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The 2010 IFCA Slalom World Championships for Youth and Masters was held last week on the almost mythical spot of L’Almanarre, at the foot of the Gien peninsula near Hyères on the French Côte d’Azur.

With only one day of slalom training on my new boards and sails my preparation going into the championships was far from perfect. This made the gear choice under the IFCA “slalom 42” format even trickier, considering that Almanarre can see the widest range of conditions ranging from strong side-on shore mistral to gusty off-shore “vent d’est”. The forecast was for the week was for building off-shore winds on the first day, and uncertain lighter breezes for the remainder of the week. I decided to register the new SL75pro and SL66pro, with 8.4, 7.6, 7.0 and 6.6 Maui Sails TR6xt’s.

We had a strong fleet, with more than 50 masters and grandmasters registered and a couple of former French and world champions like Gerald Pelleau and Pierre Moretti from France, Markus Poltenstein from Austria and Marco Begalli from Italy. Sailing in his own front yard, living French windsurfing legend Eric Thiémé (remember the indoors in Paris Bercy in the 1990s…) whose windsurf centre is located right on the beach of Almanarre was also present.

Despite the not so optimistic forecast we managed to complete 5 slalom eliminations over 4 days of competition allowing for 2 discards. With more than 70 youth racing in different divisions on the same course the race direction definitely made the most of each drop of wind.

My first discard turned out to be the very first race of the championship on day 1, which started with a moderate off-shore breeze between 13 and 15 knots, gradually building to over 30. I got to the semi-finals on the SL75 and 8.4, with a 42cm C3 Sting. But then the wind picked up and I switched down to the SL66 and 7.6 with a 38cm C3 Sting. The measurement on the start boat was 18 to 20 knots, but on the course it turned out to be gusting to over 30 knots so I found myself a bit overpowered. The 7.0 would have been a better choice. Finishing 8th in the semi-finals I didn’t make it in the final. In the losers’ final the wind had dropped a bit so now 7.6 was perfect. Jibing into mark#1 too tightly I hit the mark, lost a few seconds and so allowed Patrick Schmeltzer from Germany to sneak into the inside of me taking the win. It turned out to be my worst result of the championship.

Race 2, which we started on day 1 and finished on day 2, and race 5 (on the last day) were all run in similar off-shore conditions with moderate 13 to 18 knots of wind. I was always in the final, and used the SL75, 8.4 and C3 Sting 42cm in all races.

Day 3 (races 3 and 4) saw a moderate on-shore breeze and more choppy conditions. Though from the same direction it was certainly not at “mistral strength”, so the SL75, 8.4 and Sting 42 proved again to be the perfect combo.

Overall I finished in 7th, with a 5th place in race 5 as my best result. Marco Begalli from Italy took 1st place, ahead of local French racer Pierre Moretti and former master world champion Markus Poltenstein from Austria. Full results are here.

Going into the championship my goal was to reach the top 10, which considering the strong fleet was never going to be an easy task. Needless to say I’m pretty stoked to finish 7th ahead of some pretty strong and experienced racers.

The boards are really working great again this year. The SL75 is the perfect 8.4 board for me, is super fast and has plenty of control when the going gets tough. I only used the SL66 a couple of times and it seems to have a huge potential in the 7.0 to 8.0 range. It is probably capable of efficiently carrying both smaller and bigger sails, say 6.6 and 8.4, if needed. I’m also pretty happy with the new C3 Stings, which are turning out to be great fins for pure slalom racing. Looking forward to the next races!

Some action shots (more pictures here; © C. Moncany__HWO).

Fighting it out with Andy Abendroth GER 66 at the mark

Eric Thiémé FRA 808 in his own front yard

Chasing Thomas Fauster ITA 106

Jibing the SL75

Start of the last race of the championship