As the opening event of the 2012 PWA world tour approaches, competitors will be travelling to a completely new destination on the PWA calendar.
Reggio Calabria is located in the Calabria region of Southern Italy; it has an ancient heritage and has grown to be the largest city in Calabria. Already regarded as one of Southern Italy’s premier windsurfing locations, this popular seaside resort will be hoping to continue to build it’s reputation on the world scene, with it’s reliable thermal winds provided by the Straits of Messina, combined with stunning beaches and picturesque scenery, Reggio Calabria has all the ingredients to offer a fantastic event.
Five days of furious slalom action, which will see around 80 competitors from both the men and women’s fleets fighting it out for the €55,000 prize purse, as well as those all important world tour ranking points. The opening event should make for extremely exciting viewing, due to the fact that in the close season numerous sailors changed sponsors. Make sure you keep your eyes on the live ticket to see how the sailors adjust to their new equipment.
All eyes will be on reigning world champion and windsurfing legend Bjorn Dunkerbeck (Starboard / Severne / Mystic / Dunkerbeck Eyewear) as he looks to make a strong start in defense of his title.
Dunkerbeck states 'Thanks to great work from Ben Severne, Steve Allen and the rest off the team, I am really happy to say that the Reflex 3 is best Slalom sail ever made, the rig is all around a hole lot faster than the 011, better low end and acceleration out off the jibes. Not to forget my Starboards are also a nice step easier again and the combo will very hard to beat.'
After his recent move to RRD everyone will be keeping a careful watch on his archrival Antoine Albeau (RRD / NeilPryde). It will be interesting to see how he fares on his new boards but we still expect him to be right at the forefront of the competition, as he so often is. Albeau will be keener than ever to regain the slalom title having relinquished it to Dunkerbeck for the first time in five years. Expect another colossal battle between these two heavy weights in the upcoming season.
Albeau states 'My training was the same as the years before, I was in Maui and I was sailing a lot, I am really looking forward for the Italian event in Reggio because I have a new board sponsor RRD and I want to see how my speed is going on the tour. So see you in Reggio!'
After managing his first podium finish and third place overall last year, Ben Van Der Steen (Starboard / Loft / Mystic) will be looking to continue in the same vein of form for 2012. Van Der Steen showcased his straight-line speed and super consistent gybes last year and he will be looking to build upon those attributes in order to displace Dunkerbeck and Albeau from the top.
The dark horse for the upcoming season could well be Josh Angulo (Angulo / Point-7). After his well-publicized split with Gun sails it looked very likely that Angulo would be without a sail sponsor for the coming season, however after a whirlwind few months Angulo has teamed up with Point-7, meaning he will be competing in the slalom after all. Having managed to break into the top 10 last year and with two-wave titles to his name, Angulo knows how to win. If he is able to pick up where he finished last year then Angulo could definitely rival the top guys. Expect Angulo to get better and better as the season progresses.
One of the revelations of the close season involved Finian Maynard (RRD / Avanti Sails), who has teamed up with Dan Kaseler to form Avanti Sails. With 40 years of experience between them, expect Maynard to be blisteringly fast and challenging for top honors. Other riders to look out for include last year’s fourth placed rider Cyril Moussilmani (Starboard / Severne / Mystic), who will be hoping that his recent move from North Sails to Severne, will help him reclaim a place on the much coveted podium, after narrowly missing out in 2011. Micah Buzianis (JP / MauiSails) is another of the top names to have changed sponsors, this time involving a switch from NeilPryde to MauiSails. All of the aforementioned sailors will be battling relentlessly to cement themselves a top three finish come the end of the season.
With the reigning world champion, Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / Gaastra / Mystic / Maui Ultra Fins), unable to attend the opening event of the season, her rivals will be looking to capitalize on this opportunity and take a strong hold at the top of the rankings, temporarily at least. Offringa is in the middle of an important semester at university and will therefore be focusing on studying rather than sailing for the first event.
Offringa states, 'It's the most important project of my study and the first few days will be crucial to getting a good group to work with etc. As to not get anymore delay in my studies I decided to stay in Holland. I just want to finish my studies as quickly as possible so I can get on the water as soon as possible!'Former world champion Karin Jaggi (Patrik / Severne) was in contention for the whole of last season, and she will be keen to go one better this year.
With a wealth of experience and a skill set to match, Jaggi is a serious contender for the women’s slalom title.
Jaggi states 'I have spent the last 6 months in Western Australia – my second home. It was probably not one of the best seasons over there – which made me head out on slalom gear more often than usual. But still wave sailing was the priority over the winter months – apart from spending a lot of time in front of the computer to keep our Patrik Board brand business growing. I am definitely ready for the season to start!'
In the wake of Offringa’s absence Valerie Arrighetti (Tabou / Gaastra / Mystic) will view this as a perfect opportunity to reassert herself in the top two, having finished third last season. This was actually the first time in 5 years that Arrighetti had missed out on a top two spot. If she can recapture the form that led to her winning in Korea last year and stay clear of injury, then Arrighetti is a force to be reckoned with. Also keep an eye out for Alice Arutkin (Starboard / North), who will be looking to force her way onto the podium this season after finishing fourth in 2011.
Expect even greater rivalry between these girls as they look to push each other harder than ever in the upcoming season.
With the start of the season looming, and the sailors all raring to go, all that’s left to do is sit back, relax, and watch as the world’s elite slalom sailors bring the Straits of Messina to life with what is sure to be a high octane event.