After a one year absence the PWA Slalom World Tour returns to the beautiful island of New Caledonia for the season finale where the Men’s and Women’s world titles will be decided between the 21st-26th November.
After a long and hard fought season it all comes down to the next six days and with a promising looking forecast there should be plenty of epic racing!
Noumea, New Caledonia, is part of the French Polynesia, located deep in the southwest Pacific Ocean – 750 miles east of Australia. New Caledonia boats the biggest lagoon in the world and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008, making New Caledonia a magnet for recreational boaters and ocean lovers alike, and provides the perfect, yet challenging, slalom conditions thanks to its trade winds, which usually blow anywhere between 10 and 30 knots. The lagoon spans an impressive 44,000km — with crystal clear waters dotted with islets, which has seen Noumea becoming renowned for its outstanding marine biodiversity. Anse Vata beach will provide the perfect, pristine, stage for the conclusion of the 2017 PWA World Tour. With the wind frequently blowing all day this is as much a test of stamina as it is of top speed and the world’s fastest sailors will have to be on their toes throughout as the chop will be eagerly waiting to catch any unsuspecting sailors rail. Who’s going to come out on top?
Title Race Connotations
There are now only two women left standing in the race for the 2017 PWA Women’s Slalom World Championship – Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / NeilPryde / Maui Ultra Fins) and Delphine Cousin Questel (Starboard / S2Maui) – and the odds are heavily stacked in the Aruban’s favour with Offringa guaranteed the world title in the event that less than four races are completed – no matter her result.
However, if four or more races are completed then that brings Cousin Questel back into the fray as with the new progressive points system, in which events with four or more races are awarded greater points, the French girl could still overtake Offringa, but in order to do just that Cousin Questel would need to win the event – just as she did in 2015 – but crucially Offringa would need to finish outside the top three, which seems highly unlikely given the fact that you have to go all the way back to 2010 to find the last time Offringa finished outside of the podium positions at a slalom event.
Away from the title race it looks like there will be a pulsating battle for the remaining place on the heralded podium with Lena Erdil (Starboard / Point-7 / AL360) – who will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing fourth place in Denmark, Maëlle Guilbaud (Patrik / Loft Sails), Delphine Cousin Questel and Marion Mortefon (Fanatic / NorthSails) all vying for a place in the overall top three.
Title Race Connotations
As things stand three men can still mathematically win the 2017 Men’s PWA Slalom World Championship – Antoine Albeau (RRD / NeilPryde) – who holds a commanding lead as he goes in search of a 24th world title – Matteo Iachino (Starboard / Point-7 / Shamal Sunglasses) – who is looking to defend his world title and Ross Williams (Tabou / GA Sails / Mystic / Shamal Sunglasses) – who is looking to win his first slalom world crown.
On paper it looks like it’s Albeau’s title to lose as an eighth place finish or better will guarantee him the 2017 PWA Men’s Slalom World Championship. However, as the recent event in Sylt, Germany, showed anything can happen with both Albeau and Iachino both finishing outside the top nine, so Albeau will not be taking anything for granted. However, you’d have to think the more races that are completed will also reduce the chance of AA finishing outside of the top eight.
If Albeau was to finish ninth then that would open the door for Iachino to come in and snatch the world title from AA’s hands, but in order to do so the Italian would have to win the event. Two year’s ago Iachino came into New Caledonia under a very different set of circumstances – leading the world tour looking to win his first slalom world title, which ended disappointingly with a 10th place finish. However, a lot has changed since then and this time the current champ does not have much to lose, while having almost everything to gain and he’ll be keen to put the memories from 2015 here behind him by applying as much pressure as possible on Albeau from the word go. A fifth place finish or better would guarantee Iachino a place on the overall podium even if Pierre Mortefon (Fanatic / NorthSails / Chopper Fins) – currently fourth – was to win the event.
Ross Williams has an even slimmer shot at the title as the Brit would need to win the event, while requiring Albeau to finish 10th or worse and Iachino third or worse. In this scenario Williams would win the title by 10 points. While not out of the question for Williams to win it seems more likely that we will see an excellent battle for the remaining places on the prestigious podium with just 10 points between the Brit and Iachino, while Pierre Mortefon, who won the event here in 2015 in emphatic fashion could still force his way onto the podium and if he replicates his performance from two years ago there’s a very real possibility of him doing just that.
Meanwhile, the French contingent of Julien Quentel (Patrik / Avanti) – fifth – Pascal Toselli (99NoveNove / LoftSails / Chopper Fins) – sixth – and Antoine Questel (Starboard / S2Maui) – seventh – will be hoping to end the season on a high.
Marco Lang (Fanatic / NorthSails) will come into the final event of the year still on a high from winning his first ever event on the world tour in Sylt and the Austrian could well be a serious threat again as he looks to break into the overall top 10 at the season end for the first time in his career – currently eighth.
Behind him you have the likes of Israel’s Arnon Dagan (RRD / NeilPryde), Dutchman Jordy Vonk (Fanatic / NorthSails), Argentina’s Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (Starboard / Severne / Chopper Fins) who are vying for the overall top 10, while Croatia’s Enrico Marotti (RRD / NeilPryde) will be looking to build upon his first top 10 result in Sylt.
Former teammates Cedric Bordes (Tabou / GA Sails) and Ben van der Steen have had a mixed bag of results this season and both will be looking to sign off on a high and as the winner of the 2014 edition van der Steen could go well here again.
Elsewhere, New Caledonia’s home grown youthful talent of Basile Jacquin (Starboard / Point-7) – currently ranked 26th – will be just one of the many locals hoping to make their mark on home waters.
If at any time the wind is too light for slalom then there are currently 31 men registered for the next foil exhibition – where will see if Antoine Albeau and Antoine Questel can bounce back to the top following Sylt and whether Julien Quentel can follow up from his success in Germany or perhaps we will see a new name at the top again.
The wait for the season finale is almost over, so make sure you stay tuned into www.pwaworldtour.com between the 21st-26th November to follow all of the action as it happens via the PWA live stream. You can see the latest forecast for Anse Vata, New Caledonia @ www.windguru.cz/208755.
Schedule for Day 1:
• Registration – 10am-11am (GMT+11)
• Skippers’ Meeting – 1pm (GMT+11)
• First Possible Start – 1:30pm (GMT+11)
by Chris Yates