Dawn brought comparatively calmer conditions to the beaches of Costa Teguise yesterday, as the 2004 Lanzarote PWA Grand Slam moved into the Super X phase of the contest.
After the massive waves and nuclear winds of the previous four days of Freestyle, the smoother seas came as welcome relief for the Super X sailors, waiting in anticipation on the beach. But with logo to mast high sets still occasionally rolling through the course area, anything was possible.
The first heat blasted across the starting line at 11.00. Early promise came in the form of Matt PRITCHARD (Gaastra), winning the first heat clearly, with other highly ranked sailors such as Nik BAKER (Mistral, North) Cyril MOUSSILMANI (Fanatic) and Robby SWIFT (JP, Neil Pryde) also making it through their first round heats. Current PWA Super X World Tour leader, Antoine ALBEAU (AHD, Neil Pryde) did enough to qualify with Kauli SEADI (AHD, Naish) also making it through winning his first heat.
The semi finals of round one included a diverse mix of top racing and hardcore freestyle talent, with both Pritchard's advancing to the final alongside the likes of Douglas DIAZ (Fanatic, North) and Diony GUADAGNINO (Neil Pryde). The one shock was the failure of Albeau to make it into the top eight after finishing a disappointing 6th in his semi final.
As the final of the first round shot out of the starting blocks, Seadi, Swift and Pritchard led the pack to the first mark. Having blasted out through the logo high waves, each performing a mandatory forward loop on the way, it was Swift who now took a clear lead. With victory in his sights, the young Englishman screamed through his now trademark, one-handed planing spock, to leave just the 2 obstacles to clear. Two faultless jumps later, Swift was home and dry taking the first round ahead of Seadi and Matt PRITCHARD.
With the swell backing off, it was decided to add more obstacles to the course and an extra jump was put in place on the first reach to test the competitors control yet further. The early heats saw no great surprises with all the usual suspects pushing through to the semis. Notable by their presence in the semi finals of round 2 were Ricardo CAMPELLO (JP, Neil Pryde) and local Canarian Marcos PEREZ.
Matt PRITCHARD failed to make the final after going over early on the start in the first semi final, leaving the way a little more open for Seadi and Diaz who took the first two final slots ahead of Peter VOLWATER (Arrows) and Victor FERNANDEZ (Fanatic). The second semi saw Campello - on fine form following his disastrous opening round - crossing the line clear ahead of a hard charging Kevin PRITCHARD who qualified for the final alongside Albeau and a very solid looking Swift.
The elder Pritchard, Matt, was determined to make up for his earlier error and streaked to victory in the losers final clear ahead of Cyril MOUSSILMANI and a much improved Vidar JENSEN (North).
The final however was a battle of the big four. Pritchard (Kevin), Albeau, Swift and Campello fought hard edging ahead of each other in a constant battle for the lead. Eventually it was Campello's incredible control that crept ahead of the outright speed of Pritchard to finish first ahead of the American Super X newcomer. Swift scraped ahead of Volwater and Albeau in the closing meters of the course to take third and maintain his position in the overall event ranking.
After a short break for lunch, it was straight into round three. Same course, same sailors but considerably more fluky winds set the stage for the last race of the day.
Once again it was Swift and Campello that seemed to dominate. The lighter conditions were making life much harder for all concerned and it certainly seemed to be the bigger sailors who were suffering with Kevin PRITCHARD and Antoine ALBEAU bombing out in the first round. Matt Pritchard was determined to keep the family name alive and was hot on Campello's heels all the way to the final. Swift also landed safely in the top eight, never dropping below second in any of the qualifying heats.
As a gift from the gods, the wind increased slightly to leave all the eight finalists fully powered up as they hit the course. Swift and Campello were as controlled as ever but it was Pritchard who utterly dominated the third final winning by a considerable margin. Volwater kept his nerve and used all of his experience to stay ahead of the young pretenders in second with Campello finishing a third behind Swift who managed a sufficient fourth.
The first three rounds have provided a flying start to the first PWA Super X in Lanzarote but, with a further three days competition remaining Robby SWIFT will have to fight hard to hold his ground.