Ten Days of Explosive Freestyle and Slalom
Fuerteventura more than lived up to its reputation again as the 2017 Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam – sponsored by René Egli – saw 10 days of 25-45 knot winds to provide an amazing natural arena for the freestyle and racing.
Over the course of the event we saw more than our fair share of explosive action and close quarter sailing, and unfortunately, there were a few injuries along the way, but overall the highs certainly outweighed the lows.
Sarah-Quita Offringa overcame a mental as much as a physical battle to secure an incredible 10th PWA Freestyle World Title – 13th overall. In the final of the second double elimination, against Maaike Huvermann, Offringa didn’t quite produce her usual flawless display, but in the end, she just did enough and looked absolutely delighted and relieved at the same time when the result was made official.
Maaike Huvermann finishes the season as the vice-world champion again with the 19-year-old sailing her best heats yet on the world tour as she looks to continue to raise her game and dethrone Offringa. She will have to wait another year to have that opportunity again, but she is definitely edging closer.
Oda Johanne had some hot and cold heats, but when she was on she looked to be in fine form and that deservedly sees the Norwegian secure her place on the overall podium for the 4th consecutive year.
Jose ‘Gollito’ Estredo returned to the top of the podium in Fuerte after producing an inspired display to defeat Amado Vrieswijk and with just one more stop to go, Gollito has taken a massive step towards world title no. 8. The Venezuelan produced his usual blend of power and style, while also landing new moves to keep Vrieswijk at bay.
Vrieswijk won here last year but fell just short on this occasion. In the single elimination, it could’ve easily been the Bonairean who had come out on top, but his bongka was adjudged to be out of the competition area, which meant he was missing a move on port tack. The current vice-world champion is still firmly in the mix to challenge for the world title.
Yentel Caers won the battle for 3rd and 4th against Italy’s Jacopo Testa, but that victory came at a cost with the Belgian injuring his leg after landing a shifty, which forced his withdrawal from the competition. Caers will now hope to be back in time for Sylt at the end of September as he looks to defend his place on the prestigious podium.
Former world champion – Dieter van der Eyken – shares joint 7th with Ruenes, while the top 10 was completed by Taty Frans, Sam Esteve, Tonky Frans and Kiri Thode, who was making his first appearance since competing in Fuerte last year.
Antoine Albeau continued his dominance in Fuerteventura as he secured the event victory in style by winning the final elimination of the week, which means he has now won here in 10 out of the last 12 years. Albeau looks to be back to his absolute best and 100% happy with his setup and world title No.24 is within sight as AA heads up the rankings with a record of two victories and a 3rd out of the 3 events where results have been obtained.
Matteo Iachino endured a terrible first elimination here which saw the reigning world champion eliminated in his opening heat, but he then bounced back by not finishing outside the top 4 in all but one of the further 7 eliminations completed, which earned him 2nd place here, which sees him rise to 2nd in the overall rankings.
Ross Williams held an excellent record coming into Fuerte having made the podium here for the last two years and he showed why again with an extremely consistent performance, which also saw the Brit win back-to-back bullets in races 5 and 6, which put him firmly in contention for the event title, but a semifinal exit in the next race made that an unlikely outcome, but he’ll still be very happy with his performance here as he completes the podium. The result here means Williams remains 4th in the overall rankings.
Pierre Mortefon finished just outside the top 3 in 4th, which means Mortefon currently sits 3rd in the overall rankings, but the Frenchman was lucky to escape a nasty crash in Elimination 8 with no serious injuries after a horror collision with Taty Frans.
Road to Recovery
Of course two of the most talked about incidents of the week involve – Ethan Westera and Taty Frans – who were both unfortunately injured in racing incidents and both required hospital treatment. Thankfully, it seems that both will make a full recovery, while Pierre Mortefon somehow emerged unscathed from the crash with Frans – although the Frenchman is going for further checks just to make sure.
High wind slalom produces the most exciting racing on the tour, but unfortunately, the dangers of racing at such speeds became apparent and it gives you a real appreciation of the real and apparent dangers at times. Everyone would like to wish Ethan and Taty all the best with their recoveries.
So, that’s it for another fantastic year in Fuerteventura. The PWA would like to express their thanks to the organizers and sponsors and of course the people of Fuerteventura – without whom it wouldn’t be possible to run such a fantastic event and we look forward to return in 2018 for more world class windsurfing.