Antoine Albeau (JP/NeilPryde) will leave the event site with his head held high, after claiming victory in one of the most daring and stunning displays of slalom in windsurfing’s history.
A morning of shifting winds and abandoned races gave today’s event an electrifying suspense. Early on, the wind speed ranged from 5 – 35 knots, whilst the fleet tried to complete the primary heats. After lunch, however, the conditions switched to create a perfect 40-knot offshore machine, and the racecourse was redesigned to create an epic battle ground.
There was only one round of racing today, yet the quality of the afternoon’s action will be remembered for years to come. The offshore wind meant that the course could be designed so the sailors would hurtle towards the huge crowds for the crucial and competitive first gybe mark. From the beach, it was possible to make out every detail of the determination, and fear, that showed on the sailors’ faces; not to mention the frightening speed at which they competed in the high-wind extravaganza.
Antoine Albeau (JP/NeilPryde) battled like a champion throughout the day. He had his work cut out for him, after being caught in the dead wind of the pack in the semi final. Despite rounding the opening mark in eighth place, he showed unbelievable speed and skill to overtake four sailors on one reach, and finished the heat in second place.
Then came the final. He was fifth over the start line, but made it up to third at the first mark, passing Kevin Pritchard (Starboard/Gaastra/Dakine) who suffered an enormous early crash. Over the next two reaches, he blasted past Bjorn Dunkerbeck (Starboard/Severne) and had a grueling battle with Josh Angulo (Angulo/MauiSails/Dakine) before passing the final mark in first place. The great Frenchman celebrated his win with an enormous jump over the finish boat, which received a huge cheer from his adoring spectators.
Josh Angulo (Angulo/MauiSails/Dakine) had yet another spectacular day, finishing the final in a solid second position. Angulo led all of his heats from the earliest rounds, his perfect start line timing giving him a crucial advantage over his competitors.
Continuing his recent success, Cyril Moussilmani (Starboard/North Sails) performed brilliantly in his heats, and qualified for the elite Winner’s final comfortably. His success was crowned when he over took Dunkerbeck in an immense sprint to the finish line in the final, to take third place. This is an even greater achievement as Dunkerbeck was firing today, at times looking like the fastest man on the water.
Ross Williams (Tabou/Gaastra), Patrick Diethelm (F2/North Sails), Micah Buzianis (JP/NeilPryde), and Ben Van Der Steen (Exocet/Simmer Style) maintained their current success, each of them battling hard in the ultimate heat of the day. Diethelm often won the crowd’s support thanks to his blistering straight-line speed, which often allowed him to pass the majority of the fleet on the opening reach, and hit the first mark in clear water, in a commanding position.
Matt Pearch (Fanatic/North Sails), Robby Swift (JP/NeilPryde) and Andrea Rosati (RRD/NeilPryde) all enjoyed the contest today, and Pearch will be especially thrilled after winning the second semi final by a solid margin. The British sailor seems at home when the winds are at their strongest, and he will hope for similar conditions tomorrow.
Disaster struck for the excellent Peter Volwater (F2/MauiSails), Finian Maynard (RRD/NeilPryde) and Benoit Moussilmani (Starboard/Simmer Style) this afternoon, when huge catapults cost them dearly. During the first semi final, both Volwater and Maynard were leagues ahead of their opposition, yet both wiped out, leaving them stuck in the loser’s final. Moussilmani’s crash cost him the first place spot in the losers final, and he was forced to return to the beach with a DNF. The huge crashes really added to the intense excitement that was felt on the beach today, maximizing the day’s drama.
After such a thrilling day, it looks as though the World Champion may well have done enough to secure another event title. It is the top five who will need to focus tomorrow to maximize their points from this epic contest. Maynard, Pritchard, Moussilmani and Buzianis are all separated by just one point, and so any additional races will be crucial.