The 2007 Pegasus Airlines PWA World Cup, Alaçati – Event Summary
Cesme province’s stylish coastal resort welcomed the PWA back after a joint sanctioned event with IFCA back in 2006. Now boasting full World Cup Status and impressive sponsors to boot, the stage was set for a fiesta of competition and music served parallel to the host nations Surf ‘n Sound festival.
Antoine Albeau (Starboard / NeilPryde) touched down in Turkey with the 2007 title already secured. The French all-round master of windsurfing had the luxury of a stress-free end-of-season wind-down in Alaçati, yet still managed to coast to victory ahead of two legends in the sport - Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1 / North) and Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / MauiSails).
In conditions ranging anything from 10-25 knots, the race director kept everyone on their toes all week by setting a selection of both short and long courses, with the layouts featuring 4-6 buoys and a variety of length in the reaches. The formats switched from 8x8-man qualifying heats to quarter-fleet starts to fully test the skill sets required to race in both clean and turbulent air at the starts and marks.
Over the course of 10 fierce men’s eliminations, Albeau’s error count overall stayed low, despite a slow start on day one when his NeilPryde team mate Pieter Bijl (Fanatic / NeilPryde) stepped-in and took the early lead. Albeau also wobbled with a small blemish in the form of a premature start on day 4 when nearly everyone’s results went haywire.
In terms of consistency only Bjorn Dunkerbeck stayed watertight until the last as he shed only one of his low discards after qualifying for all but the critical race 10 final. It will nag at Dunkerbeck that he couldn’t dig-out a race win, but there’ll be no questions about how hard he’ll be working on his top-end speed in lighter winds before the tour hits Germany.
Kevin Pritchard also showed remarkable character to stay in the frame. He suffered gear failure during a collision on day one that negated his race 2 victory, but the gutsy American gritted his teeth to pull himself back into the game over the next 4 days, starting with a crucial win in tricky conditions on day 3 to stay ahead of Dunkerbeck.
Apart from Bijl, the only other players in the frame to truly pressurize Pritchard and Dunkerbeck for a top-3 finish were last season’s victor in Turkey Finian Maynard (F2 /NeilPryde), and Peter Volwater (F2 / North). 2006 overall runner-up finisher Micah Buzianis’ (JP / NeilPryde) woeful season continued as he struggled in the lighter winds and never really threatened to push for glory.
It seems at this stage that there are only really three figures this season that can consistently feature at the top of the PWA Slalom fleet. Pritchard, Dunkerbeck and Albeau always seem to emerge above the rest over a wide range of conditions. The remainder seem simply to be relegated to having their day in the conditions that suit them and their particular equipment.
This was evident even considering the typical final-day tension in which Alaçati was no exception. Dunkerbeck exploded in the quarterfinals on a day when he’d planed to oust Pritchard from the runner’s-up spot, but was eventually gifted second overall when Pritchard himself missed the final. Dunkerbeck’s lower discard scores were therefore enough to allow him to leapfrog Pritchard for the runner’s-up step on the stage. Albeau of course made no mistake in banking a fifth and final race win in their absence.
A true champion never surrenders and Albeau could’ve taken the easy route by sitting back and relaxing. But winning is also about hard work and, as Albeau is no stranger to the labours involved in R&D and training, he was never going to cease in his constant quest for more speed. It’s also been a while since Dunkerbeck’s been so satisfied at a prize giving. To see his efforts paying-off clearly meant a lot to him and Pritchard and Albeau must fear for how he’ll attack hard at the final tour stop in Sylt.
The Women’s event was always going to be billed as a mouth-watering match between Karin Jaggi (F2 / North) and the resurgent Valerie Ghibaudo (Tabou).
Jaggi’s last-gasp victory in Fuerteventura denied Ghibaudo the tour lead, but Ghibaudo’s lust for victory intensified after her performance in Sotavento to a totally new level.
Ghibaudo and Jaggi were fairly equally matched for speed, but the clear difference was in the Frenchwomen’s starting skill. If anyone thought Jaggi was letting someone else share the limelight they could not be further from the truth. This was evident as tension rose and Jaggi was forced to push the start, which resulted in two painful disqualifications.
Ghibaudo’s superior timing earned her 9 victories from the 15 races completed against Jaggi’s uncharacteristically meagre 3 bullets.
The real excitement in women’s slalom are the contenders of the future with many young and exciting names rising to the fore, plus a wealth of local talent in the fleet. It was also pleasure to see Verena Fauster (F2 / Gaastra) recover well from surgery early in the season to finish consistently high enough to claim third overall.
Turkish TV celebrity Cagla Kubat (Starboard / North) may well show at more PWA events after her impressive 4th place finish which was grafted through speed and cunning turning skill to entertain the excited local crowds.
Ghibaudo’s victory here must have cut deep into Jaggi, but by the same token Jaggi will be amped-up and excited by the prospect of the 2008 season already. The Swiss multiple world champion’s second place here was enough to secure her the 2007 women’s slalom title. She’ll lift that trophy at Sylt to mark an important leap forward for the women’s sport.
The tour switches it’s focus back to the waves next with a trip to yet another new location for the 2007 Mormaii Ibiraquera Wave Contest, PWA World Cup near Florianópolis in Southern Brazil. Until then we thank our Turkish hosts for a spectacular event and look forward to returning for many seasons to come.
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Men’s Final Top 10 Standings after 10 Races
1. Antoine Albeau (Starboard / NeilPryde)
2. Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1 / North)
3. Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / MauiSails)
4. Pieter Bijl (Fanatic / NeilPryde)
5. Finian Maynard (F2 / NeilPryde)
6. Peter Volwater (F2 / North)
7. Micah Buzianis (JP / NeilPryde)
8. Steve Allen (Tabou / Gaastra)
9. Patrik Diethelm (F2 / North)
10. Cyril Moussilmani (Fanatic / North)
Women’s Top 5 Final Standings after 15 races
1. Valerie Ghibaudo (Tabou)
2. Karin Jaggi (F2 / North)
3. Verena Fauster (F2 / Gaastra)
4. Cagla Kubat (Starboard / North)
5. Marta Hlavaty
© PWA / Brian McDowell