Nine days of reckoning bring the 2008 World Tour Season to an explosive conclusion on the white sands of Sylt’s, Westerland beach.
Kauli takes World Title - Sylt 2008
The Sylt World Cup took center stage on the huge expanse of Westerland beach, from the 25th September – 5th October, with athletes from all four corners of the world engaging in a nine day, multi discipline windsurfing extravaganza, to crown both event and World Champions.
Marking the 25 anniversary since its birth, this milestone in the event’s history will certainly be remembered as one of the most memorable encounters to date. Over the course of the competition, in excess of 200,000 windsurf fans endured the unpredictable North Sea weather, to watch one of the greatest windsurfing shows on the planet.
Entering Sylt, the 2008 Slalom World Title had already been handed to Antoine Albeau (Starboard, NeilPryde), after the Frenchman claimed three straight event victories in the Costa Brava, Pozo and Fuerteventura.
However, this left the remaining podium positions wide open for the taking, and with the top ten sailors sitting dangerously close to each other, a poor result in Sylt would carry huge implications for the 2008 overall rankings.
Antoine Albeau - Sylt 2008
The slalom fleet christened the event on the first day of competition, with the start of race one. Delivering shock from the outset, no one could have predicted how the encounter would unfold over the three days it took to complete.
Josh Angulo (MauiSails, Dakine) kicked proceedings off with a catastrophic error, when he crossed the finish line from the wrong side in his heat 3 clash. The shock mistake meant that he not only had to relinquish his victory, but also failed to qualify for the subsequent round of the race.
Next to fall was the 2008 Slalom World Champion, Antoine Albeau, who became a victim of the highly changeable Sylt conditions. After leading the heat from the outset, Albeau stalled as he exited the final gybe. Punishing his misfortune, his rivals sailed passed to fill all the qualifying positions without him.
As the heats narrowed the final down to its eight-man quota, many of slalom’s big names dropped by the wayside, leaving 27 year old French race specialist, Sylvain Moussilmani (F2, Simmer) to claim the elimination victory, and early event lead.
The slalom fleet had to wait patiently until day five of competition before they got their next shot on the racecourse. After a morning of marginal conditions, the afternoon unexpectedly delivered 35-knots of wind, paving the way for some spectacular high wind surf-slalom.
The first big seed to stumble in the nuclear conditions was British Virgin Islander, Finian Maynard (RRD, NeilPryde). The famed speedster was forced out of contention in the second round after a flat out drag race to finish line with Ross Williams (Tabou, Gaastra) resulted in Maynard getting barged out of the qualifying positions.
With the race eventually getting narrowed down the final eight, Albeau took the opportunity to make amends for his race 1 shocker, and quickly blasted into pole position.
However, it wasn’t to be a classic show of Albeau domination that’s been witnessed so many times in the past. The stumbling block would come when Albeau fell gybing in the maxed out conditions, and seemingly handed pole position to Williams, however Angulo had other plans. A truly outstanding gybe saw him flip the rig and fly past Williams, to lay claim to competition’s second race. Close behind, William’s finished in a commendable second place, enough for him to take the event lead on day five.
Inroads were made into slalom’s third race on day six, but marginal conditions limited progress to just seven heats, before the race cold be resumed and completed on day seven.
Starting the action, Arnon Dagan (Fanatic, Gaastra) delivered a bullet, and arguably the best start of the event so far. Further extending his lead around the subsequent three gybes, his perfect heat was tarnished by a fall at the final mark. Fortunately for Dagan, his lead was such that he was able to waterstart away and still win the heat.
Moving into the semi finals, event leader, Williams fell victim to the changing Sylt conditions. After jostling amongst the qualifying positions on the first reach, a sudden dive in wind speed saw him drop off the plane on his 7.6m and effectively loose any hope of making the winners final. Armed with bigger sails, the rest of the competitors left Williams in their wake, and ultimately saw Albeau win his second heat on the trot.
Kevin Pritchard (Starboard, Gaastra, MFC, Dakine) upped his game in the second semi final, to take a convincing win ahead of Robby Swift (JP, NeilPryde) and Cyril Moussilmani (Fanatic, North), in second and third respectively.
Taking their places in the winners final, the sailors hit the water to do battle in the strongest wind of the elimination. The heat served as stark reminder of Albeau’s dominance this season, as the Frenchman bulldozed his way into the lead and never looked back, claiming his first race victory of the event. Close behind, but never threatening, Bjorn Dunkerbeck (Starboard, North) took second place, and Cyril Moussilmani third.
The losers’ final was won by Williams, who turned it on to cruise to a convincing victory, handing him ninth place in the third race, enough to maintain his event lead.
Slalom’s definitive race had to wait until the last two hours of the competition before it could be concluded. Entering the race, Williams held the event lead, but disaster struck when he failed to qualify for the race final. The killer blow meant that he not only lost the event title, but also dropped out of the event’s top three, eventually finishing up in sixth position overall; A tough pill to swallow for the young Brit.
The elimination culminated with a race final loaded with no less than six sailors that could claim the event win, or make the podium should they place sufficiently high in the heat.
The showdown turned out to be a classic Albeau versus Dunkerbeck showdown for first position. Ultimately, Albeau had the greater board speed, leaving Dunkerbeck to chase in second, but unable to close the gap. On the finish line, Albeau celebrated his second race win, earning him the runner up position for the event. Behind him, Dunkerbeck placed another highly consistent result, earning him his second successive event win, and finishing off a remarkable end of season flourish.
Albeau takes the last race - Sylt 2008
With the freestylers raring to go after three days on standby, it came as welcome news to the fleet that they’d be hitting the water for their first elimination on day four.
Head high breaking waves, chop from all angles, marginal to howling wind and the mother of all shore breaks provided a challenging backdrop for the freestylers, who’d had little if any chance to test the conditions.
After a fairly conservative first round of heats, the higher ranked sailors started to raise their games and in turn the magnitude of their moves. Highlight of the second round was Taty Frans (Starboard, North Sails) versus Antxon Otaegui (JP, NeilPryde, MFC). Otaegui threw down a comprehensive mix of sliding and aerial moves, leaving the flamboyant Frans to counter in his typically gung-ho style. A spirited performance reached its crescendo when Frans opted to attempt a move on the face of a churning monster. The gamble resulted in him being washed all the way to the feet of the on looking crowd, and effectively extinguished any hope of him advancing, despite winning over the spectators.
The quarter finals saw the lighter sailors reign supreme, with both Marcilio Browne (Mistral, Gaastra) and Ricardo Campello (JP, NeilPryde, MFC) exiting the elimination at the hands