pleased and concerned to know that 2008 will bring an unparalled new standard of racing as a result of this spectacular season’s competition.
Our thanks go out to the super-efficient local organisers Sportworks, their sponsors, and the town of Alaçati for their hospitality. On the best tour on earth, the PWA are no strangers to a warm welcome, but it has to be said that the overpowering friendliness of our Turkish hosts will leaver a lasting impression and time cannot pass quickly enough before we can return to Cesme province for some outstanding action once again.
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Men’s Final Top 10 Standings after 10 Races
1. Antoine Albeau (Starboard / NeilPryde)
2. Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1 / North)
3. Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / MauiSails)
4. Pieter Bijl (Fanatic / NeilPryde)
5. Finian Maynard (F2 / NeilPryde)
6. Peter Volwater (F2 / North)
7. Micah Buzianis (JP / NeilPryde)
8. Steve Allen (Tabou / Gaastra)
9. Patrik Diethelm (F2 / North)
10. Cyril Moussilmani (Fanatic / North)
Women’s Top 5 Final Standings after 15 races
1. Valerie Ghibaudo (Tabou)
2. Karin Jaggi (F2 / North)
3. Verena Fauster (F2 / Gaastra)
4. Cagla Kubat (Starboard / North)
5. Marta Hlavaty
© PWA / Brian McDowell