Vietnam PWA Grand Slam
Vietnam cements its reputation as a world-class competition location, following nine days of super charged freestyle and slalom action from Binh Thuan province’s, Mui Ne Bay.
Adding a second Asian stop to the PWA’s globetrotting World Tour, the world’s windsurfing community shifted its focus to the south eastern Vietnamese province of Binh Thuan, where the picture perfect location of Mui Ne bay would play host to the first ever PWA Grand Slam in Vietnam.
The location had already been tried and tested with numerous local and regional events, but this was the first time Mui Ne would be projected onto the world stage to host an international competition.
When the time came to lift the curtain on the nine day freestyle and slalom extravaganza, it instantly became apparent that Mui Ne was going to deliver the goods in a big way. Cue seven days of howling thermal wind, and a collection of the world’s finest windsurfers battling it out for a piece of the event’s €85,000 prize purse. February 25th - 28th: Men’s Freestyle
Inaugurating the South China Sea was the mens freestyle fleet, who competed over the first four days of the event’s duration. Kicking off with a full single elimination, we were given glimpses of what was going to be possible over the coming days, as the fleet got dialed into the conditions.
As the single elimination progressed, the form-players slowly began to emerge. Mui Ne was proving to be a location that favored powerful, aerial freestyle over sliding moves, and as a consequence, was going to favor the guys that trained in chop, over mirror-flat out-and-out freestyle locations.
As a result, it came as no surprise that the quarter finals consisted of the Frans brothers, Kiri Thode (Starboard / Gaastra) and Jose Estredo (Fanatic / North); the four most consistent guys in the game right now.
With ramps aplenty and no shortage of wind to work with, the four went to town, nailing air chachoos, push loops, one handed back loops and a selection of super-tech aerial rotations, ultimately rewarding Thode and Estredo with places in the final, leaving the Frans’ to go head to head for third.
This was to be first of many Thode versus Estredo finals, and saw the start of a combination move rally that continued for the next four days. This time round, Thode was the victor, handing him the early event lead ahead of Estredo. In the Frans show down, victory went to Taty (Starboard / MauiSails / Mystic), placing him in third over sibling Tonky (Tabou / Gaastra) in fourth.
The ensuing double elimination saw much of the same, as the top four held off sustained attack from the likes of European Champion Steven Van Broeckhoven (F2 / Gaastra) to once again battle it out for the podium spots.
Another Frans standoff saw Taty once again over-throw his brother with some savvy sailing, giving him a shot at Estredo, and the event’s number two spot. Unfortunately, cashed moves from Frans and a methodical Estredo meant Taty would have to settle for third in the elimination, teeing up another Thode against Estredo final.
In much the same conditions to the previous day, the pair threw down in 25 knots of cross-onshore wind, and building ramps. Despite a super close heat, a unanimous five-zero judging decision awarded Thode another victory, and a conclusive event lead at the discipline’s midway point.
The event’s second single elimination started with the bad news that Belgium’s podium hopeful, Van Broeckhoven had injured his knee doing a push loop, and would be out the running for the remainder of the event. Seizing the situation, Canada’s Philip Soltysiak (Starboard / Dakine), Dieter Van Der Eyken (Severne / Starboard), Yarden Meir (Fanatic / Simmer) and Davy Scheffers (Tabou / Gaastra) stepped up their games to challenge the top four in the quarter finals. But with four heats down, the Bonaire-Venezuela axis could not be broken, leaving Estredo to challenge Taty Frans, and Thode to take on Tonky Frans.
The highlight would be Taty Frans, who defied both gravity and convention to pull the first double forward of the event, and arguably ever in Vietnam. Unfortunately, his mind blowing antics didn’t match Estredo’s technical ability, and Estredo advanced to take on Thode, who’d defeated Tonky Frans with a near impeccable score sheet.
The Frans versus Frans battle for third witnessed a changing of the guard, when Tonky put together a styled out routine to topple his uncharacteristically out of form brother. And, further cementing his supremacy on the Mui Ne Grand Slam, Thode again outshone Estredo to stamp his authority on first position.
That left the freestylers the fourth and final day’s double elimination to climb the ranks, and state their claim on the event. Mounting their attacks, Scheffers and Van Der Eyken came through the double in defiant style to go head to head. In the grudge match, it was Scheffers who dominated, but his advance was quickly halted by the super-slick skills of Frans, who categorically outclassed the Dutchman?
That meant that the final heats of the second double elimination would mirror those of the previous double elimination on day two. The Frans versus Frans bout gave Tonky a shot at settling the score against his brother, but in what was dubbed ‘the closest heat of the event’, Taty edged victory by a minute margin, leaving Tonky in fourth overall, and Taty to advance one final time to challenge Estredo.
The ensuing heat saw a missed move from Frans on port tack open the door for Estredo to level the scores with Thode in the final heat of the event. As the heat ran its course, it was an unexpected, and rare spectacle to witness Estredo being categorically outclassed by Thode. When the judges announced their verdict, a humbled Estredo graciously accepted second place overall for the event, handing Thode the unanimous event victory, and early lead in the 2011 PWA Freestyle Rankings. The 2011 Vietnam PWA Grand Slam Freestyle Results
(First) Kiri Thode (Starboard / Gaastra)
(Second) Jose Estredo (Fanatic / North)
(Third) Taty Frans (Starboard / MauiSails / Mystic)
(Fourth) Tonky Frans (Tabou / Gaastra)
(Fifth) Dieter Van Eyken (Starboard / Severne) March 1st - fifth: Men’s and Women’s Slalom
Handing the baton over to the slalom crew, there was barely a breath between the fleet registration, and the first heats hitting the water to christen the opening race elimination. However, progress was to be short lived after Mui Ne’s usually super consistent thermal breeze began to falter, halting progress just short of a result in the men's elimination, but crowning Alice Arutkin (Starboard / North) the early event leader in the women's fleet.
The ensuing two days acted as a slow torture, as the Mui Ne micro climate felt the effect of a rogue low pressure system that plagued the local thermal wind cell, and brought hot, humid conditions that killed any hope of resuming racing.
All hopes of securing a conclusive slalom result ultimately boiled down to the competition’s final day, but a mediocre forecast and two windless days sitting fresh in the memory were anything but a positive start to proceedings.
Casting forecasts and skeptics aside, the Mui Ne wind machine chose to defy even the seasoned locals’ predictions, and graced the competition’s final day with a solid 25-knot breeze to wrap the contest up in style.
Opening the action was the men’s winners final from race one, which was won in convincing fashion by Bjorn Dunkerbeck (Starboard / Severne / Mystic) after he took the lead at the first gybe mark, and cruised to an early event lead.
The second slalom elimination saw upset for both Cyril Moussilmani (Starboard / North) who false started, and Finian Maynard (RRD), who both failed to qualify for the final, leaving them to battle it out in the losers final for eleventh position. In the winners final, it was business as usual for Antoine Albeau (JP / NeilPryde) at the front of the fleet, with Dunkerbeck in hot pursuit in second, and a strong performance from Spaniard Ludo Jossin (Loft) in third. The heavyweight losers’ final was won by Josh Angulo (Angulo / Gun), with Maynard recovering to take second, and Pieter Bijl (JP / NeilPryde) in third.
In the women’s second race, Karin Jaggi (Severne / Patrik) rose to the challenge to take a convincing elimination victory ahead of Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / Gaastra / Mystic), who was beginning to seriously threaten taking the top spot, and a consistent Alice Arutkin (Starboard / North) in third.
Moving into the men’s third elimination, the drama really began to unfold when Dunkerbeck was taken down on the start line by a catapulting Cedric Bordes (Tabou / Gaastra / Mystic), crushing his chances of making the winners final. Also stumbling, Maynard uncharacteristically stuttered for a second time when he missed out on qualifying for the winners final by one position.
The men’s winners final saw yet more of Albeau’s methodical work as he once again dominated the fleet to notch up his second elimination win of the event. In his wake, the Netherlands Peter Volwater (Fanatic / MauiSails) sailed a near text book heat to award him second position, and Julien Quentel (RRD / NeilPryde) make amends for his previous eighteenth and tenth position finishes with a solid third in the race.
The losers final saw yet more back luck for Dunkerbeck who crashed en route to the start line and snapped his mast, ruling him out of the heat. Following suit, Australia’s Steve Allen (Starboard / Severne) also came unstuck in the super choppy Mui Ne conditions, taking him out the running, leaving Benoit Moussilmani (Tabou / Simmer) to capitalize on his opponents mistakes and secure victory.
The women’s third elimination saw Offringa continue her run of form right through to the winners final, where she pieced together a stunning heat to award her victory ahead of Turkey’s Lena Erdil (Patrik / Loft / Mystic), who was looking like she’d found her form after posting a disappointing ninth and eighth in the previous eliminations, leaving World Champion Jaggi in third.
The final race elimination of the final day stood poised to deliver some seriously intense race action, as the men’s event title lay wide open for numerous challengers to make their bid. Things got even more heated when the number one challenger for the event title, Albeau, fell during his semi final, placing him in the losers final and his title hopes at the mercy of Dunkerbeck’s performance in the winners final.
Following a scramble to get a calculator and compute exactly what implications Albeau’s fall would have on his event title hopes, it was deducted that if Dunkerbeck finished eighth or above, he’d steal the title from Albeau, ninth or lower, and Albeau secured it for himself.
Cue arguably the most exciting race final witnessed in recent years, as the normally collected Dunkerbeck had a catastrophic error and went down mid race, placing him at the back of the fleet, and leaving Albeau rubbing his hands together. But, Dunkerbeck remained defiant, and proceeded to systematically reign in eighth place, leaving a final charge to the finish line between him and Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (Fanatic / North). With barely inches in the call, Dunkerbeck had secured the vital eighth position, in turn handing him the event title, and early season lead ahead of Albeau.
The winners final was won by Maynard, his best result of the event, with Cyril Moussilmani in second, and Jimmy Diaz (Starboard / North), who rounded off a consistent performance in third, securing him third overall for the event. The subsequent losers final was taken by Albeau, who was no doubt reeling from his previous semi final crash.
The women’s final elimination saw Offringa cement her reputation as a serious slalom World Title contender when she scooped another race victory, ahead of Jaggi in second, and Morane Demont (Starboard / Severne) in third, handing her the event victory by a comprehensive points margin. The women’s losers final marked the final heat of the event, which was won by France’s Delphine Cousin (JP / NeilPryde). The 2011 Vietnam PWA Grand Slam Men’s Slalom Results
(First) Bjorn Dunkerbeck (Starboard / Severne / Mystic)
(Second) Antoine Albeau (JP / NeilPryde)
(Third) Jimmy Diaz (Starboard / North)
(Fourth) Ludovic Jossin (Loft)
(Fifth) Steve Allen (Starboard / Severne) The 2011 Vietnam PWA Grand Slam Women’s Slalom Results
(First) Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / Gaastra / Mystic)
(Second) Karin Jaggi (Patrik / Severne)
(Third) Alice Arutkin (Starboard / North)
(Fourth) Morane Demont (Starboard / Severne)
(Fifth) Lena Erdil (Patrik / Loft / Mystic)
The PWA circus now moves onto Austria, where the men’s freestyle fleet will take to the waters of Lake Neusiedler from the 29th April - Fourth of May. For more information visit the event website here