The stage is set for a classic Grand Slam event.
The 2002 PWA world tour once again returns to the Friesian Island of Sylt for the wave/race Grand Slam event and Bacardi Party week.
The famous North Sea venue boasts one of the biggest events of the year with by far the largest infrastructure of hospitality tents, bars and food stalls stretching for over 1km along the immaculate promenade. Every beach activity is represented and available to the thousands of visitors who flock to the town each year. This weeks emphasis for the spectators is head to the beach, sample the cuisine, especially the superb seafood and drink the Jever beer. Watch the best windsurfers in the world, then party till dawn in the infamous Hanger 401, this year courtesy of Bacardi.
It was registration day here in Westerland yesterday and this alone is a time consuming task for the organizers with over 120 racers and a full fleet of wave sailors .The equipment tent has been extended by 100m2 to cope with the extra equipment for racing which now holds in excess of $2,000,000 worth of equipment. Competitors for the combined PWA Race and Formula racing world championship and wave sailors for the 3rd Grand Prix event of the year mingled together in the equipment tent for the first time since Maui 2000. The contrast between Formula racing boards and their rigs and the wave equipment is quite amazing, everything from 50cm wide 55ltr 230 wave boards to the massive 100cm wide Formula boards are being prepared.
Top seeded PWA racers Steve Allen (Fanatic), Micah Buzianis (Mistral/ North), and Poland's (Wojtek Brzozowski (Starboard/ Neil Pryde) are set to do battle with several multi discipline sailors including no1 wave seed Kevin Pritchard (Bic/Gaastra) who will be keen to get on to the podium in racing after his promising 5th position in Poland. The multi-tasking (wave/ freestyle/racing) pride of France, Antoine Albeau (AHD/Neil Pryde), will undoubtedly be a force to reckon with also.
No.2 seed Lucy Horwood (AHD/ Gaastra) is hoping to recover from a bout of sickness in time for first possible start tomorrow to really compete against Dorota Straszewska (Starboard/ Neil Pryde) in Sylt's changeable and dramatic conditions.
The women's wave fleet also looks set to be hotly contested between Daida Ruano Moreno (Mistral/North) and last years winner here, Karin Jaggi (F2/Arrows) who is fired up to repeat last years performance.
Speedsailing and racing giant Finian Maynard (Gaastra) returns to the racing scene and is looking forward to the rougher conditions that suit his powerhouse style, he is always capable of causing some upsets! Another sailor competing in both disciplines and certain to cause a stir in the waves is 1996 wave world champion Patrice Belbeoch (Neil Pryde), returning to PWA wave for the first time since Gran Canaria 2000.
The Wave fleet has been unusually dogged by injuries this year, a good indication of just how radical the discipline is. Francisco Goya (Fanatic/Arrows) returns after his pre Pozo foot injury, which prevented him competing. Most notable absence is current world wave champion Bjorn Dunkerbeck (Proof/ Neil Pryde) who is still recovering from a nasty self-inflicted harpoon gun accident whilst spear fishing in Western Australia. The spear went in to his lower leg and out of the bottom of his foot! Jason Polokow (JP/ Neil Pryde) remains on the broken list along with Iballa Ruano Moreno (Mistral/North).
Yesterday afternoons opening ceremony was an impressive spectacle with 150 windsurfers from 25 country's parading along Westerland's sea front before Sylt's larger than ever crowds. With a variable forecast for the next couple of days all the competitors were eagerly awaiting the decision from race director Klaus Michel at today's 10.00am skippers meeting. Racing or Waves? With freshening breeze and a stormy and foreboding sky its anybody's guess and as usual he's keeping his lips tightly sealed! The magnetic lure of the party hanger may still be strong enough to tempt some of the sailors away from their beauty sleep and into wind sacrifice mode!
With all preparations completed the stage is set for a classic Grand Slam event.