Rekindling memories of the now infamous 2007 World Cup, Ponta Preta once again switched on to deliver world-class conditions to see the Cabo Verde crown returned to its homeland.
Now in its third year, the Cabo Verde PWA World Cup has firmly cemented its reputation as a truly world class competition venue, with 2009 being no exception. Three days of logo to solid mast high waves saw both the single and double elimination completed with days to spare.
Almost like clock work, the opening day of the event saw Ponta Preta deliver mast high barrels and cross offshore perfection to complete the entire single elimination in style.
Opening the action, all eyes turned to the high profile return of ex-World Wave Champion, Francisco GOYA (ARG) - Goya Sails/MFC. The Argentinean certainly didn't disappoint, with his opening heats seeing him crank often beyond vertical turns combined with his super smooth top to bottom style, proving he's still more than capable of excelling within windsurfing's new generation of sailors.
The first major upset of the elimination was the exit of Jason POLAKOW (AUS) - JP/NeilPryde - in round one. The Australian departed after making a huge tactical error, failing to provide a second wave of any magnitude to his score sheet, which was to be judged on the best two wave rides. He'd have to wait for the double elimination to roll around before having another chance to advance.
Moving into the second round, Brit Robby SWIFT - JP/NeilPryde - made a stand out performance after he selected some monumentally big sets. His tactical approach paid off, allowing him to link turns all the way through to the inside section of the reef, boosting his wave scores and securing him a place in the next round.
One unlikely candidate to fall in round two was American Levi SIVER - Goya Sails/MFC/Dakine - who looked to be firing on all cylinders during the warm-up and round one. Unfortunately, the imposing Ponta Preta rocks which can be credited for halting many seemingly certain advances, were to claim yet another victim in SIVER.
As the fleet was narrowed down to the final eight, the level of sailing went sky high. Credit has to be given to Kai LENNY (USA) - Naish/Naish - for in part provoking this movement. The teen sensation was on another level, being one of the few attempting 360s in the jaws of the biggest set waves, and launching consistently huge aerials.
Departing in the star studded quarter finals were Scott MCKERCHER (AUS) - Starboard/Severne - who could never seem to sustain his usually solid form for an entire heat, SWIFT, who was unlucky with equipment breakages in the increasingly fickle afternoon wind, Boujmaa GUILLOUL (MAR) - Starboard/Severne/MFC - who was looking red hot despite getting knocked out and LENNY, who'd already stamped his name firmly on the event.
This left only the final to run, under ominous skies and in increasingly weakening wind. The four finalists: Josh ANGULO (CPV) - Angulo/MauiSails/Dakine - GOYA, Kauli SEADI (BRA) - JP/NeilPryde/Mormaii/MFC - and Kevin PRITCHARD (USA) - Starboard/Gaastra/Dakine /MFC - had to be fully switched on to outwit each other.
Experiencing the might of Ponta Preta first hand, an on-form PRITCHARD fell victim to the rocks mid-way through the heat. Essentially crushing his hopes of winning the final, this must have been a tough pill to swallow for Pritchard, who was clearly capable of claiming the final as his.
Similarly GOYA, who'd already left most of the professional windsurfing community dumb struck with the ease in which he'd found his way into the final of World Cup, stumbled on a similar block when we was washed onto the rocks.
So the final came down to a familiar two-man battle: ANGULO versus SEADI. It may sound bizarre in windsurfing to suggest someone has a home advantage, but the support for ANGULO in Cabo Verde is just phenomenal. Competing only a stone's throw from the beach, the throngs of local supporters make it their business to ensure ANGULO could always hear their encouraging cheers and chants throughout a heat.
Shrugging off the one-sided local crowd, SEADI got down to business with a varied mix of aerials, slashes and dangerously late gauges, all linked cohesively by his distinctively fluid surf-style approach.
Watching from the beach there was nothing to separate the pair, but a 2-3 split decision from the judging panel ultimately handed the explosive final, and single elimination to SEADI.
The second day of competition showed promise, allowing the first round of the double elimination to be completed before offshore wind and a dropping swell halted progress. Francisco PORCELLA (ITA) - Simmer/Dakine/MFC - and Thomas TRAVERSA (FRA) - Tabou/Gaastra - were the stand out sailors of the day, having both convincingly advanced in testing conditions.
Two days of waiting then passed before Ponta Preta switched back on, delivering epic conditions to finish up the double elimination. Seizing the opportunity to compete in the classic Cabo Verde conditions, the wave fleet hit the water to pick up round two where it had left off.
Making their mark on the second round were: Ricardo CAMPELLO (VEN) - JP/NeilPryde/MFC - who stepped his riding up to another level to advance. Camille JUBAN (FRA) - Gun Sails/MFC - whose super vertical attacks on the wave were both impressive and technically brilliant, and POLAKOW, who had far and away the fewest waves of the event but still managed to advance thanks to consistent excellence on the wave.
Entering the third round of the double elimination, mounting pressure meant that the sailors had to pull out all the stops to stand a chance of making it through the heats. Trips to the rocks became all too frequent, and the magnitude of crashes went through the roof.
Stamping their names on round three were Ross WILLIAMS (GBR) - Tabou/Gaastra - who took the lions share of the waves on offer, and somehow was always in the right place at the right time. Similarly, Marcilio BROWNE (BRA) - Fanatic/North - dug deep into his bag of tricks to execute some amazingly tight turns and super vertical cut backs that his rivals simply couldn't match.
TRAVERSA brought his unique flare and out-and-out attitude to his heat, which saw risk be rewarded with a highly credible pass through to the next round. Joining him was Moroccan GUILLOUL, who fended off tough opposition with some floaty aerials and late smacks that outclassed his rivals.
Entering a four way standoff with only two positions available in the next round, WILLIAMS, GUILLOUL, BROWNE and TRAVERSA went to blows in barreling mast high waves and forever increasing wind.
When crunch time came, TRAVERSA blew his chances, gambling super late smacks and deep bottom turns that were ultimately punished by the brutal Ponta Preta reef. Also departing was GUILLOUL, who notched up one truly brilliant wave, but failed to find a second to add to his score sheet, paying the heavy price of departure for his mistake.
This left WILLIAMS and BROWNE entering the two-man stage of the elimination, with only one place to play for. WILLIAMS was on a roll after dominating the four previous heats, but BROWNE was firing. The Brazilian was just going off, cranking the tightest bottom turns before smacking contorted top turns right under the lip. Williams performed well, but BROWNE was literally unbeatable.
Advancing to meet GOYA, BROWNE knew he had to deliver a solid performance, but rival GOYA just wasn't in the groove. After dominating in the single elimination GOYA struggled to find form, and essentially gave BROWNE a pass through to the next round after an unconvincing display.
Meeting Kevin PRITCHARD, BROWNE's nerve was put to the test. PRITCHARD is impossibly consistent, and while sometimes lacking the flare of his rivals he rarely delivers a poor performance. This heat was no exception. Outstanding wave selection, time and time again, combined with a fluent and well-timed attack on the Ponta Preta lip gave BROWNE a harsh reality check. This left the Brazilian, who has worked his way through the double elimination in a highly impressive fourth for the event.
Advancing to meet ANGULO in the next round, PRITCHARD saw the tables turn as he was constantly put on the back foot by ANGULO's impeccable wave selection and super vertical top turns. The American had fought well, but would have to settle for third place, an awesome achievement considering the line-up of sailors competing.
So, the all too familiar showdown began. In a rerun of the 2007 World Cup, SEADI, who'd won the single elimination, had to defend his throne from the local, ANGULO. In this instance, SEADI's defence was over thrown by ANGULO's wealth of knowledge at Ponta Preta. The pair would have to sail head to head one last time to decide the outright event winner.
With a swarming local crowed chanting the name of their national windsurfing hero, the final began. ANGULO drew the first blood with a colossal off the lip hit, but landed deep in the bowl, and ended up getting washed onto the rocks. SEADI seized the opportunity, putting ANGULO on the back foot with two solid rides.
Returning, ANGULO blew everyone away with a nine-point wave ride, a rare spectacle to behold, and something truly inspiring. Following this up, ANGULO launched into his usual routine of insanely late under the lip hits and perfectly timed aerials. SEADI knew he had to deliver, and right on queue, threw a perfectly landed goiter on the wave face.
The heat was intense and virtually impossible to call, with two very different styles unified by the much-revered Ponta Preta Break. Crunch time came in the huge event tent, before hundreds of ecstatic local fans. ANGULO had reigned supreme, returning the Cabo Verde crown to its motherland in emotional scenes rarely seen at windsurfing events.
This concluded the third Cabo Verde World Cup, an event that will forever be remembered for delivering awe-inspiring conditions and some of the finest wave riding ever witnessed on the PWA World Tour. Here's to next year…
The World Tour's next conformed stop will be in Podersdorf, Austria, from 5-10 May for the opening event of the men's slalom calendar. Tune back in then to follow all the action, and in the meantime, stay tuned to www.pwaworldtour.com for daily news bulletins on everything windsurfing.
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