We are back in action here at the Gran Canaria PWA 2002 Grand Slam. This afternoon the wind picked up enough to allow ten heats of the fourth round of freestyle to be completed.
With winds gusting between 15 and 20 knots it was a whole new ball game on the water today when compared to the opening three days of 40-knot ballistic freestyle action. Instead of 3.3m sails and wave boards, sailors were competing on 5.3m to 6.m sails and larger dedicated freestyle boards. The sailors that made it through to the third round today were Victor Fernandez (Fanatic), Antoine Albeau (Neil Pryde, AHD) Richard Foster (Fanatic, Naish), Matt Pritchard (Gaastra, AHD), Klaas Voget (Arrows Fanatic), Robby Swift (JP, Neil Pryde), Kauli Seadi (Naish boards, Naish sails) and Ricardo Campello (JP, Neil Pryde).
Jonas Ceballos (Fanatic, Gaastra) who is currently in fourth place overall failed to advance today but under the dingle elimination system will have a second chance to make the third round. Also failing to make it through were John Skye (F2, Arrows), Peter Volwater (F2, Arrows) and Diony Guadignino (JP,Neil Pryde).
With only two days of official competition remaining the forecasts are pointing towards a return to freestyle over waves. Matt Pritchard (Gaastra, AHD) of California is still holding pole position after three rounds and today sailed a steady heat to keep him self on track to defend his position.
Matt Pritchard I feel no pressure, there is nothing I can do about the wind so I am just focussing on trying to win the next round. That is the bottom line. I could hope and pray for no wind but that doesn¹t really do any good. If we go, my aim is to win the next round and put the icing on the cake!
The fourth round of freestyle is vitally important to both men's and women's fleets as it brings a discard into play. Last years freestyle champion, Antoine Albeau who is back in seventh position overall is currently holding a 24.5 in his results. As it stands Albeau will have to make the final of the fourth round in order to win here in Gran Canaria. Also in the running foe the top slot are Nik Baker (North, Mistral) Ricardo Campello (JP, Neil Pryde) and Jonas Ceballos (Gaastra, Fanatic).
In the women's freestyle Daida Moreno (Mistral, North) is looking favourite to win. Karin Jaggi (F2, Arrows), Colette Guadignino (JP, Neil Pryde) and Anne Marie Reichman (Naish boards, Naish sails) are all in the fight for the other podium positions.
The stage is all set for a riveting climax to the Gran Canaria 2002 PWA Grand Slam. It looks like we will have two more possible rounds of freestyle but the wind here in Gran Canaria makes its own rules so never discount the possibility for more wave action!