Antoine ALBEAU (AHD, Neil Pryde) continues to lead here in Leucate. Another day of strong winds has provided conditions for top level action including new course formats and even bigger jumps.
Round 6 of this, the first PWA Super X World Cup of 2004, got underway at 11.30 this morning in solid 35+ knot winds. After 5 extremely successful rounds it was decided to introduce new challenges for the sailors in the form of a meter high obstacle and a new motor cross style "whoops" section of small obstacles set close together.
The first casualty of the new course was UK's Nik BAKER (Mistral, North) who mistimed his approach to the high jump and crashed down hard on the far side of the 1-meter high obstacle and out of round 6. Most sailors managed to acquire the extra altitude needed to get over the new jump, but other Bakers was not the only high ranking scalp to be taken, with Robby SWIFT (JP, Neil Pryde) and jumpmaster Vidar JENSEN (North) also falling foul of the new hurdle in the losers final.
Holland's Pieter BIJL (Fanatic, Neil Pryde) was the shooting star of the final, blasting away from the start and leading all the way to the second duck gybe where he unfortunately caught the top of his mast on the mark and exploded into the water allowing Matt PRITCHARD (Gaastra) to sneak through into the lead. Pritchard held firm, but a grand battle now ensued, between Campello, Bijl and Albeau as they traded spocks and crashes, each desperately trying to keep a nose ahead of the others. Eventually solid maneuvers from Bijl and Campello kept them ahead of Albeau who finished fourth, just ahead of Julien TABOULET (JP, Neil Pryde) in fifth.
After a break for lunch and some much-needed warmth, Round 7 began at 14.00. The early heats ran without incident and once again the same names battled their way through the obstacle course to find their slot on the start line for the finals. The outstanding style award in round 7 went to Pieter Bijl after he performed a perfect forward loop over the 1-meter jump. Taboulet narrowly missed out on the final after he crashed and burned on the high jump and it was only through good piloting that Baker avoided landing on the submerged Frenchman. Seemingly motivated by his failure to reach the top eight, Taboulet pushed hard and held off all challenges to win the losers final and take 9th in the round.
The final listed like a who's who of modern windsurfing. Swift, Campello, Pritchard, Baker, Volwater and of course Albeau were all there joined this time by Martin Van Geenhoven and Sylvain Moussilmani. Pritchard flew off the start line with Albeau in hot pursuit carrying an enormous 5.7m sail in the gusty conditions. Swift was chasing hard, with Campello and Volwater, but Baker was left playing catch up after falling on the start line. Pritchard's control over the massive obstacles was perfect, but Albeau's speed allowed him to close the gap on every straight. The 30 year old American's luck finally ran out on the last leg, as he went down hard on his final spock and Albeau, with perfect composure, span his oversized gear right through the maneuver to leave Pritchard flailing behind in second and Swift close behind in third.
Round 8 saw slightly gustier winds than earlier in the day making equipment selection much harder and more critical for the sailors. Albeau seemed to be the man with winning arms as his amazing strength allowed him to carry an even bigger sail at 6.2m, which considering other sailors were still on 4.7m, is pretty impressive. Unfortunately for the event leader, the wind filled in for the semi final and he found himself drastically overpowered at the first turn. As he tried to hang on through the first duck gybe the boom was ripped from his hands and he went down hard. Despite his outstanding ability the gusty winds proved too much and he was forced to settle for the losers final.
The losers final itself was hard fought, but with the event leader to contend with, the best the likes of Nicholas Akgazciyan (AHD, Neil Pryde) and Cyril Moussilmani (Fanatic) could hope for was a second place reservation.
With Albeau already confirmed in ninth place, Baker, Swift, Taboulet and Pritchard could sense the opportunity to close the overall gap on the leader. Campello, who had started badly at the event, could also see his chance. Pritchard was out of the blocks like an Olympic sprinter with Taboulet close behind. Swift and Baker had disappointing starts but Swift soon caught up to put pressure on the leaders whilst Baker gradually worked his way through the fleet. Taboulet gave his all to try and outstrip Pritchard, but experience, training and pure talent won through to give Pritchard his second race win of the contest.
With 3 race wins and 2 second places, Albeau is now looking hard to beat - a solid testament to his incredible all round ability. However, with three rounds left he cannot afford to rest on his laurels, particularly in the company of those he shares the top ten with!
Top 5 After Round 8 and 2 Discards
1. F-192 Antoine ALBEAU (AHD, Neil Pryde)
2. US-10 Matt PRITCHARD (Gaastra)
3. K-89 Robby SWIFT (JP, Neil Pryde)
4. K-66 Nik BAKER (Mistral, North)
5. F-100 Julien TABOULET (JP, Neil Pryde)