Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam
Sotavento saved it’s best until last as the final day of racing at the 2023 Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam saw hardcore slalom conditions with winds over 35 knots and extremely choppy waters providing the best racers in the world with the ultimate test of their mettle. In the end though, there was nothing anyone could do to stop Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / NeilPryde / Maui Ultra Fins) and Nicolas Goyard (Phantom / Phantom Sails / Phantom Foils / AL360) from being crowned the Queen and King of Fuerte for 2023.
Having seen her lead reduced to just 4.4 points before the start of the final day you could sense that Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / NeilPryde / Maui Ultra Fins) was taking nothing for granted. Unlike Sunday’s lighter winds though, today saw classic Fuerteventura conditions with winds gusting in excess of 33 knots, and Offringa thrived as she claimed the last two bullets of the event to claim her first Slalom victory on the World Tour since Israel in 2021. Offringa will now switch her attention to the Freestyle, which starts tomorrow.
Marion Mortefon (Fanatic / Duotone) forced the event title race into the last day after claiming a brilliant hat-trick yesterday, but the reigning world champion couldn’t quite find the magic she needed to wrestle the event title from Offringa’s grasp in today’s extreme conditions. Mortefon still walks away from Fuerteventura with her best result of the season - second - and remains Blanca Alabau’s closest rival after the opening three events.
Blanca Alabau (Starboard / Severne Sails) did superbly to recover from a somewhat slow start to the event, which saw the Spaniard finish out the top three in four out of the first five eliminations to secure the final place on the podium, whilst also maintaining her 200 point cushion at the top of the overall rankings. Despite today’s howling winds Alabau stayed loyal to the foil - finishing second in the opening race of the day, before finishing fifth, which she discarded.
Justine Lemeteyer (FMX Racing / S2Maui / LOKEFOIL) started the day in fourth place and in her own words had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The current vice-world champion decided to go all out in Elimination 14 to try and put Alabau under pressure in the battle for third and fourth place, but unfortunately was disqualified for a premature start, which all but ended her podium hopes on this occasion. Lemeteyer completes the top three in the overall rankings - but loses a little bit of ground in the world title race - now 400 points behind Alabau.
Jenna Gibson’s (Fanatic / Duotone) superior straight-line top speed was once again apparent as the Brit charged to the front in Elimination 14 only for the Fuerte death chop to claim another victim as she rounded the first. Gibson still ends the event on somewhat of a high after a great battle with Offringa in the last, where she eventually finished second. Gibson finishes fifth for the event and occupies fifth in the overall rankings.
Nicolas Goyard (Phantom / Phantom Sails / Phantom Foils / AL360) avoided any final day scares to deservedly be crowned the event champion. The Frenchman started the day with just a 1.9 point advantage over Johan Soe (FMX Racing / Point-7), but soon extended that to 3.9 points after finishing second, whilst his rival could ‘only’ finish fourth.
Unfortunately, the race for the event crown reached a somewhat anticlimactic end after Soe suffered a broken mast foot on the run up to the start line in the quarterfinals, which gifted Goyard the victory. With the pressure now off, Goyard seemingly let off the hand break as he stormed to victory in the last elimination of the event to claim the top spot on the podium - in his first appearance of the season.
Soe will have obviously been gutted to see his event title hopes ended in the manner that they were, but will still be absolutely delighted with the overall result as the 20-year-old nicknamed ‘The Beast’ earns his maiden podium on the World Tour - second. Soe looks like a future world champion in the making!
Matteo Iachino (Starboard / Severne Sails) came into Fuerte boasting the best event record of any active sailor and the Italian’s great relationship with Sotavento continues with Iachino earning his first podium of the season, which sees him rise to third in the overalls. However, after getting squeezed out the back on the start line of Elimination 11 it looked as though Iachino may be pipped to the final place on the podium again - like in Pozo - as Amado Vrieswijk (Future Fly / Severne Sails) held second place, but ultimately wiped out on the fourth reach to let Iachino breathe a huge sigh of relief and secure his fifth event podium here.
Vrieswijk will no doubt be frustrated to have seen a potential podium slip through his hands, but on the plus side the Bonairean qualified for 10 out of the 11 Winners’ Finals and fourth place still represents an excellent result. The 28-year-old climbs into 5th in the overall rankings.
Maciek Rutkowski (FMX Racing / Challenger Sails) didn’t enjoy his best day on the water with the Pole missing out on the Winners’ Final of Elimination 10, before he suffered a quarterfinal exit in the last race of the event as he, like many sailors, struggled to instantly adapt from the switch from foil to fin in such treacherous waters. Rutkowski ultimately retains the world title race lead after finishing sixth here, but there is now just 100 points separating himself and Pierre Mortefon (Fanatic / Duotone / Chopper Fins / Phantom Foils).
Mortefon, as he has been doing so far this season, finished the event with his best results to climb two places from the overnight rankings into fifth. Mortefon made a brilliant racing manoeuvre in Elimination 10 as he dove below Goyard and Iachino into the second buoy to power to his first bullet of the event - hitting a max speed of 39 knots, which incidentally proved to be the only win on the fin, before the Frenchman secured second place in the last race. Mortefon keeps his name firmly in the world title race conversation after the opening three events.
Bruno Martini (JP / NeilPryde) showed an incredible turn of speed in the b-final of Elimination 10 as the Italian powered into the lead, so much so that he was able to crash at the second buoy and still claim the victory in Heat 8. Martini was gutted to then have been accidentally taken down by his teammate - Enrico Marotti (JP / NeilPryde) - in the quarterfinals of Elimination 11, which cost him his chance of improving his position. However, despite ending the event with an element of disappointment, the 29-year-old walks away from Fuerte with his best result of the season so far - 7th.
The top 10 is completed by Daniele Benedetti (FMX Racing / Challenger Sails) - 8th - who after being eliminated from the quarterfinals in the first race of the event, then never finished outside the top 16, Enrico Marotti (JP / NeilPryde) and Nicolas Prien (JP / NeilPryde), who pips fellow countryman - Michele Becker (Patrik / Patrik Sails / Patrik Foils) to the final place in the top 10 as Becker failed to advance from the quarterfinals on both occasions today.
Elsewhere, Sebastian Kornum (JP / NeilPryde) signed off the event with his best result of the week with an excellent fourth place in Elimination 11, whilst Scotty Stallman (Tabou / GA Sails) records his first top 16 result on the World Tour after securing 13th here as he finishes ahead of Jordy Vonk (Fanatic / Duotone), William Huppert (Phantom / Phantom Sails / Phantom Foils) and Alexandre Cousin (Patrik / Patrik Sails / Patrik Foils), who complete the top 16.
Meanwhile, Taty Frans (Future Fly / Point-7), who has been praying for classic Fuerte conditions, finally saw his prayers answered today and he proved he’s still one of the fastest people in the world in hardcore slalom conditions. The Bonairean qualified for both Winners’ Finals today where he finished sixth and third respectively, which sees him finish 17th overall.
After five brilliant days of racing, our attention now shifts to the Freestyle, which starts tomorrow and with another windy forecast to come it looks like we will see an action packed start as the contortionists of the windsurfing world prepare to make their first appearance of the season. The Freestyle fleets will be registering for the contest between 10-11am (GMT+1) - before the skippers’ meeting at 12:30pm.
Recap of the Freestyle Preview
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.
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.
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Result 2023 Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam - Women’s Slalom
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)
Result 2023 Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam - Men’s Slalom
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 Amado Vrieswijk (NB | Future Fly | Severne Sails)
5th Pierre Mortefon (FRA | Fanatic / Duotone / Phantom Foils)
6th Maciek Rutkowski (POL | FMX Racing / Challenger Sails)
7th Bruno Martini (ITA | JP / NeilPryde)
8th Daniele Benedetti (ITA | FMX Racing / Challenger Sails)
9th Enrico Marotti (CRO | JP / NeilPryde)
10th Nicolas Prien (GER | JP / NeilPryde)