Sean O'Brien reports from the next stop on the PWA slalom tour, in Alacati. Yesterday went well for many, but not quite as well for many others with some of the biggest crashes in a long time witnessed on the live stream.
Sean sent us the report last night, so it's time catch up and get ready for the action today...
We’re back on the Turkish coast! That all sun and all smiles venue which is easily the most popular event on the tour and with free excess baggage from event title sponsor Pegasus Airlines, it’s also the easiest to get to!
I arrived a few days early after 10 days training in Mauritius with Antoine Questel and Luke Baillie and we scored some great conditions over the weekend in Alacati. 25-30 knots all day Sunday giving us a chance to rig up our 6.2m’s (we all learnt our lesson coming here 2 years ago with no small boards and had two days of +30 knots).
Day 1 of racing kicked off today with a sweet forecast. 18-23 knots and fairly consistent over the day meaning you only really needed to rig one (maybe two) sails! I need to have a chat to Kurosh Kiani, the designer of the heat allocation algorithm as I once again was shoved in Heat 1 this morning. No problem; it was perfect 7.8m and medium board (I have a 97) weather and bang on 1.30pm Juan had us out on the water and Thijs was yelling the count down for the red flag a few minutes later.
This leg of the PWA World Tour can be an interesting and challenging event. Conditions are ultra, ultra flat, meaning that straight line speed is the key. It also means not as many people fall off on the gybes, so where you are after the first turn is usually the positions for the rest of the race. The start is critical, but with the flat water and easy sailing, everyone usually hits the line bang on zero and there can often be 6 guys hitting the first gybe at once – absolute carnage!
Heat 1 started with nearly a fatality. Fred Morin, the New Caledonian, who actually nearly died here last year when he crashed at the first mark and had his arm sliced to the bone by another sailors fin who ran him over; thought he’d continue the tradition and had one of the most horrific head-on crashes I’ve seen in a long time right in front of the start boat. Thijs cancelled the start (we were 1 minute in to the sequence) and put the AP flag up to check if anyone lived... Amazingly, nobody was hurt and the damage was minimal. Fred waterstarted and made his way back to the startline and I never did figure out who he hit – it was a Starboard/Severne rider.
I’m usually not super fast in these flatwater conditions but I am pretty OK at starts, so my strategy today was to just kill everyone in the starts and hope I could stay in front as long as possible. It seemed an OK strategy. I generally was in top 3 to the first mark in all my heats. Heat 1 I was 3rd finisher behind Micah and Bjorn. In the quarter final I blitzed the start from the boat and sailed down over the whole fleet before Bjorn reeled me in just before the mark and I gybed wide to get out of his dirty air, opening the door for half the fleet… urggh.
Plenty more carnage to come. Usually in pairs. Peter Bijl crashed into Ben Van Der Steen in their semi final; Antoine Albeau spunout before the start of the final and crashed straight in to the start boat; Chris Pressler hit the drink 50m before the first gybe causing Andrea Ferin to run over him; Gonzalo Costa-Hoevel literally hit every single person in the back of the head with his boom as he came to the first mark (his girlfriend actually took some great video of all these hits, which we watched over dinner. Haha!).
The main interest, over the course of the day was the board/sail combo choice of most riders. The wind didn’t really freshen much over 20 knots, however it did sit easily above 15 knots which put most of us on our 7.8m’s and medium boards. I’m not gonna lie, I was super underpowered all day on the 7.8m but with the really flat water, changing up to the big boards and 8.6m was actually really quite slow. Most of the heats and finals were sailed with riders on 7.8m which is unusual in such light winds. It could be a liability at the gybe marks in such light winds, but also can be a rocketship on the first run with the smaller boards and less tail width.
After Albeau took the first blood in the first final ahead of Pierre Mortefon (who was flying all day!) and Gonzalo Costa-Hoevel, we were back out on the water for Round 2, with the winds still holding up for 7.8m weather.
Delays, delays, delays. One problem in Turkey is always the sheer number of general recalls for false starts. I generally had 2-3 general recalls per heat, and coupled with a few delays when the start boat anchor dragged, I was kept waiting for Heat 3 to begin for 35 minutes. Just enough time for the wind to literally drop to around 14 knots, but never enough time to go back in to the beach to get my 8.6m. Another killer start kept me in 2nd ahead of the entire French team, but sadly on the final gybe I couldn’t get planing and both Moussilmani twins and eventually Julien Quentel (who I was about to knock-out, whilst everyone on the beach was cheering from the wall!) managed to pass me 50m before the finish.
Just my luck. That was the last race sailed as the wind was incredibly light by this time. Can’t have all the luck I guess. Tomorrow we kick off at 10.30am and I’ll most likely hit the commentary box to keep Ben Proffitt honest whilst I watch out the rest of this round.
1 Antoine Albeau F-192
2 Pierre Mortefon FRA-14
3 Gonzalo Costa Hoevel ARG-3
4 Antoine Questel FRA-99
5 Ross Williams
1 Sarah-Quita Offringa ARU-91
2 Cagla Kubat TUR-75
3 Ayako Suzuki J-61
4 Ceren Yaman TUR-666
5 Burce Vardarli TUR-107