Ulsan PWA World Cup
It’s that time again when the fastest sailors in the world prepare for their first high octane meeting of the year for more high speed, close fought racing as the finest men’s and women’s slalom sailors head to South Korea for the Ulsan PWA World Cup, which takes place between the 1st-6th May. The opening slalom event of the year is always an intriguing affair as everyone finds out where they are at after a long winter of training and tuning.
Jinha beach has quickly earned itself the reputation of being the top windsurfing destination in the country, due to it’s beautiful white sand beaches and reliable trade winds, which blow consistently between May and June. South Korea often proves to be one of the most challenging stops on the tour, which guarantees an enthralling week of warp speed slalom. Expect tempers to flare as the sailors try to take the highs with the lows.
Ones to Watch
As the reigning world champion - Antoine Albeau (RRD / NeilPryde) - will be the man that everyone else needs to beat in the opening slalom event of the year. AA was in great form last season as he won two events - Costa Brava and Fuerteventura - whilst carrying two second places and a ninth to win back-to-back world titles. Albeau will now be hungry to complete a famous hat-trick of world titles and you can expect the big Frenchman to come flying out of the starting blocks when the green flag goes up.
Cyril Moussilmani (Starboard / Severne) pushed Albeau all the way in last seasons title race with the champion being decided in the last winners’ final of the year. Unfortunately the duel didn’t go Moussilmani’s way on that occasion, but his superb consistency should mean that he is heavily involved in the battle for the 2015 world championship again.
Pierre Mortefon (Fanatic / North) completed an all French top three last year as the twenty-five year old enjoyed his best season to date. Before last season Mortefon’s previous best had been twelfth place overall in 2013, but last year he showed that he is one of the most promising young talents in the slalom world. Mortefon is lightning quick on the straights and tactically very aware too making him one of the most dangerous sailors out there. Expect to see him pushing for the top again.
Ben Van Der Steen (Tabou / GA Sails / Mystic) finished the season on a high last year as he captured his maiden event title in New Caledonia. The flying Dutchman is one of the quickest sailors on the tour and after finishing fourth overall last season, he will be hoping to regain his place on the prestigious overall podium for the first time since 2011.
Another French sailor who enjoyed a fantastic season in 2014 is Pascal Toselli (99NoveNove / Point-7), who claimed his first podium finishes - third in both Fuerteventura and Turkey - and completed the year in an excellent fifth place overall. Toselli changed board sponsor over the winter to 99NoveNove and it seems he has quickly adapted to his new boards after claiming victory in the first French National Slalom event of 2014. Toselli showed on many occasions last year that he has the pace and the mindset to challenge for the top and he should be there or there abouts come the end of the event.
Julien Quentel (RRD / NeilPryde) recovered from a slow start in 2014 to finish sixth overall. The man from Saint Martin began his comeback in Turkey, where he claimed his first event victory before backing it up with third and fourth place finishes respectively. If Quentel can pick up where he left off then you would expect him to feature in the top five at a minimum.
Arnon Dagan (RRD / NeilPryde) is another man to have tasted victory for the first time in 2014 after coming out on top in Sylt. Dagan will be hoping to carry on his fine form from last year and if he is able to do so he should be challenging for the top.
Matteo Iachino (Fanatic / North) is one of the most exciting talents rising through the PWA Slalom ranks. The Italian is still only twenty-five, but is already a regular in the top ten at events as he continues to sail with experience and guise beyond his years. After finishing eighth overall last year he should be in the thick of the action over the course of the next six days.
Britain’s Ross Williams (Tabou / GA Sails / Mystic) completes the top ten attending the event, with Taty Frans (Starboard / GA Sails / Mystic) absent from proceedings due to competing in Austria. Williams is one of the top all-round sailors in the world and as frequent finisher in the overall top ten he should fare well in Korea.
Of course there are plenty of other sailors who could easily feature in the top ten and beyond, such is the fierceness of the competition on the PWA Slalom World Tour right now. The likes of Josh Angulo (Angulo / Gun Sails), Cedric Bordes (Tabou / GA Sails), Micah Buzianis (JP / NeilPryde), Maciek Rutkowski and the current PWA Youth Slalom World Champion - Tristan Algret (Patrik / Loft Sails / Mystic) will all be in contention, as should Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (Starboard / Point-7) after his winter move to Point-7 and his emphatic success at the formula worlds.
Our thoughts will also be with Alberto Menegatti’s friends and family too as the first event since Alberto’s tragic passing takes place - Alberto will be sorely missed by everyone involved.
Having won back-to-back world titles Delphine Cousin (Starboard / Gun Sails) will enter the first event of the year as the favourite. The twenty-three year old changed sail sponsors over the winter from Loft Sails to Gun Sails so it will be interesting to see how she fares on her new equipment. In 2014 Cousin won two out of the three events and she will be determined to complete a hat-trick of world crowns.
However, Cousin, will face a stern test with Turkey’s Lena Erdil (Patrik / Point-7 / Mystic / AL360) gunning to go one better than last year and become world champion. Erdil also won the PWA Slalom Indoor World Championship in Poland and she seems more motivated than ever to come out on top.
It’s not only Erdil who will be hoping to put a dent in Cousin’s title hopes as Sarah-Quita Offringa prepares to compete on the entire PWA Slalom World Tour for the first time since becoming world champion in 2011. Offringa claimed a comprehensive victory in Turkey last year - winning seven out of the nine eliminations completed - and the lady from Aruba could prove to be a formidable figure if she can find her best form.
Also in contention will be multiple time world champion - Valerie Ghibaudo (Tabou / GA Sails) - who completed the podium last year, whilst PWA Youth Slalom World Champion - Fulya Ünlü (Severne) - will be hoping to make a strong start to the 2015 campaign.
Meanwhile, the Japanese duo of Mio Anayama (Starboard / NeilPryde) and Ayako Suzuki (Tabou / GA Sails / Mystic) should be a threat too, whilst Turkey’s Cagla Kubat (Starboard / Severne) prepares to return to competing full-time on the PWA Slalom World Tour having only competed in Alacati last year, having become a mother for the first time. Kubat finished fourth overall in 2013 and she will be hoping to feature in the top five in the opening event.
Find out whether the reigning world champions - Antoine Albeau and Delphine Cousin - can make the perfect start to their title defence or if someone else can take an early season lead by tuning into www.pwaworldtour.com between the 1st-6th May - here you’ll be able to follow the amazing action as it happens via the PWA live stream and live ticker.