The Sylt PWA 2004 Labello Grand Slam Day 6
Williams grits his teeth and hangs on as Albeau piles up the pressure from behind.
The sun rose cleanly over a beautifully crisp and clear morning here at Westerland today. The early offshore breezes quickly stiffened across the fantastically calm waters providing amazing racing conditions. As soon as the wind had breached the 7 knot minimum a course was set and the first race of the day lined up in the starting blocks, eager to do battle off Germany’s North Sea coast
Phil McGain (Gaastra) shook the fleet with a startling return to form making it to the windward mark ahead of event leader Ross Williams (Starboard, Gaastra). McGain’s flourish was short-lived however and by the downwind end of the course it was the now familiar face of Williams back on top, ahead of Arnan Dagan (Fanatic) and Steve Allen (Fanatic, Neil Pryde). Having fought his way back to number one, Williams continued to dominate the course holding his ground all the way upwind. Meanwhile, Antoine Albeau (AHD, Neil Pryde) was having the fight of his life, having blasted back all the way from nowhere to third by the second upwind before finally passing Allen to finish second behind Williams.
By now the wind had steadied and strengthened slightly, and within 10 minutes of Williams crossing the line, the second race of the day was in sequence. As the fleet was set loose on the course, the wind was gusting up to 22 knots and it was a true battle of strength and endurance as well as sailing skill. Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (F2, Neil Pryde) took upwind honours this time with Allen and Pritchard in hot pursuit and Williams nowhere to be seen! The top 3 remained constant through the downwind section, with World Speed record holder Finian Maynard (F2, Naish) and Albeau using their massive strength to catch up to fourth and fifth respectively. The wind was pumping now and Albeau was charging hard. Costa Hoevel held onto the lead ahead of Allen who was constantly under attack from the big Frenchman, but Albeau could not quite do enough and finally had to settle for third, with Pritchard not far short in fourth
After a break for lunch and for sailors to tune, adjust and change their equipment, it was back to the testing North Sea conditions for the eighth race of the contest.
Devon Boulon (F2) streaked to he first mark with last years PWA Racing World Champion Micah Buzianis (F2, North Sails) close behind, ahead of McGain still thriving in the strong conditions. With another lap under his belt, Boulon was still firmly in front at the windward mark but it was Williams now back in the fight in second, Albeau’ amazing speed took him past Buzianis on the final downwind to put him in third with Mc Gain in fifth.
As race nine got underway, the wind had settled to a solid 12 to 17 knots on the course and it was all to play for in front of the watching massed crowds. Allen and Williams continued to battle it out with Allen edging ahead by the windward mark and Albeau close behind in third. Albeau’s speed downwind took him straight past Williams by the bottom of the course, but Allen was only extending his lead ahead of the battle for second. By the time they reached the finish line Allen was nearly a minute ahead of Albeau who had happily dispatched Williams into third. Piter Bijl (Fanatic, Neil Pryde) had now joined the fray, taking Van Koolwijk on the second lap and chalking up a respectable fourth in the process.
At three thirty the final race of the day went into its starting sequence and the big guns adjusted their aim for the upwind mark. Albeau looked like he would be first, but disastrously he fell whilst tacking allowing Pritchard to slip through ahead. Boulon followed closely just ahead of his fellow Virgin Islander, Jimmy Diaz (Neil Pryde) looking set for his best result so far this event. As always Albeau was supreme downwind and took Pritchard before heading back up on the second lap. Buzianis had also sailed well to move up to third and again, Williams was nowhere to be seen. Once in the driving seat, Albeau was not going to surrender control easily, but Diaz through caution to the wind, going deeper than everyone else to try and steal victory from Frances number one. Unfortunately for Diaz the gamble did not pay off and it was Albeau who took the checkered flag ahead of Pritchard, Allen and Diaz, with Bijl close behind in fifth
Williams continues to lead the event by one point ahead of Albeau, with Allen in turn close behind. Forecasters are predicting good conditions for the remaining 2 days so stay tuned to www.pwaworldtour.com for all the latest news as we have it. You can also check out www.high.tv. for all the latest video highlights and for the sailors’ perspective on the racing take a look at www.devonboulon.com.
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