Image: Josh Angulo getting into the barrel... Pic: PWA
The competition got under way at 9:30 am with a fresh onshore breeze and head high swell. As the tide pushed in the waves increased, as did the shorebreak, which was making it a hard task to get out to the competition area in time for the heats. Most sailors were launching 15 minutes before their heats just to make sure that they were in position come the green flag of their heat. Some sailors couldn’t overcome the dumping shorebreak and didn’t even make it out for their heats.
The onshore wind made jumping difficult but the best sailors showed what is possible in the testing conditions, launching off the waves and rotating through big back loops, tabletop-forwards and fast spinning forward loops.
The early rounds saw no real surprises with the top guys progressing through. Some of the less experienced guys on Tour were also doing well. Regis Bouron went through as did Mat Pearch (F2/Arrows), John Skye (F2/Arrows), John Hibbard (Starboard) and Klaus Voget (Fanatic/Arrows).
The wind was up and down all day causing many heats to get cancelled as the weather gods played havoc with the event. Affected most was Heat 11a which saw Robby Swift (JP/Neil Pryde) v Joeri Vandijk (Fanatic/Neil Pryde) and Ross Williams (Starboard/Gaastra) v Kai Katchadorian. This heat was re run 3 times before the wind stayed was consistent enough for it to be completed - at the 4th attempt.
As the day progressed it was clear that the more experienced Sylt competitors had the conditions dialed and the likes of Dunkerbeck (Neil Pryde), McKercher (Starboard), the Jensen brothers (North Sails) and Albeau (AHD/Neil Pryde) were all styling even in the onshore conditions.
There were two big crunch heats in the second round Albeau v Seadi and Baker (Mistral/North) v Angulo. Antoine used his muscle to throw up big spray on the wave and hang on to some nice back loops. Seadi (AHD/Naish) was sailing well but couldn't quite match the intensity of Albeau who progressed through to the next round. In the Baker v Angulo heat it was serious stuff. Angulo looked good on the water, carving up the waves with some nice turns and tweaked backside aerials. Baker is an experienced competitor and always seems to pull the big moves out of the bag when he needs them most. In the heat of battle Baker landed some tweaked jumps, including a sweet tabletop-forward and a crazy pete. It was a close run heat with both sailors pulling out all the stops but it was Baker's jumping variety that saw him advance. Angulo was gutted and rightly so as he had been sailing well all day. He now has to hope that we will have enough wind to start the double elimination so he can come back up the rankings.
By the end of the day we had got as far as the end of the second round of the single elimination. Tomorrow will see another early morning skippers meeting and the continuation of the wave competition, if the conditions allow. The forecast is looking good so the action will be intense.
The ladies fleet has yet to see any action so tomorrow could well see them out on the water as well. The Morenos (North/Mistral), Jaggi (Arrows/F2), Alonso (Fanatic), et al will all be challenging for the top spot.
The racers are on hold but are ready to go at a moment's notice once the conditions calm down a little. Until then it's wave action all the way. Will Scott McKercher continue his current run of form or will he buckle under the pressure of a potential world championship title? Check the PWA website out for all the news direct from the beach in Westerland Sylt at the 2004 Labello Grand Slam.