Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam
After another corker of a day, the stage is now set for a thrilling finale to the 2023 Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam after Sotavento produced more exhilarating racing on day four, which saw a further 4 eliminations for the women and three for men completed in winds ranging from anywhere between 15-30 knots.
Today was all about Marion Mortefon (Fanatic / Duotone) as the reigning world champion went on a tear to claim a brilliant hat-trick and significantly reduce Sarah-Quita Offringa’s (Starboard / NeilPryde / Maui Ultra Fins) overnight lead from 12.5 points to just 4.6 points heading into the final day. Whilst Mortefon was happy to have closed the gap you can tell that she was also slightly disappointed as the 31-year-old led Elimination 13 - the last race of the day - but dropped her gybe at the fifth and penultimate gybe to eventually finish sixth. If Mortefon had managed to hang on and win that race, and Offringa would’ve finished second, that would’ve seen the gap reduced to just 2.3 points heading into the final day. If you’d have told Mortefon she would be just 4.6 points off the pace at the start of the day she probably would’ve taken the offer and she is now in contention for the title heading into tomorrow.
Offringa was only able to record one top 3 result today as the Aruban struggled earlier in the day in the lighter winds against the foils, whilst the extension of the course to 6 gybes certainly favoured the foils. In Elimination 13, Offringa was battling it out with Mortefon at the fifth buoy, but as Mortefon fell, Offringa was forced to take evasive action to avoid her, which cost her valuable ground. Offringa ultimately remains in control at the top, but will no doubt be praying for stronger winds from the word go, otherwise it could leave her vulnerable!
Blanca Alabau (Starboard / Severne Sails) produced her best performance of the event thus far as the current World Tour leader recorded two second places and a third before signing off the day with her first bullet since the opening day, which sees the Spaniard move into the top 3 with a day to go.
Justine Lemeteyer (FMX Racing / S2Maui / LOKEFOIL) also sailed extremely solidly today, but falls one place to fourth, however, she remains firmly in contention for the podium after recording two seconds and two thirds, which means just 2.3 points separate her and Alabau.
The top 4 looks like it is all but decided, it will just be a case of who finishes where as Jenna Gibson (Fanatic / Duotone) failed to close the gap today. The Brit was distraught after the completion of Elimination 11 as she went from leading at the last buoy to failing to cross the finish line as she tried to snatch the bullet from Mortefon in a drag race, which eventually meant she only finished 7th instead. Gibson will have to try and dust herself off and finish the event on a high tomorrow.
Having made a mistake yesterday when it looked like he had another race in the bag - Nicolas Goyard (Phantom / Phantom Sails / Phantom Foils / AL360) - bounced back in the perfect fashion by securing another bullet in the opening race of the day to regain the event lead, having relinquished pole position to - Johan Soe (FMX Racing / Point-7).
Things remain incredibly tight at the top heading into the final day, and although Goyard leads, just 1.9 points separate himself and Soe, so there is all still to play for heading into Monday, whilst there is almost no room for error on either side. Before the start of Elimination 9, Soe trailed by just 0.9 of a point, but the young Dane suffered a nasty looking wipeout on the opening reach to prevent him from recording another top result, whilst Goyard himself had to survive a hairy moment down the first reach before battling brilliantly to secure third place. The front two have established themselves at the top of the rankings and it looks like it will be a direct fight between them for the event title!
Matteo Iachino (Starboard / Severne Sails) enjoyed his best day of the season thus far as the Italian went from strength to strength as the day progressed. The 2016 world champion kicked off proceedings with a solid fourth before going one better in Elimination 8 - third. Things then got even better for the 33-year-old as he secured his first bullet since Japan last year, which sees Iachino jump into third place at the close of play.
After a little wobble, Maciek Rutkowski (FMX Racing / Challenger Sails) steadied the ship with an extremely professional display, which saw the current World Tour leader qualify for all three Winners’ Final today - having missed out in 3 out of 5 of the previous eliminations - to gain a couple of places from the overnight rankings into fourth. The Pole secured two solid second places and a seventh and trails Iachino by just 3 points, so will still have his sights on a podium finish.
Amado Vrieswijk (Future Fly / Severne Sails) is just a point further back in fifth, but things could’ve been much better for the Bonairean, who secured his first bullet of the event in Elimination 8 and looked on course to make it back-to-back bullets as he held pole position as they rounded the third. However, a piece of swell caused him to lose control, so the 28-year-old ultimately had to settle for 7th. It feels like Vrieswijk is on the cusp of consistently challenging for the very top honours, but at the moment he is continually hitting the crossbar.
It will be intriguing to see how the battle for the event title plays out tomorrow and also who manages to secure the final place on the podium between Iachino, Rutkowski and Vrieswijk as it looks like that has now developed into a three horse race - barring major meltdowns - as Bruno Martini (JP / NeilPryde) - currently 6th - is a further 10 points back. The Italian qualified for all three Winners’ Finals, but was gutted after suffering a massive wipeout in Elimination 8 when in second place - eventually finishing 8th - whilst he finished 5th on both other occasions today.
The top 10 heading into the final day is completed by Pierre Mortefon (Fanatic / Duotone / Chopper Fins / Phantom Foils), Enrico Marotti (JP / NeilPryde), who rises into eighth from 13th after finishing 4th, 6th and ninth, Michele Becker (Patrik / Patrik Sails / Patrik Foils), who will probably be slightly disappointed as after the completion of Elimination 7 the German was in a tie for joint 4th, but a quarterfinal exit in the next race results in him picking up a 26.5, and Daniele Benedetti (FMX Racing / Challenger Sails), who sailed extremely consistently again to record a ninth, 10th and 11th.
Nicolas Prien (JP / NeilPryde) will hope to try and force his way back into the top 10 on the final day with the German just 3 points behind Benedetti.
Meanwhile, Scotty Stallman (Tabou / GA Sails) will remember today for quite some time after booking his place in his first Winners’ Final. The Brit did brilliantly to hold off a stern challenge from Pierre Mortefon and would go on to record an excellent 6th place in Elimination 8. Stallman currently sits in 14th place with a day to go.
On paper the final day of the Slalom looks like it will be windy with the forecast predicting 18-24 knots of wind, however, there is some cloud cover expected with it, so we will just have to see how conditions progress throughout the morning and into the afternoon. The sailors will meet again for a final time tomorrow morning at 11am (GMT+1) with the action commencing from 11:30am onwards - conditions depending!
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Current Ranking 2023 Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam
*After 13 Eliminations
1st Sarah-Quita Offringa (ARU | Starboard / NeilPryde / Maui Ultra Fins)
2nd Marion Mortefon (FRA | Fanatic / Duotone)
3rd Blanca Alabau (ESP | Starboard / Severne Sails)
4th Justine Lemeteyer (FRA | FMX Racing / S2Maui / LOKEFOIL)
5th Jenna Gibson (UK | Fanatic / Duotone)
Current Ranking 2023 Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam
*After 9 Eliminations
1st Nicolas Goyard (FRA | Phantom / Phantom Sails / Phantom Foils / AL360)
2nd Johan Soe (DEN | FMX Racing / Point-7)
3rd Matteo Iachino (ITA | Starboard / Severne Sails)
4th Maciek Rutkowski (POL | FMX Racing / Challenger Sails)
5th Amado Vrieswijk (NB | Future Fly | Severne Sails)
6th Bruno Martini (ITA | JP / NeilPryde)
7th Pierre Mortefon (FRA | Fanatic / Duotone / Phantom Foils)
8th Enrico Marotti (CRO | JP / NeilPryde)
9th Michele Becker (GER | Patrik / Patrik Sails / Patrik Foils)
10th Daniele Benedetti (ITA | FMX Racing / Challenger Sails)