Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam
The stage is now set for the 35th edition of the Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam, which starts tomorrow and runs until 5th August. The elite of the racing and freestyle world are back in town for the first time since the pandemic and will be readying themselves for 10 epic days of competition. The opening five days will be packed with adrenaline fuelled slalom as the world’s best racers prepare for their third battle of the season, whilst the second half of the event will belong to the Freestylers, who will be making their opening appearance of the year.
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 contortionists of the windsurfing world to launch into the latest aerial power moves, while the slalom fleet will once again be faced with the fin or foil debate as they ready themselves to face Fuerte’s chop, which will be ready to wipe them out with barely a moments notice!
For the first time since 2008 Women’s Slalom will finally make its long awaited return to Fuerteventura and after the exploits in Pozo Izquierdo earlier this month, there should be plenty more exciting racing on offer over the next 5 days between the best female racers on the planet.
Blanca Alabau (Starboard / Severne Sails) deservedly heads up the World Tour rankings coming into Fuerte after a fantastic start to the season, which saw her build upon an excellent second place in Italy by securing her first victory on the World Tour in Gran Canaria. Alabau sailed extremely consistently in Pozo - only finishing outside the top 3 on 4 occasions in 15 eliminations and the Spaniard will look to continue that momentum here as she keeps up her charge for a maiden world title.
Justine Lemeteyer (FMX Racing / S2Maui / LOKEFOIL) and Marion Mortefon (Fanatic / Duotone) are currently Alabau’s closest rivals and they trail the 26-year-old by 300 points after the opening two events. Lemeteyer destroyed the field in Italy at the start of the season, but couldn’t reproduce that level of performance in Pozo - finishing 5th - so she will be looking to bounce back in Fuerte. Meanwhile, the reigning world champion - Mortefon - has made a solid, if unspectacular start to the season, with back-to-back podiums, but the 31-year-old will be looking to close the gap at the top by returning to winning ways here. Mortefon claimed 4 bullets in Pozo, but some costly errors cost her a shot at the event title. If those errors can be removed she will be there or thereabouts again.
Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / NeilPryde / Maui Ultra Fins) claimed a solid second place in Pozo in her first appearance of the season and the Aruban takes to the lineup once again here. Offringa has 5 Slalom world crowns to her name and that level of experience showed in Pozo with the 32-year-old finishing outside the top 3 only twice in 15 eliminations. Offringa will be hoping it’s windy enough to be fully lit on the fin - if it is she’ll be genuine threat for the event title again.
Elsewhere, Jenna Gibson (Fanatic / Duotone) comes into the event ranked 4th in the overalls and the Brit will be pushing for a podium finish here. Gibson showed blistering pace in Gran Canaria, which saw her consistently holding the lead, but the 25-year-old will need to reduce her gybing errors, which cost her dearly in Pozo. If she can do that she clearly possesses all of the speed necessary to challenge for the event title and not ‘just’ the podium. Fellow Brit - Sarah Jackson (Fanatic / Duotone) - also returns to the fleet having missed the opening two events through injury, whilst Femke van der Veen (Starboard / Severne Sails) and Mae Davico (Patrik / LoftSails / Patrik Foils) will be battling it out for the top 5 and beyond again.
Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / NeilPryde / Maui Ultra Fins) will look to produce a record extending display over the next 5 days of Freestyle (second half of the event) as the Aruban aims to secure a 14th Freestyle world crown. The Queen of Freestyle was pushed all the way here in 2019 by Maaike Huvermann (Severne / Severne Sails / Maui Ultra Fins) and it’s possible that Huvermann may prove to be Offringa’s biggest threat again. The 25-year-old inflicted Offringa’s only heat loss in 11 years back in Bonaire in 2019, but Huvermann has been unable to wrestle Offringa’s much loved crown from her grasp so far.
It has been a couple of years since the last Women’s Freestyle event, so it will be interesting to see what’s what when the green flag goes up. Oda Brødholt (Starboard / Severne Sails / Maui Ultra Fins) and Huvermann have encountered numerous close battles in recent years and the Norwegian, who is now fully fit again after breaking her foot, will be hoping to be able to come out on top against Huvermann. This time around.
Offringa, Huvermann and Brødholt have had the podium positions locked up between them since 2014, so it’s hard to look much past them based on history, but that won’t stop the likes of Arrianne Aukes (Fanatic / Duotone / Maui Ultra Fins) and Olya Raskina (JP / NeilPryde) from aspiring to bring that trend to an end.
Meanwhile, Lina Erpenstein (Severne / Severne Sails), who you’ll be more accustomed to seeing on the wave scene, will make her Freestyle debut here in Fuerteventura, whilst 23-year-old Lisa Klöster (MB-Boards / Sailloft Hamburg) is ready for battle again as she looks to improve upon her 5th place from 2021.
Maciek Rutkowski (FMX Racing / Challenger Sails) has made an excellent start to his world title defence with the Pole winning the opening event of the year in Italy, before finishing second to Enrico Marotti (JP / NeilPryde) in Gran Canaria. However, things remain tight at the top with just 200 points separating Rutkowski and his closest challenger - Pierre Mortefon (Fanatic / Duotone / Phantom Foils) - so there will be no room for errors. Thus far though, Rutkowski hasn’t really put a foot wrong and the 31-year-old is the only sailor to be able to boast a 100% Winners’ Final Qualifying Record - 14 out of 14 for 2023. Expect to see Rutkowski challenging for top honours again over the next 5 days.
As previously mentioned Pierre Mortefon is currently Rutkowski’s closest rival and the Frenchman has snatched a couple of top results by pulling it out of the bag when it matters most in both Italy and Gran Canaria, where he stole second and third place respectively. The 2019 world champion is perfectly poised to attack the top and has a solid track record here - since 2014 the Frenchman has a second, two 3rds and three 4ths.
The only active sailor to boast a better track record here than Mortefon is Matteo Iachino (Starboard / Severne Sails), who has 3 seconds, a third, and a fourth since 2015. The Italian saw his podium finish snatched away by Mortefon in Gran Canaria and will be eager to re-establish himself in the podium positions. This is the first time since 2015, in a season with a least two events, that Iachino has failed to record a podium finish within the first two events. The 2016 world champion hasn’t performed badly, but he’ll be keen to step it up and notch and try and reassert himself!
Enrico Marotti (JP / NeilPryde) bounced back from a slightly disappointing display in Italy where a couple of costly errors saw him finish 8th, by claiming an excellent victory in Gran Canaria. The Croat has now won two out of the last three events and you’d expect to see him pushing for top honours again here over the course of the next 5 days.
For the first time this season 2021 world champion - Nicolas Goyard (Phantom / Phantom Sails / Phantom Foils) - will be back in the fleet after concentrating on the IQ Foil and next year’s Olympic campaign so far this year. The Frenchman finished second in Japan late last year and you’d expect to see him prominently placed again come the end of the event.
Elsewhere, the German duo of Michele Becker (Patrik / Patrik Sails / Patrik Foils) and Nicolas Prien (JP / NeilPryde) will look to continue their solid starts to the season - with the pair currently occupying 5th and 6th in the overalls. Prien will look to kick on from his best result ever in Gran Canaria - 5th - which also saw the 27-year-old claim his first bullet on the World Tour.
With his summer exams out of the way - Johan Soe (FMX Racing / Point-7) - returns to the fleet having been absent in Gran Canaria. The young Dane continues to make a flying start to life on tour and only narrowly missed out on a maiden podium in Italy. Expect to see Soe pushing for a podium finish here. Other familiar names to return to the fleet include fellow Dane - Sebastian Kornum (JP / NeilPryde) - Nicolas Warembourg (JP / NeilPryde) and William Huppert (Phantom / Phantom Sails / Phantom Foils).
Other notable names to watch out for include; Jordy Vonk (Fanatic / Duotone), who was the only man to win an elimination on the fin in Pozo and will no doubt be hoping for windy enough conditions to compete on the fin, Amado Vrieswijk (Future Fly / Severne Sails), who was either winning eliminations in Pozo or crashing out - the Bonairean certainly has the potential to challenge for the win if everything clicks. Bruno Martini (JP / NeilPryde), who won his first elimination on Foil in Pozo, as well as Jules Lohan (Future Fly / S2Maui), Alexis Mathis (Tabou / GA Sails), Alexandre Cousin (Patrik / Patrik Sails / Patrik Foils), Ingmar Daldorf (Tabou / GA Sails) and Jimmy Thieme (Fanatic / Duotone), who competed purely on fin in Pozo and earned his first top 10 result.
Adrien Bosson (Fanatic / Duotone / Maui Ultra Fins) will begin his world title defence in Fuerteventura having claimed his maiden world crown last season. The Frenchman often excels in Fuerte’s tricky choppy conditions and howling winds and will be eager to make a solid start to his campaign.
Bosson will face many challengers for the coveted top spot though; namely vice-world champion - Jacopo Testa (AV Boards / Point-7 / AL360), who pushed Bosson all the way in Sylt with the title being decided by a Super Final where just 0.1 of a point split the two title contenders. Testa was sailing with a knee injury then, so if it’s fully fit he could be an even bigger threat this time around.
Belgium have a knack of producing world class freestylers and the trio of Steven van Broeckhoven (Starboard / GUNSAILS), who is the reigning event champion from 2019, Yentel Caers (JP / NeilPryde) and Dieter van der Eyken (Severne / Severne Sails), all of whom have won a world title to their name, will be pushing for a top result here.
Amado Vrieswijk (Future Fly / Severne Sails) may have switched his main attention to racing, but the Bonairean has registered for the Freestyle here and will no doubt be a major threat with the 2021 world champion still possessing all the moves necessary to go all the way, whilst fellow Bonairean’s - Youp Schmit (Tabou / GA Sails) and Taty Frans (Future Fly / Point-7) will be hoping to throw their names in the mix.
Elsewhere, other notable names to look out for include Lennart Neubauer (Starboard / Severne Sails / Maui Ultra Fins), the former Youth world champion has made a strong start to his European campaign and will be looking to transfer that form here, Balz Müller (Severne / Severne Sails), who depending how windy it is may bring his innovative foil approach to the forefront here, whilst the likes of Antony Ruenes (Tabou / GA Sails), Nicolas Akgazciyan (JP / NeilPryde), Antoine Albert (Goya Windsurfing) and Sam Esteve (JP / NeilPryde) will all be hoping to make it to the business end of the contest.
The forecast looks excellent for the opening day with strong trade winds currently predicted, which should hopefully provide a thrilling start to the racing. All of the action will be available for you to watch unfold as it happens via the PWA live stream with Ben Proffitt (Simmer / Simmer Sails) on hand to guide you through the best of the action.
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Schedule For Day 1: (All Times GMT+1)
- Registration 10-11am
- Skippers’ Meeting - 12:30pm
- First Possible Start - 1pm