Yesterday started with a torrential downpour, followed by 4 hours of warm sunshine and light north-easterly winds. Stark contrast to the ominous weather forecast, which predicted a force 5 to 7 increasing to storm force 10!
Perfect wind strength for wave competition but not conducive to building the swell when blowing side off to offshore. Race director Klaus Michel's call at the skippers meeting could only go one way until the predicted heavy conditions actually arrived.
Racing was the word and by lunchtime 17 to 21 knots was being recorded in the course area accompanied by everyone's favourite liquid sunshine. The rain abated but the wind continued to build prior to the first start. Tackling Sylt's angry spiting shore break was a big enough challenge for most of the fleet and a significant quantity of laminated carbon was transformed into a splintered mess as mast after mast was demolished. .
Ladies first! The women's fleet got away cleanly & first to the windward mark was Geraldine Jambert FRA (Starboard), clear ahead of Dorota Staszewska POL (Starboard/ Neil Pryde) and Lucy Horwood GBR (AHD/Gaastra). Lucy Horwood took advantage of an uncharacteristic error by Dorota and forced her way to the front of the pack and kept going, pulling out a convincing lead by the downwind mark. With the ever-increasing breeze the girls looked remarkably comfortable on their 9.0m sails & 68cm fins. Lucy Horwood continued to extend her lead out to about 300m by the finish ahead of her racing nemesis, Dorota Staszewska and fellow Brit, Christine Johnston (Starboard/Neil Pryde) who pulled up to third.
"I was exhausted after rigging my three sails this morning and I feel so weak after the last few days of illness, I am amazed I made it round! I was so overpowered on my 9.0 but I managed to stay on and hold it together till the finish. I am so happy to win the first one. I definitely need to sleep now!"
"That was a really hard race, not just the wind, which must have been 30 knots but the waves were so unpredictable, I was flying most of the time so I made a mistake and Lucy got ahead."
The men's fleet got away after one general recall sent seven sailors back to the beach including local favourite Bernd Flessner (F2/ Neil Pryde). Bernd could only reflect, "well, its not exactly the best start I could have hoped for!"
First to the windward mark was Canadian Sam Ireland (Starboard/North) and held on for the first leg before being overhauled by the blur of Antoine Albeau (AHD/ Neil Pryde) on the limit on an 11.0 travelling at warp factor 6! There was no stopping Antoine who powered on, sailing flawlessly to victory. Back on the beach Antoine, in his usual modest manner had this to say: -
"That was probably the hardest race I have ever sailed, I was so overpowered on my 11.0 that I was totally flying on the upwind leg. I think I will have to change down for the next one. It is the best start I could have wished for"
Following Antoine with a characteristically solid performance was Micah Buzianis (Mistral/ North) and just to prove there is life in the old dog yet, PWA chairman and former racing world champion Phil McGain (Gaastra) stayed on his feet and held on to his 11.5m to muscle into third position. This was probably due to the pressure from his team-mate and PWA racing world champion and current Formula world champion, Kevin Pritchard (Bic/ Gaastra) who worked his way up to fourth. Then it was back to the beach for a quick bowl of soup and anything heavy you could eat to help compensate for ever freshening conditions.
With the wind now pushing 30 knots the race director Klaus Michel decided to call it a day for the women, much to Lucy Horwood's relief. No such respite for the men though and after some minor course alterations it was back out through that vicious shore break, which once again claimed its fair share of masts and booms.
Every sailor was now on their third choice and smallest registered sail, with some wishing they had the option of something smaller than 9.8m! Once again the mighty Antoine Albeau displayed awesome board speed and control to secure another bullet.
"That was definitely the hardest race I have ever sailed, I was so overpowered on my 9.8m2."
Familiar comments from the current PWA world freestyle champion! Without doubt an outstanding performance on the year's hardest day of racing.
Showing consistent form with a second position to add to his fifth from the first race was formula specialist, Poland's finest, Wojtek Brzozowski (Starboard/ Neil Pryde) who seemed to be comfortable with the rough weather. This was definitely a day for the big guys and they don't get much bigger than Finian Maynard who was starting to find top gear and thundered home in third. Muscle award for the day had to go to Micah Buzianis, who returned to the beach in fourth place, scratching his head and wondering where his port harness line had gone, sailing unhooked on one tack with a 9.9m in 30 knots and rough seas has to be the biggest work out going! By now the wind had increased even more and many of the wave sailors were out getting acclimatized to the conditions on 4.5m sails! Sensibly that was it for one stormy days racing and the weather forecast suggests much more to come for the rest of the week.
Top 6 men after 2 races
1. Antoine Albeau (AHD/ Neil Pryde)
2. Micah Buzianis (Mistral/ North)
3. Wojtek Brozowski (Starboard/Neil Pryde)
4. Kevin Pritchard (Bic/Gaastra)
5. Patrice Belbeoc'h (Neil Pryde)
6. Ross Williams (AHD/Gaastra
Top 3 women after 1 race
1. Lucy Horwood (AHD/Gaastra)
2. Dorota Staszewska (Starboard/Neil Pryde)
3. Christine Johnston (Starboard/ Neil Pryde)