Challenging conditions and an ample dose of surprises marked the start of competition in Fuerteventura, and set the scene for the forthcoming four days of race action.
First to christen the racecourse was the men’s fleet. The opening rounds tested the nerves of all involved, with the wind gusting from the minimum required 7 knots, all the way up to over 20 knots.
Returning to the Professional circuit after an 8-year break, Jamie Hawkins (Exocet, NeilPryde) was one of the day’s first casualties. He false started in the very first heat of the competition. Kurosh Kiani (Starboard) made the same mistake, meaning the pair failed to qualify for the semi final.
There was more upset in the opening round, when the fiercely competitive Josh Angulo (MauiSails, Dakine) struggled to dial into the fluky conditions, and ended up finishing last in heat two. Adding to the surprises, seasoned racers Ross Williams (Tabou, Gaastra) and Arnon Dagan (Fanatic, Gaastra) slipped up when they false started in heat four, denying them a chance to compete in the next round.
Moving on to the semi finals, Finian Maynard (RRD, NeilPryde) was robbed of a position in the race final after an unfortunate collision. “At the first mark I was coming in second behind Steve (Allen), doing a nice tight gybe, when Micah (Buzianis) came in from the side and T-boned me. I got fully taken out, and my sail went turtle as well, so I had no chance of catching the guys up. But what can I say, that’s racing you know”. Micah Buzianis (JP, NeilPryde, MFC) went on to take second place, behind Stave Allen (Tabou, Gaastra) in first.
In the second semi final, Ben Van Der Steen (Exocet, Simmer) failed to tune into the conditions, finishing uncharacteristically in last place.
Antoine Albeau (Starboard, NeilPryde) didn’t need much prompting to take the lead, and won by almost an entire reach, leaving Patrik Diethelm (F2, North Sails) to front up the chasing pack and ultimately claim second place.
The final was dominated by Albeau, who needed little more than the first reach before he sat untouched at the front of the fleet. In second place, Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (NeilPryde) pieced together a solid heat to fend off Micah Buzianis who was hot on his heels round marks three and four. A blistering final blast to the finish rewarded him with second, close behind, Buzianis took third. Padding out the top spots, Allen had a good start to the event to take fourth, and Albeau’s protégée Julien Quentel (Starboard, NeilPryde) crossed the line in fifth.
In the losers final, Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1, North Sails) made amends for a blunder in the semi finals, and took a convincing victory. Similarly, Van Der Steen also got to grips with conditions to recover with a second place finish, ahead of Ludovic Jossin (F2, The Loft) in third.
The women’s fleet completed two races over the course of the afternoon, which witnessed a return to form for Valerie Ghibaudo (Tabou, The Loft). The legendary French racer looked like she may have dropped off the pace, following a disappointing 7th place overall at the last women’s slalom event in the Costa Brava.
Not one to be underestimated, Ghibaudo dominated both races to claim back-to-back first place finishes. In a similar style, Lee Korzitz, racing in her second ever PWA slalom event, managed to muscle her way to finish second in both races. The feat puts rest to any rumors that her podium finish in the Costa Brava was a one off lucky result.
Sarah Hébert (Starboard, Naish) started well to take third position in her first race, but dropped down to seventh in the following bout. Conversely, Alice Arutkin (Starboard, North Sails) had a slow start, finishing in seventh, but picked up her game in race two to come home with a solid fourth place finish.
Freestylers Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard, NeilPryde) and Junko Nagoshi (Simmer, Dakine) made sure they left their mark on the day. Offringa nailed an impressive fourth place finish in her first race, and Nagoshi put the hammer down in race two, to walk away with third place.
A surprise result was Karin Jaggi (F2, North Sails), who kicked off the event with a shocking last place in the first race, and fifth in the second. The World Champion now sits in ninth place overall, and has work to do to climb back to her familiar ranks on the podium.
Sailor of the day
Taking the prestigious title of ‘sailor of the day’ is Kevin Mevissen (RRD, MFC). New to slalom prior to this event, and a total underdog, the Dutch freestyler claimed an impressive fourth place finish in his first ever slalom heat. He may well be one to watch as he gains experience in the discipline.