Albeau wins (pic: PWA/Souville)
The 2004 Nestea PWA Almanarre Hyeres World Cup – Day 2
Stormy skies and light rain were the order of the day as the sun rose over
the hills surrounding L’Almanarre, Hyeres, here in the South of France
this morning. More importantly, the wind had increased to a steady 9-12
knot breeze making conditions perfect for Formula Racing.
With the course set in the early morning light, the red flag for the first
race went up at ten o’clock sharp. It was clear from the start that the
gloves were off in the men’s fleet and, after one false start, Steve Allen
(Fanatic, Neil Pryde) crept in to the lead, barely separated from his
nemesis at this event, Antoine Albeau (AHD, Neil Pryde). The two racing
legends – both currently in equal first in the PWA race rankings – were
taking no prisoners and it was clear that neither would be happy to settle
for anything less than first place.
Allen held the lead for the first lap but on the second upwind leg, Albeau
seized his opportunity, slipping past the Aussie to move into prime
position. Pieter Bijl (Fanatic, Neil Pryde), Andrea Cucchi (Starboard) and
Ben Van Der Steen (Neil Pryde) were all in vengeful pursuit but the race
for first was simply between 2 sailors. Albeau and Allen traded windshifts
and gusts all the way downwind before Allen retook the lead just before
the start of the final upwind leg, eventually leading all the way to the
finish and taking the early advantage over Albeau. Wojtek Brzozowski
(Starboard, Neil Pryde) came from nowhere to finish third ahead of Cucchi
and a particularly fast Dan Ellis (Fanatic, North Sails). Championship
contenders Ross Williams (Starboard, Gaastra) and Kevin Pritchard
(Starboard, Gaastra) finished well out of contention in ninth and eleventh
The women’s opening race saw a dominant performance from Dorota Staszewska
(Starboard, Gaastra) who has failed to find form so far this year on tour.
Staszewska led from the start, holding off all challenges from Lucy
Horwood (Fanatic, North Sails) who sailed a very solid race in second
position, but failed to challenge seriously for Staszewska’s lead. Current
PWA racing number 1, Alison Shreeve (F2) held on to third, but was well
out of contention in the gusty winds.
Straight into race number 2 and it was all change for the men on lap 1.
This time it was Pritchard who took the early lead ahead of Bijl and
Cucchi followed by Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (F2, Neil Pryde) and speed junkie
Finian Maynard (F2, Naish). Albeau and Allen were conspicuous by their
absence from the front runners.
By lap 2 though, Albeau had regrouped and was back on the attack, closing
to second behind Pritchard at the second upwind and, with Allen nowhere to
be seen in the top ten, this could only be good for the Frenchman. Almost
inevitably, Pritchard succumbed to the relentless pressure from behind and
Albeau took the lead, eventually winning ahead of Pritchard, with a
surprisingly on form Maynard in third, Cucchi fourth and Micah Buzianis
(F2, North Sails) back in the familiar surroundings of the top five.
Staszewska was obviously in no mood for compromise and led, once again,
from the start. Horwood set about the now familiar task of chasing down
the Polish number 1 but, with her attention so firmly fixed on the front
runner, did not see the challenge from Verena Fauster (F2, Gaastra) hot on
her heels in third. Staszewska continued round the course sailing
flawlessly to keep the door firmly closed on Horwood who herself was fully
engaged in a battle with Fauster. The Italian eventually got the better of
the UK’s premier girl and crossed the line second behind Staszewska.
After a short break for lunch, it was time for Race 3 on a new, square
course. Albeau once again shot off the line with great speed, closely
pursued by Allen. Brzozowski however was starting to tune into the
conditions and by the time the fleet had made the journey back downwind he
had overtaken Allen who was now being pushed by Costa Hoevel and Van Der
The remaining lap only served to extend Albeau’s lead and by the finish he
was some distance ahead of Brzozowski and Allen. Yet again Cucchi, in his
first PWA contest of the year, scrambled his way back up into the top 5
and finished fourth just ahead of Pritchard.
Race 3 for the ladies was all change at the top. As Horwood led the pack
up the first beat. The competition was hot on her heels in the form of
Staszewska and Fauster, but they could not find the speed or tactics to
surpass Horwood who was not about to hand them any chances. The second lap
saw disaster for Staszewska who was overtaken, not only by Fauster, but
also by Shreeve who now seemed to be finding the form that had served her
so well earlier in the year. Horwood held her nerve to take the win ahead
of Fauster, Shreeve and a very disappointed Staszewska
Race 4 would run on the same square course but this time it was Pritchard
who would set the pace off the start line. All the usual suspects were
coming on strong in his wake however, and it was very close between
Brzozowski, Albeau and Allen as they streaked up the first beat. The more
tactical aspect of the square course made for much more opportunity to
overtake and using all of his experience, Allen managed to put his
downwind speed to use and steal the lead by the second lap. Pritchard, by
now, had vanished from the leader board.
The gusty conditions were making racing hard work and the master
tacticians were starting to shine, playing the shifts and the gusts for
maximum benefit. By the time the men had made it back up to the course,
Brzozowski and Albeau had taken the initiative from Allen who was stuck
back in third, looking in desperation at both his arch enemy and his world
title hopes disappearing in front of him. Brzozowski held his ground to
take his first race win here in France ahead of Albeau, Allen and the most
consistent man so far, Andrea Cucchi taking his fourth consecutive fourth
place in the event.
Dorota Staszewska was obviously not happy with her fourth place in Race 3
and came out of the starting blocks with guns blazing in race 4. Amazingly
though it was French PWA newcomer Marianne Tertian (Naish) who rounded
windward in first. Nevertheless, by the second lap, it was back to a game
of follow the Polish leader as Staszewska dominated the course, looking
comfortable in the number one slot. Horwood consolidated her position in
second but could not get close to Staszewska, who held her nerve to take
the race win. Fauster got the better of Shreeve on the second lap,
stealing third from the young Australian.
After 4 grueling races the wind became even gustier and began to shift, so
competition was called of for the day. The first day of battle here in
France has put Antoine Albeau in very strong contention for the 2004
Nestea Men’s Racing World Title and in the women’s fleet, 3 of the top 4
girls still lie within easy reach of the title. However, with 4 days
competition remaining and a good forecast in hand, victory is guaranteed
for no one.