Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam
The next 10 days promise to be action packed with the men’s freestyle fleet set to explode onto the 2018 PWA World Tour of the first time this season, while the women’s freestyle world title will be decided and the men’s slalom fleet prepare for their 5th battle of the season at the 2018 Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam - sponsored by René Egli - which runs from 26th July until 4th August. The opening 5 days will belong to the contortionists of the windsurfing world - before the world’s fastest sailors hit the race course again.
Sotavento is located on the Southeast coast of Fuerteventura and has developed a world-class reputation due to its year round sunshine, stunning golden beaches and most importantly, as its name suggests, strong winds, which create some of the most exhilarating conditions on the PWA World Tour. Fuerteventura is one of the most challenging stops on the tour for the freestylers, but it can also be one of the most rewarding when there is a swell running as it produces the perfect stunt ramps for the freestylers to launch into the latest aerial power moves, while the slalom fleet will be reaching for their smallest gear and trying to reach the end of the course unscathed.
Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / NeilPryde / Maui Ultra Fins) made the perfect start to the season by remaining unbeaten in Portugal in the opening women’s freestyle event of the year,. The Aruban is now on course to win her 11th PWA Freestyle World Championship - and 15th overall, but isn’t across the line yet. The 27-year-old looks like she’s taken her sailing to another level this year and will start as favourite, but Maaike Huvermann (Starboard / Severne / Maui Ultra Fins) pushed Offringa further than she’d ever been before last year here - when almost forcing a Super Final.
So, building upon that, and especially after the opening event of the year in Portugal, both Maaike Huvermann (Starboard / Severne / Maui Ultra Fins) and Oda Johanne (Starboard / Severne / Maui Ultra Fins), have shown that they are more than capable of challenging Offringa.
Huvermann currently sits in second place in the overall rankings, and Johanne third, but in reality there is almost nothing between them and over the next 5 days they should have more intense battles in their second and final event of the year. Whether either can get the better over Offringa remains to be seen, however.
Arrianne Aukes (Fanatic / Duotone / Maui Ultra Fins) sailed some excellent heats in Portugal, but couldn’t consistently produce those level of performances as she blew a bit hot and cold. Aukes finished 4th in Portugal and if she wants to break into the top 3 she will need to find a formula to perform consistently in Fuerte’s choppy waters, as the top 3 showed an extremely high level throughout the the opening clash.
Johanna Rümenapp (I-99 / Gun Sails / Maui Ultra Fins) made her debut in Portugal and showed she has some stylish manoeuvres in her repertoire and will look to build upon her 5th place. However, it may be a step too soon to bother the top 4. The women’s freestyle fleet is completed by Austria’s Birgit Rieger (Goya Windsurfing), Germany’s Lisa Kloster (Patrik / Sailloft Hamburg / Maui Ultra Fins) and Switzerland’s Eva Wyss (Starboard / Avanti).
It’s hard to look past 8-time PWA Freestyle World Champion - Jose ‘Gollito’ Estredo (Fanatic / Duotone) - and 2-time vice-world champion - Amado Vrieswijk (JP / Severne) for the opening freestyle event on the men’s PWA Freestyle World Tour. In the last two seasons - over 5 events - Gollito has claimed 4 victories, while Vrieswijk won the event here in 2016, while the latter has not finished outside the top 2 during that time and it would seem only a matter of time before the Bonairean gets his hands on the trophy.
The last person to win a freestyle event other than Gollito or Vrieswijk was Dieter van der Eyken (Severne / Severne Sails) in 2015, but the Belgian has been concentrating much more on waves recently and while he should be challenging for the top 10 and beyond, a podium place may be a step too far.
Yentel Caers (JP / Point-7) is likely to be one of the other top contenders having won the single elimination here in 2016, before he was forced to retire from the double elimination last year due to injury when in 3rd place. The young Belgian also won the recent EFPT stop in Lanzarote and will be hoping to follow up with another strong showing.
Jacopo Testa (RRD / RRD Sails / AL360) should also be in contention having enjoyed his best season to date in 2017 - recording a 4th place and 3rd to complete the overall podium and has an explosive repertoire of moves.
The French freestyle contingent of Sam Esteve (JP / NeilPryde), who also enjoyed his best season to date in 2017 - 5th overall last year should challenging for top honours, while Adrien Bosson (Fanatic / Duotone / Maui Ultra Fins) - 6th overall last year comes into the event on the back of a second place in Lanzarote and Antony Ruenes (Tabou / GA Sails) - 8th overall in 2017 - should all be in contention, while Nicolas Akgazciyan (I-99 / Challenger Sails / AL360 / Maui Ultra Fins) will be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing 2017.
New Caledonia’s Antoine Albert (Goya Windsurfing) is another sailor to have broken into the overall top 10 last year - 7th - and his diversity makes him real danger, while the likes of Balz Müller (MB Board / Severne), Tonky Frans (RRD / RRD Sails), Steven van Broeckhoven (JP / Gun Sails / Shamal Sunglasses), Davy Scheffers (Tabou / GA Sails) and Youp Schmit (I-99 / Avanti) should all be battling hard for the top 10 and beyond.
Matteo Iachino (Starboard / Severne / Shamal Sunglasses) leads the 2018 title race after 4 events - recording two victories so far in South Korea and Portugal, while finishing 2nd in Japan. The only slight lapse came when just one elimination was completed in Costa Brava and the Italian had to settle for 9th place - which he currently discards. Iachino classes Fuerteventura as his favourite event, but has yet to stand on the top of the podium here. Will 2018 be his year to change that? With the current level of form he has shown so far this season he’s in with a good chance as he bids for world title No.2.
However, Iachino will face an incredibly tough challenge to stop Antoine Albeau (RRD / NeilPryde) from claiming another victory here with AA winning the last 4 competitions in Fuerte. The reigning world champion made a few uncharacteristic mistakes in Portugal, but eventually finished just 0.4 points behind Iachino with is killer instinct to convert finals into bullets - 4 wins from 7 races - illustrating why he has been so successful during his career - 24 world title so far - and firmly in the hunter world title No.25. Albeau is an extremely hard man to bet against here and it would be no surprise to see him make it 5 event victories in a row in Fuerte.
Pierre Mortefon (Fanatic / Duotone / Chopper Fins) completes the overall top 3 after recording 3 third places so far and an 11th in Costa Brava. The Frenchman has been extremely consistent and he should be firmly in the thick of the action again.
Meanwhile, Pascal Toselli (JP / Loftsails / Chopper Fins) sits in 4th place, but lost valuable ground on the top 3 after following up an excellent 2nd place in Costa Brava with a 7th place in Portugal. The Frenchman is still on course to equal his best overall performance, but will be hoping to better last year’s 8th place here.
Julien Quentel (Patrik / Avanti) continues to gather pace this season as he has bettered his result at each event so far - 17th in Japan - 10th in South Korea - 5th in Costa Brava and 4th in Portugal. Quentel has finished 5th here for the last two seasons with his brilliant gybing helping escape from precarious situations and you can expect to see him challenging for the top again.
Jordy Vonk (Fanatic / Duotone) continues to enjoy his best season so far after recording 4 consecutive top 10 results, which leaves him an excellent 6th place in the overalls. However, while Vonk has clearly taken his sailing to another level it will be interesting to see if he can bring that same level of performance to Fuerteventura as his current best here came last season when he recorded a 14th place finish. Meanwhile, teammate Marco Lang (Fanatic / Duotone) will be hoping to have overcome the virus that he picked up in South Korea, which has plagues his season so far, and he’ll be hoping that he can show the form that he showed at the end of last season. If he can, the Austrian will be a player.
Ross Williams (Tabou / GA Sails / Shamal Sunglasses) has been having a bit of a fight with his equipment this year, but even so the Brit remains in the overall top 10 - 7th - and he has a great track record here in the last few seasons - 3rd in 2015, 2nd in 2016, 3rd in 2017 - and he’ll be determined to try and continue that trend. Williams had a disastrous first half of the event in Portugal, but then battled back admirably by qualifying for 3 winners’ final out of final 4 race and if he’s found a setup that works well for him he’ll be challenging for the podium.
The top 10 is currently completed by - Tristan Algret (Starboard / Severne / Chopper Fins) - 8th - who is still on course to break into the overall top 10. However, he will need to bounce back from his worst result of the season in Portugal where he finished 20th. Cedric Bordes (Tabou / GA Sails) is in the overall top 10 for the first time this year after recording an excellent 6th place in Portugal and should be in contention again, while Brazil’s Mateus Isaac (JP / NeilPryde) completes the top 10.
There are plenty of other sailors to keep your eye on too with so many now capable of qualifying for a winners’ final. Finian Maynard (I-99), who won the event here in 2012 and has won one event already this season, Cyril Moussilmani (RRD / Severne), Maciek Rutkowski (I-99 / Challenger Sails), Malte Reuscher (Fanatic/ Duotone), Ingmar Daldorf (Tabou / GA Sails), Arnon Dagan (RRD / NeilPryde) and Ben van der Steen (I-99 / Gun Sails), who recorded his best result in a couple of seasons in Portugal - 5th - and could be a real threat.
Elsewhere, Sebastian Kördel (Starboard / GA Sails) will be hoping to bounce back from 3 disappointing results in a row - 21st, 21st, 28th - which is far from the form that saw him finish 10th overall in 2017.
19-year-old Basile Jacquin (RRD / Point-7) will also be one to watch as one of the most exciting young racers, while Amado Vrieswijk (JP / Severne) could also feature, while Antoine Questel (Starboard / S2Maui) will look to build upon his first top 10 of the season in Portugal.
The event looks set start with a bang with a promising looking forecast, so make sure you don’t miss any of the action by tuning into www.pwaworldtour.com between 26th July - 4th August - here you’ll be able to watch the action unfold as it happens via the PWA live stream.
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Schedule For Day 1: (All Times GMT+1)
- Registration 10-11am
- Skippers’ Meeting - 12:30pm
- First Possible Start - 1pm