Antoine Albeau and Valerie Ghibaudo Winners at 2009 PWA Ulsan World Cup

The 2009 PWA Ulsan World Cup proved to be a showcase of French windsurfing talent, as Antoine Albeau and Valerie Ghibaudo delivered outstanding performances to claim victory in their respective fleets.

Valerie Ghibaudo at The WA Ulsan World Cup at Jinha Beach, Korea.  Copyright: PWA/John CarterThe event is now in its third year on the PWA World Tour, and is currently the only event to take place in Asia. Competing from the 16th-22nd of May, racing took place on the waters off Jinha Beach, in south eastern Korea.

Over the course of the week long event, there were two full days of racing, powered by the local south western thermal wind, which was gusting up to 22 knots both days.

The women’s fleet were first to christen the race course, with Sarah Hebert setting the early pace: “The first race was really light, but I got a good start so I was leading from the beginning. After that I managed to stay in front and make some good gybes. I was pumping a lot to make sure I was going fast. It’s the first time I’ve won competing against Valerie (Ghibaudo) and Karin (Jaggi).”

Antoine Albeau at The WA Ulsan World Cup at Jinha Beach, Korea.  Copyright: PWA/John CarterThe first men’s race was dominated by Bjorn Dunkerbeck, who took charge of the final, holding off Jimmy Diaz in second and flying Dutchman Ben Van der Steen in third. Surprisingly, previous event winner, Ross Williams was absent from the race final after false starting in his semi final.

The remaining two races were business as usual for Albeau. Dialed into the conditions and looking rock solid at the front of the pack, he showed true class to sail to victory in both showdowns. More impressively, the Frenchman completed this feat without the use of one of his index finger, after a deep cut on the palm of his hand had got infected and required surgery.

“It’s quite hard sailing here, as we’re in the bay, and the wind is coming off the hills, so it’s really, really gusty," said Albeau. "It was blowing about 7-22 knots, it’s really up and down. It makes the starts hard as well. Sometimes there are a lot of gusts, and others it’s super light. You really have to concentrate to get a good start.”

Valerie Ghibaudo at The WA Ulsan World Cup at Jinha Beach, Korea.  Copyright: PWA/John CarterDay three had also seen inroads made into the fourth men’s elimination, which witnessed the controversial exit of Bjorn Dunkerbeck after Finian Maynard collided with him at the gybe mark, removing him from the elimination. The crash also meant that Maynard departed the heat.

“Bjorn was 30m ahead of me going into the mark, then I don’t know what happened to him, a lot of people have said he stopped," said Maynard. "I never saw him. So I went in to do my gybe and got a big gust from behind. The next thing I know I’m just barreling into him. I’m really sorry for Bjorn, it was definitely my fault, but it came as a total surprise for me. It’s just an unfortunate racing incident.”

Race four was eventually stopped short at the second semi final after the wind backed off too much to continue.

Day four in Korea saw conditions switch back on to resume racing. The subsequent three women’s races saw utter domination from Valerie Ghibaudo, as she executed back to back wins to firmly cement her name at the top of the women’s rankings.

Chasing, Karin Jaggi and Alice Arutkin did their best to pressure Ghibaudo, but had to settle for the remaining podium positions as toppling the on-form French sailor proved to be impossible.

The final men’s elimination of the event saw a total reshuffle on the finish line. Kevin Pritchard finally got to grips with conditions to secure third place, his best result of the event. Micah Buzianis continued to show outstanding consistency in second, but topping the elimination was Maynard, who had been hinting as his ability to win races, but thus far had never delivered.

The remaining three days of competition were spent waiting on standby until time on the clock finally ran out. In women’s racing, Ghibaudo and Jaggi have started what looks to be another amazing season of rivalry, while young gun Arutkin has shown she’s got what it takes to deliver race winning performances.

Antoine Albeau at The WA Ulsan World Cup at Jinha Beach, Korea.  Copyright: PWA/John CarterIn men’s racing, Albeau’s return to event winning form was no surprise, however his quest for a fourth world title will push him and his rivals to the limit as the level of sailing has gone through the roof.

Buzianis delivered one on the stand out men’s performances, after returning from injury to secure second position in the event, a commendable result, and one of huge significance to the season that lies ahead.

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