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4 October 2007, 11:03 am
PWA Stars Sizzle At Sylt
Action from Sylt
Action from Sylt

PWA Colgate World Cup 2007
Sylt, Germany

Sylt's September fiesta sizzled for an end-of-season showdown of wave, slalom and freestyle as the PWA came to town.
From 20-30 September the German Island of Westerland hosted it's annual extravaganza for the masses of crowds at the town of Sylt's Brandenburger Strand.

For over 25 years professional windsurfing's settle end of season titles and witness spectacular action from this famous seaside resorts' sandy beach and temperamental north sea weather.

Sylt 2007 was the final event of the season for the women's wave series, and the concluding episode of both the men's freestyle and men's slalom racing championships. Also on the agenda was the pen-ultimate stop for the men's wave sailing tour.

Men's Wave Sailing

This year the event kicked off early with a promising forecast motivating the crew to kick-start the wave sailing on registration day. With some valuable progress in the single elimination made the event was on the boil already. Word of an early start also had Sylt's faithful masses flocking to the beach in their droves as the first round heats of the men's wave contest kick off.

20-25 knots and up to head high surf got competition underway late in the afternoon. An 8-minute heat duration was set with just one jump and one ride to count from each competitor.

Even during the warm-ups the infamous Sylt shore dump claimed a bag full of masts.

Timing is everything at this bone-crunching, shallow bottomed beach break, and that skill was exactly what allowed those who made it into the second round to advance. Six riders made it through to the second round before the wind shut down and competition was called off for the day.

Heat of the day was definitely between Welsh-based rider Phil HORROCKS (JP/NeilPryde) and Tenerife ex-pat Dany BRUCH (F2/Gaastra) who proved popular with the local crowd.

Bruch notched the highest jump score of the day with a massive backloop whilst HORROCKS' brave and well-aimed hits on the inside sections earned him superior wave scores, and subsequently the victory.

Switch to Slalom

The organizer switched disciplines over the weekend to treat the weekend crowds to some fantastic slalom racing.

Team Fanatic's furious featherweight Arnon DAGAN (Fanatic/NeilPryde) took the early lead on a frustrating days racing for the big guns.

Light wind specialists Australian Steve ALLEN (Tabou/Gaastra) and youngster Julien QUENTEL (starboard/NeilPryde) also drive home their advantage as the opening volleys of the slalom shooting match began in just 10 or so knots of wind.

For the mid-week section of the contest Sylt played it's typical four-seasons-in-one-day act and fluctuated between bright sunshine and howling wind and showers.

Men's Freestyle Single Elimination

Straight up on Monday morning Jose ESTREDO (Fanatic/North) stormed back into the freestyle title hunt as a volatile North Sea flicked the switch to turn on a raging tempest.

Five riders were in the frame for the title as the day dawned ands all the top seeds advanced through the first couple of rounds until world #6 Anthony RUENES (Tabou/Gaastra) was knocked-out by Taty FRANS (Starboard/MauiSails).

The tour leader Kiri THODE (Starboard/Gaastra) was next to fall at the hands of fellow Bonaire big-hitter Tonky FRANS (F2/Gaastra).

FRANS was on a roll and had to sail tough and ignored the implications his victory had on his young friends lead in the rankings. FRANS' path of destruction also dented the hopes of the last event's winner Marcilio BROWNE (Mistral/Gaastra) from taking the lead in the rankings. The Caribbean style master axed the young Brazilian in the semi-finals relegating him to the loser's final.

BROWNE had full support in the driving rain on the beach from his mentor Nik BAKER (Mistral/North) and the Mistral team boss, but suffered after slicing his foot, to leave him reliant on a double elimination to repair his hopes after Ricardo CAMPELLO (JP/NeilPryde) defeated him in the loser's final.

Another squall blew-up for the final to really test ESTREDO and FRANS' skills and stamina. In truth both riders crashed, burned and wrestled in the gnarly choppy conditions.

Typically though, the young Venezuelan, who was the youngest PWA champion in history last season, threw down to his trademark move, the one-handed burner, to leave FRANS stunned and the judges in little doubt as to who'd won.

The title race suddenly became even more intense. Amongst the many scenarios possible the best chance of displacing ESTREDO rested with Kiri THODE who only needed to climb two positions to reclaim the trophy for Bonaire.

However if BROWNE could stem RHODE's progress up the double ladder he'd be the new king. Needless to say Gollito spent the rest of the event in the shadows praying that for no further wind so his result from the single would count and award him the crown.

Women's Wave Single Elimination

The next day dawned with swell and wind to reward the patience of the women's wave sailing fleet.

It was immediately apparent from the early heats that careful wave selection would prove critical for success.

Cross-to cross-onshore wind from the left and punchy head high shore break waves gave the ladies the perfect canvass to showcase their skills.

Right from the start it became clear that Nayra ALONSO (Fanatic/Severne) was revelling in the conditions and that Steffi WAHL (F2/Gaastra) would also be a threat.

The early heats progressed without drama until Wahl caused a major upset when she defeated tour leader Daida MORENO (North) in round two.

WAHL displayed superior timing and rhythm to tear the chunky swell to pieces and take a critical victory to make the German crowds truly proud.

The second round also saw ALONSO take her first major scalp in the form of Karin JAGGI (F2/North). JAGGI sailed to her normal high standards but on this occasion was simply outclassed by ALONSO who looked untouchable with her aggressive approach.

To maximize time in the fading conditions, the organizers opted for a four-women final between Junk NAGOSHI (F2 /Simmer) - who'd accounted for experienced competitor Anne-Marie REICHMANN (Naish/Naish) in the semis - the 2006 World Champion Iballa MORENO (North), ALONSO, and local favourite WAHL.

ALONSO, aged 28, continued her good form in the final along with her fellow Gran Canarian rival Iballa MORENO.

Wahl was also looking dangerous but like NAGOSHI her work rate was lower, and after MORENO fell a couple of times it wasn't long before the onlookers were convinced they were seeing a well deserved victory.

ALONSO's vertical, destructive attack was unequalled and she took the win by a 6-1 verdict amongst the judges.

As the weekend approached the wind allowed a mix of slalom and freestyle to entertain the holiday crowds

Back-to-Back Slalom

2006 racing champ Antoine ALBEAU (Starboard/NeilPryde) was slow out of the blocks in race 2. The Frenchman appeared seemingly lethargic after already sealing the 2007 crown allowing DAGAN the early event lead.

A fourth place finish in race 3 didn't deter the champ who went on to destroy everyone else later in the afternoon. Ahead of ALBEAU in race 2 were some of the day's other form players - Bjorn DUNKERBECK (T1/North), who'd arrived here determined to bag the final podium slot for 2007, Kevin PRITCHARD (Starboard/MauiSails), who'd secured second overall and Dutch speed merchant Pieter BIJL (Fanatic/NeilPryde).

DUNKERBECK stormed out all guns blazing for this second day of racing but his performance faded in comparison to ALBEAU's massacre. Kevin PRITCHARD also recovered well over the day after missing the race 3 final, but dug deep to record another third place and a critical second place finish in race 4 to take second overall in the event standings.

ALBEAU's resurgence was immediate and lethal. Three back-to-back race wins followed where the champ fully stamped down his authority, taking a crucial and lasting psychological victory for everyone to carry with them far into next season.

The day started with Ross WILLIAMS (Tabou/Gaastra) topping the leader board after a useful fourth in race 2, but, as the first discard came into play after race 4 he slipped to fourth overall and allowed DUNKERBECK and PRITCHARD to leapfrog him into the remaining podium slots.

Men's Freestyle Double Elimination

The pressure gauge went off the scale as the late afternoon session eliminated the final title hopefuls one by one as the light and time to complete further competition faded.

The first key loss was that of Kiri THODE, who touched down in Germany in pole position and only had to advance two positions in the ladder to take the trophy back to Bonaire.

But the youngster, fresh from excluding TRAVERSA, stumbled during his heat against ruthless Gaastra team mate Anthony RUENES (Tabou/Gaastra) who's power moves left THODE reeling in the dusk shadows.

RUENES' fatigue soon showed however when he went down at then hands of the partisan German crowds favourite, Andre PASKOWSKI (F2/North) who'd enjoyed the momentum he'd built from the second round.

It was PASKOWSKI's turn to feel the effects of tiredness next when he came against Browne who destroyed him with a superior range of power moves and precision manoeuvres.

The tension became unbearable immediately as Browne faced-up to CAMPELLO for a do or die finale to the day. In near darkness the two went out for an all-out conflict to settle the title.

If CAMPELLO won he'd rely on a chance to finish the double elimination and would have to beat ESTREDO, and if BROWNE won he'd have enough points to secure the silverware providing an unlikely second double elimination is run.

Looking at the time left and the forecasts this was almost impossible and so all eyes were focused on the brooding North Sea twilight for the winner.

BROWNE seemed once more to be on a different level and landed almost every move he tried. CAMPELLO came back fighting hard at the end but had fallen too often on the technical tricks and air moves to win.

Frantic Final Day

The last chance Sunday started with the conclusion of the freestyle double eliminations. Although BROWNE had stolen the thunder by taking the title, there event crown was still up for grabs.

First up it was BROWNE who faced Bonaire trick specialist Tonky FRANS (F2/Gaastra) for a shot at the final against single elimination winner Jose ESTREDO (Fanatic/North).

In difficult choppy conditions FRANS' score sheets marked him down for repetition but his technical skill and style impressed the judges enough for him to defeat the new world champ.

FRANS came out in the final super fired-up but the conditions limited both him and ESTREDO's ability to pull off their top-drawer tricks.

Eventually a stylish, one-handed regular stance Chacho, right under the crowd's noses gave the Caribbean stylist the win and so, under the double elimination format, a re-sail to settle the event title was necessary.

This time Estredo was not settling for second. Immediately the youngster floated an amazingly high and tweaked shaka in very marginal winds. 'Gollito' then killed off FRANS' hopes completely when he bust out his signature move, the 'Burner', and a perfect one-handed Chacho of his own.

GOLLITO took to the stage later in his familiar first place to restore pride after effectively handing BROWNE the title back in Fuerteventura, but without doubt the 18 year old will simmer in the off season and explode back with a vengeance in 2008 for sure.

Final Slalom Race

Next on the hectic agenda was slalom race 6. Onshore wind meant an exciting 4-buoy course was set winding back towards the beach with a shoreline finish within touching distance of the die-hard onlookers on the beach.

Fresh westerly breeze and rolling swell made for exciting racing with crashes and catapults galore as the racers streaked along the fast downwind sections.

Bjorn DUNKERBECK (T1/North) thanked his lucky stars as he'd just fallen and dropped many places at the first gybe and Ross WILLIAMS (Tabou/Gaastra), who led the event at one stage, cursed his bad luck after he crossed prematurely at the re-start and earned a disqualification.

Once the re-sail was underway Antoine ALBEAU displayed amazing speed to undertake Kevin PRITCHARD (Starboard/MauiSails) along the first reach.

With second overall for the season and likely podium finish here, the American wisely opted to play it safe along the rest of the course despite allowing Arnon DAGAN (Fanatic/NeilPryde) to sneak around him at the first mark and DUNKERBECK to outpace him further along the track.

ALBEAU took a fourth consecutive race victory ahead of DAGAN, who'd suffered a rib injury earlier in the event, and DUNKERBECK, who's third place here sealed him third overall for the season and second overall for the event.

ALBEAU's victory in Germany was the icing on the cake for a champion who's blitzed all of his competition in unquestionable fashion over the past two seasons.

The Frenchman stepped ashore the Island of Westerland for this regatta with the 2007 trophy guaranteed to be his, but unrelentingly kept his foot on the gas to leave a lasting impression in his rival's minds for the 2008 campaign.

The focus then turned to the men's wave sailing single elimination - the only discipline without a result so far. Sadly conditions were still too marginal and after a short period on standby the organizers opted to run an expression session instead to entertain the excited audience.

Out with a Bang

Sylt's famous closing ceremony went-off in typical style with fireworks, anthems, emotions and celebrations shooting sky high. Three world championship crowns were dished-out on top of 4 event winner trophies for the winners to cherish forever. The organizers have a contract until 2010 to keep this spectacle returning and as the action just keeps on coming it's easy to see why.

Event Website - www.worldcupsylt.de
PWA World Tour - www.pwaworldtour.com

PWA/Brian McDowell (As Amended By ISAF)
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