The 2007 Ulsan PWA World Cup - Event Summary
Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / MauiSails) wins the opening Slalom 42 event of 2007 to seize the tour lead. Last season’s runner-up Micah Buzianis (JP / NeilPryde) scores a solid second place ahead of 2006 World Champion Antoine Albeau (Starboard / NeilPryde) in third. Swiss legend Karin Jaggi (F2 / North) shows no mercy, winning an incredible 9 out of 10 races in the women’s event. Sarah Hebert (Starboard / Naish) steals second place from Ayako Suzuki (Starboard / Gaastra) who claimed third position.
The colourful and explosive opening ceremony set the tone for a firecracker of an event on this, the PWA’s first visit to Asia in Ulsan, Korea. An incredible reception from the amazing local organisation, and the event’s high profile in this region certainly helped the 2007 Slalom 42 tour open with a big bang.
From day one Jinha beach came up with the goods, immediately serving-up wind to get racing underway as the battle for the €45K prize fund got underway.
Both event winners were straight out of the blocks recording bullets in the first race. Pritchard just held off Albeau who just couldn’t force a chance to overtake, and Jaggi, although slow out of the starts, finished the first two races easily enough despite firm opposition from Hebert and Suzuki.
Day two and race two brought great drama and a change of lead in the men’s fleet. Superb awareness and presence of mind at the start line by Peter Volwater (F2 / North) motivated him to ease back on the throttle in the final seconds of the starting sequence. That meant the Dutchman was the only one of 8 finalists not disqualified from the race to secure first place before the race had even commenced.
After two more women’s races, again won by Jaggi, Race 3 was started but left unfinished as the wind died with the setting sun.
Day three and, contrary to the forecasts, the wind showed up allowing the third race’s final to be played out. This time it was Albeau, quiet so far in the competition, who roared away from the start. After initially tussling with Buzianis, he registered a vital race win ahead of Pritchard who’d recovered remarkably well from a bad start to claim second.
Day three was certainly the busiest of the event for ladies. They completed four races, with Jaggi showing better starting skill until disaster struck for her and Suzuki in race 8, when they were one of four riders disqualified for premature starts. That left the door wide-open for Hebert to take an important step ahead of Suzuki in the struggle for second place. By races 9 and 10 Jaggi was taking no prisoners, leading from the start to finish as Hebert and Suzuki once more took turns for second and third.
With the wind still first-class for racing, Race Director Juan Antonio Aragon wasted no time in getting race 4 underway. Albeau, looking lethal from the start gun blew his chance by getting stuck in traffic at the first mark as Pritchard cheekily soared wide of obstruction and into the lead for another win.
The exciting 6-bouy, downwind course was left out for a fifth race to make the most of the steady 15-20 knot wind conditions. The big surprise in race 5 was Albeau’s risky and arguably unnecessary overtaking move in a qualifying heat that caused him to fall and fail to advance to the finals.
Pritchard exploited Albeau’s absence, winning the final, regardless of starting shoulder to shoulder with Jimmy Diaz (F2 / North), who applied pressure all the way to the finish.
Day four; more wind and it was Micah Buzianis’ day to stealthily emerge from the shadows in the sixth and final race.
Albeau again failed to advance after being caught up in another mass disqualification in the semi-finals as nerves took their toll at the top.
In the final, Pieter Bijl (Fanatic / NeilPryde) and Buzianis had storybook starts and incredible speed over the course, but it was Buzianis who grafted the victory in the face of an incredible challenge from Bijl. Pritchard scored vital points to consolidate his lead, finishing third after a disastrously crossing the start line in last place.
No more wind over the last two days contributed to a pressure-cooker atmosphere as the wait for a seventh race, the vital discard it would have signified, and more importantly the opportunity for anyone to confront the leader never appeared.
Like Jaggi, Pritchard has taken a key psychological lead and devastated his opponents. ‘I obviously came here to win’ he said, ‘But, I wasn’t really thinking about it too much beforehand. I have to say good starts and the mistakes of others have helped, although I had really great board speed too. It was an important win because a lot of people look in to see what gear is doing well and my Maui Sails and Starboard combination was simply superb. It’s a great start to the season for me and my sponsors, and it’s definitely going to give me valuable momentum for the rest of the year’
Buzianis, undeniably stated he’d come here to win, but was upbeat about his podium finish. ‘I’m happy with my gear, and I feel great. But, I’ll be working on my starts in a big way after this competition, even though they got better as the event went on’
Albeau, who dominated in 2006, was also happy with his speed, but admitted his errors cost him dearly. ‘I just made too many mistakes. This event has taught me that this season I will need to concentrate more in order to use my strengths’
The Ulsan World Cup was an undoubted success, hugely popular with the sailors, and put on with an amazing ambience by the Korean hosts. There was a mammoth amount of effort put into welcoming these international athletes to a new location, and the experience the people of Korea have given every visitor here will live long in their memories.
The PWA would like to express enormous thanks to the Ulsan Broadcasting Corporation and all the sponsors of this event. We look forward to returning in 2008 and for many seasons to come.
You can read daily reports from the event, view picture galleries and check the results at www.pwaworldtour.com