Another different picture greeted the sailors yesterday morning at the 8.30 skippers meeting. The swell increased but the strong winds backed off just too much to enable the wave sailors on the water.
Some of the keener competitors did however manage a little dawn patrol action to stretch the muscles and clear the head.
During the last three days of racing, most of the dedicated wave sailors could be found on top of the dunes. Equipped with binoculars, telescopes and any kind of lens available to command the best view of the racecourse. The racing has been gripping viewing with different courses set close to the beach, challenging conditions, carnage in the shore break and protests a plenty.
By one p.m. the wind had returned, but only enough to start an 8th Formula race. Very tricky conditions with a large swell, big shore break and a little rain accompanying a building 8 to 10 knot breeze seemed perfect for the women to start their next race.
Race 8 - Women
Once again Dorota Staszewska POL (Starboard/Neil Pryde) was leading the way for the first lap and was looking good was for her seventh consecutive victory but the wind was continuing to build. Lucy Horwood GBR (AHD/Gaastra) relished the rough weather and showed a return to her early form and took the lead on the second beat and held on for a comfortable first. Ahead of Dorota and Jenny Le Bihan FRA (Starboard/ Neil Pryde) in third.
"It's about time I got it together, I like it, the rougher the better. More wind and more waves please."
"There were too many big waves in the course for me today! "
Women's rankings after 8 races
1. Dorota Staszewska (Starboard/Neil Pryde) 4.2 pts
2. Lucy Horwood (AHD/Gaastra) 10.4 pts
3. Christine Johnston (Starboard/ Neil Pryde) 14 pts
4. Jenny Le Bihan (Starboard/Neil Pryde) 25 pts
Race 8 - Men
With 17 knots at the start and the wind shifting up to 10 degrees, everyone was pushing hard to the line and the subsequent general recall was inevitable. Patrice Belbeoc'h (Neil Pryde) was unlucky to suffer the disqualification and was sent back to the beach along with six other premature starters.
The wait for the second attempt at starting saw Kevin Pritchard (Bic/Gaastra) also returning to the beach to switch up to his 12.0m rig that was successful for him yesterday. He made it back out to the start line just in time for the yellow flag and stormed straight off to the windward mark with a 50 meter lead over Sam Ireland (Starboard/North). By the inside mark and then a flat out reach through breaking surf to the leeward mark, Kevin had extended his lead out to 150 meters. The chasing pack saw Michael Polanowski POL (Starboard/ Neil Pryde) trading places with Jimmy Diaz (Neil Pryde). Peter Bijl (JP/Neil Pryde) sailing really well wearing a 5 kg TV head camera making fourth. Antoine Albeau (AHD/ Neil Pryde) suffered another poor start and was fighting his way up through the fleet to end the first lap in thirteenth.
Antoine never gives up though and it was pedal to the metal all the way to the finish, by which time he had overhauled another nine sailors to come fourth. A massive recovery by any standards. Still battling it out for second and third were Jimmy Diaz and Michael Polanowski who reestablished second on the last leg and held on to the line. However it was Kevin Pritchard all the way to the line, sailing faultlessly and by a convincing margin of over 300 meters, thus securing his second straight victory to close the gap on Antoine Albeau. A great performance from the 19 year old Polish rider in second who is training partner and protégé of Wojtek Brzozowski (Starboard/Neil Pryde), who relished the conditions, and likened them to his home beach of Leba (last months PWA race venue) on the Baltic Sea.
" I really enjoyed the light and lumpy conditions, I can pump and move the board really easily. I had a good race against Jimmy and had the edge on the downwind leg."
Jimmy Diaz posted his best result so far and looks set to break into the top 10 after a disappointing start to the contest.
" I didn't change anything with my equipment but I just stopped being a pussy on the start line. I was hanging back too much and getting caught in the pack. You have to push hard in a big fleet like this or you are nowhere."
Kevin Pritchard was the man of the moment and is the only sailor apart from Antoine Albeau to win more than one race. With the gap separating the top two now reduced to 4.1 points the battle between them is going to be intense.
" I wasn't even thinking about changing my sail. I felt the wind drop a touch and just automatically went back to the beach to get the big one. It gave me about a meter more than everyone else which was such an advantage."
Men's Rankings after 8 races
1. Antoine Albeau (AHD/Neil Pryde) 11.1 pts.
2. Kevin Pritchard (Bic/Gaastra) 15.4 pts.
3. Steve Allen (Fanatic) 23.7 pts.
4. Phil McGain (Gaastra) 24.7 pts
5. Wojtek Brzozowski (Starboard/ Neil Pryde) 26.7 pts
6. Patrice Belbeoc'h (Neil Pryde) 32 pts.