Round 3 of the PWA World Tour Slalom is all set to kick off next week in the beautiful Costa Brava region of Catalunya, Spain.
Set on the Ballena Allegre Camping resort inside the Bay of Roses, this is a slalom sailing paradise ready to test the worlds best.
Leading the tour going into Round 3 is the 2008 World Champion, Antoine Albeau (JP/NeilPryde). Having dominated slalom for the last 3 years, the big Frenchman is clearly still hungry for victory after finishing 2nd in Austria (Round 1) and 1st in Korea (Round 2). However Costa Brava can serve up a real mix of conditions, testing everyone and forcing mistakes.
If there are mistakes, you can be sure Bjorn Dunkerbeck (Starboard/Severne) will be there to capitalise on them. He has more World titles under his belt than any other windsurfer in history and will be determined to get back to his rightful place on top of the podium.
Currently lying in 3rd place is Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (Exocet/MauiSails) from Argentina. Gonzo is one of the hottest of the younger generation slalom sailors and is finally starting to put in consistent enough performances to get the results he deserves. If the winds are light next week we could see him move up even higher.
Just behind the top 3 are a whole host of names keen for their piece of the prize purse. Finian Maynard (RRD/NeilPryde) has put speed sailing on the back burner to focus more on slalom. A lighter more agile physique means early planing and better gybes and at the moment it seems to be paying off. Kevin Pritchard (Starboard/Gaastra/DaKine) in 5th position can be lethally dangerous when things go right for him. Despite a poor start to the season by his standards, nobody would be surprised to see him come out on top next week.
Closely following Kevin are the next generation, with Ross Williams (Tabou/Gaastra) being the one to watch. Ross had his first win in the Austria event, but finished down the fleet in Korea. Will he be back on top in Costa Brava? We then have Cyril Moussilmani (Starboard/North Sails) from France. With new boards this year he is more motivated than ever. Ben Van Der Steen (Exocet/Simmer Sails) has rocket speed and when he can get the rest of his race tactics right can beat anyone. Fellow Dutchman, Peter Volwater (F2/MauiSails) is a solid performer, who is really consistent in all conditions. If we get a mix of winds he could easily rise to the top.
Finishing off the top 10 is PWA Chairman Jimmy Diaz (Starboard/North Sails). When not representing the sailors for the PWA, Jimmy is head tester for North Sails and you can be sure his gear is going as fast as he can make it. If the legs are short and there are enough gybes for him he can be very dangerous.
Other sailors to watch include Micah Buzianis (JP/NeilPryde) who missed round 1 through injury. He came back strong with 2nd place in Korea and being team mate to Antoine Albeau, you can guarantee he will be going very fast. Julien Quentel (RRD/NeilPryde) rocked up in Austria with new boards and shocked the fleet with a consistent performance that saw him take 4th. Having missed Korea however he will need to step up next week to get his year back on track. Watch out for him for sure.
Top of the women’s ranking after 1 round in Korea, is last years runner up Valérie Ghibaudo (Tabou/Loft Sails). After a solid performance in Asia, she looks determined to get that top slot. As always her main rival is Karin Jaggi (F2/Severne). With multiple world titles to her name in all disciplines, Karin must be one of the all time best windsurfers ever. Certainly Valérie will be watching her closely all next week.
Like the men’s fleet, there is now a new generation of younger riders that are starting to make a serious impact. Currently lying in 3rd place is French ripper Alice Arutkin (Starboard/North Sails). At only 17 years old, Alice is showing real promise in all areas of windsurfing, but the racing is where she is closest to the top at the moment. Hot on her heels is last year’s 3rd place finisher Sarah Hebert (Starboard/Naish Sails). Also from France she comes from a formula background so for sure her tactics will be spot on. Finishing off the top 5 is Turkish rider, Lena Erdil (Starboard/Loft Sails). After an impressive debut last year, she returns fired up and knows what is needed to get to the top. Who will come out on top this week?
Lastly Costa Brava also attracts a whole range of competitors from all over Europe. The great sailing and perfect set up makes this a top spot for rookie racers. Will there be any upsets from the lower ranks? Expect to see some new names in both the men’s and women’s fleets.
It all kicks off on Tuesday and with a forecast of 12 kts, they should be straight into action on day one.