Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / MauiSails) wins the opening Slalom 42 event of 2007 at Jinha Beach in Ulsan, South Korea 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.
From day one Jinha beach came up with the goods, immediately serving-up wind to get racing started 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.
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.
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.
Days Five and Six
No more wind over the last two days.
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’.
© PWA / Brian McDowell
1. Kevin Pritchard
2. Micah Buzianis
3. Antoine Albeau
1. Karin Jaggi
2. Sarah Herbert
3. Ayako Suzuki
… full result