Fly! ANA Yokosuka PWA World Cup
After a break of little over 5 months, the world’s fastest sailors are preparing to commence battle once again as the 2018 PWA Slalom World Tour begins tomorrow with the Fly! ANA Yokosuka PWA World Cup, Japan, which runs May 10th-15th. Tsukuihama Beach will be thrust into the windsurfing limelight once again over the next 6 days for what promises to be an exciting start to the season.
Tsukuihama Beach, Yokosuka City, is situated approximately 80km southwest of Japan’s capital Tokyo. Yokosuka blends city life with the sea, while also being a Naval Port. Yokosuka occupies most of the Miura Peninsula and is bordered by the mouth of Tokyo Bay to the east and Sagami Bay on the west, which provides a beautiful backdrop. As Tsukuihama Beach is almost completely protected it should provide great flat water racing conditions. As well as its maritime connections Yokosuka is also famous for it’s locally grown produce and there is even a tourist farm where you can pick your own strawberries, sweet potatoes or tangerines depending on the time of year.
Ones to Watch
With reigning world champion - Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / NeilPryde / Maui Ultra Fins) - confirming that she will not be competing in either Japan or South Korea, as she opts to focus more on the waves over the coming year, there will definitely be a different woman stood at the top of the overall podium come the end of the season.
Therefore, Delphine Cousin Questel (Starboard / S2Maui) will start the season as the favourite as the only woman to have previously won world titles - 2013 & ’14. The former two-time world champion finished last year with a flourish as she dominated the season finale in New Caledonia to finish 2017 on a high. If the 26-year-old can pick up where she left off then she may prove very difficult to stop.
However, Cousin Questel, certainly won’t have it all her own way and she’ll still face a stern test from Lena Erdil (Starboard / Point-7 / AL360) - who just missed out on a first world title in 2016 - and Marion Mortefon (Fanatic / NorthSails), who comes into 2018 off of the back of her best season yet - 3rd - after she pipped Erdil to the final place on the podium in Noumea. Erdil, who suffered a foot injury during that event, is back to full fitness and will be determined to make a flying start to the season.
Elsewhere, the promising young talent of Maëlle Guilbaud (Patrik / LoftSails) will be hoping to build on an excellent 5th place overall last year, which saw the 21-year-old crowned the Youth PWA Slalom World Champion. While the other youthful talents of New Caledonia’s Lilou Granier (Starboard / Severne), 17, and Océane Lescadieu (NeilPryde), 21, Britain’s Jenna Gibson (Fanatic / NorthSails), 20, Tahiti’s Mathilde Zampieri (Gun Sails), 17 and Turkey’s Fulya Ünlü (Starboard / Point-7) will all be hoping to make bright starts.
Meanwhile, Esther de Geus (Fanatic / NorthSails) and Nimet Tulumen (Tabou / GA Sails) will be looking to put their full winter of training in Tenerife to good use as they look to improve on 6th and 8th place finishes in 2017.
Then, of course, there are a whole host of Japanese sailors who will be looking to make their mark on their home stage. Namely, Ayako Suzuki (Tabou / GA Sails), who finished as the top-ranked Japanese sailor in 2017 - 8th - narrowly ahead of Yuki Sunaga (Loftsails) - 9th - and Mio Anayama (Starboard / S2Maui), who finished 12th.
Antoine Albeau (RRD / NeilPryde) will bid to win an incredible 25th world title over the course of the coming season. AA finished 5th in 2016 but returned to his normal unstoppable self in 2017 as the Frenchman reeled off 4 victories from the 6 events completed to claim world title No. 24. Albeau finished 3rd here last year - when only one elimination could be completed - but you can expect to see a strong start from the reigning world champion.
Matteo Iachino (Starboard / Severne Sails / Shamal Sunglasses) has quickly established himself as one of the most prolific and dangerous men on the tour over the last few seasons. The 28-year-old broke into the top 10 for the first time in his career in 2014 and since then hasn’t looked back, recording results of 3rd, 1st and 2nd in 2015, ’16 and ’17. The Italian has opted to seek a new venture with Severne Sails in a transfer that sees him move away from Point-7 - the company he won his first world title with. Expect to see another strong showing from Iachino, who achieved 4 podium finishes out of 6 last year, but without a victory. Can he return to the top of the podium this time around?
Pierre Mortefon (Fanatic / NorthSails / Chopper Fins) is another sailor who has all the credentials to be a genuine title contender, having been consistently involved at the business end of the season in recent years. The Frenchman tied on points for the world title in 2015 - only to lose out on count back to Albeau and Mortefon hasn’t finished outside of the overall top 3 since 2014 and will no doubt be in contention again - especially if he is able to convert a few more winners’ finals into bullets.
Ross Williams (Tabou / GA Sails / Shamal Sunglasses) has been incredibly consistent over the last few seasons - finishing 4th, 3rd, 4th since 2015 - earning several podium results in the process. Many consider Williams to be one of the most talented on the tour with the potential to win events, but his last event victory on the PWA World Tour came back in 2009 in Austria. Expect to see Williams charging for the podium again, but can he find a bit more?
France’s Pascal Toselli (JP / Loftsails / Chopper Fins) did brilliantly to recover from a 29th place finish here last year to earn his second best overall result ever on the PWA Slalom World Tour - 5th - only bettering that in 2014 when he claimed 4th. Toselli was also well positioned well in 2016 before a dislocated shoulder during the Fuerteventura PWA World Cup disrupted his season. You can expect to see Toselli pushing for the top 5 and beyond this time around.
Julien Quentel (Patrik / Avanti) will look to defend his event title from last year after the 31-year-old won the sole elimination completed here in 2017. Like Toselli, Quentel did well to bounce back from a disappointing 20th place finish in the very next event - Costa Brava - to eventually earn 6th place in the overall rankings and he’ll be a major player again over the next 6 days,
Marco Lang (Fanatic / NorthSails) will be one to watch very carefully in the opening event of the season. The Austrian endured a frustrating start to 2017 but ended the year in spectacular fashion as he not only won his first ever eliminations in Sylt, Germany, but also the whole event with a superb display, which really made people sit up and take notice. Lang, 32, followed that victory up with an excellent 4th place in New Caledonia to break into the World’s overall top 10 - 7th - for the first time in his career and it will be very interesting to see how he fares in the opening event of the year.
Arnon Dagan (RRD / NeilPryde) also ended last season in terrific form. The Israeli was under severe pressure to perform after disappointing 25th and 36th place finishes in Japan and Fuerteventura, respectively. Dagan then bounced back with two 4th’s and a 6th to earn back-to-back overall top 10 finishes - 10th in 2016 and 8th in 2017 - and he’ll be looking to continue that rich vein of form in the season opener.
Antoine Questel’s (Starboard / S2Maui) consistency paid off as the Frenchman returned to the overall top 10 - after missing out the season prior - 17th. Questel only finished outside of the top 12 once last season and he’ll be another solid bet to challenge for the top 10 again.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Kördel (Starboard / GA Sails) will be looking to carry forward the form that saw him break into the overall top 10 for the first time in his career, into the opening event of the year. The German pipped Jordy Vonk (Fanatic / NorthSails) to the last place in the top 10 on count-back. Vonk though will return to Japan with fond memories having earned his first ever podium here last year and he’ll be eager to make a flying start as he looks to manoeuvre his way in the top 10 come the end of the year.
As the last few seasons have proved there are no easy heats anymore on the PWA Slalom World Tour and the likes of Cyril Moussilmani (I-99 / Severne Sails) - vice-world champion in 2014, 13th in 2017 - and Ben van der Steen (I-99 / GunSails) - 18th last season - will be hoping an equipment change brings a change in fortune for 2018, while the likes of Cedric Bordes (Tabou / GA Sails), Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (Starboard / Severne Sails / Chopper Fins), Tristan Algret (Starboard / Severne Sails / Chopper Fins) and Maciek Rutkowski (I-99 / Challenger Sails) should also be challenging for the top 16 and above.
Elsewhere, Bonaire’s Taty Frans (Starboard / GA Sails) and Aruba’s Ethan Westera (Tabou / GA Sails) will make their returns after both men suffered serious injuries last season. Frans will be looking to show the form that saw him ranked 6th in 2016, while Westera will look to build from 2016 when he was crowned Youth PWA Slalom World Champion.
End of an Era
Finian Maynard (I-99 / GunSails) has confirmed that this year, which marks his 25th year on tour, will be his last and he will no doubt want to try and end things on a high.
Slalom won’t be the only discipline on the cards as more thrilling foiling returns to the world scene with 44 men currently registered. Foiling also featured during last year’s tour here and Antoine Questel (Starboard / S2Maui) will be hoping to make a strong start to his defence having won, not only here in Japan, but also the entire foil exhibition in 2017.
However, with another year of training under everyone’s belts, it will be interesting to see if there are any changes in the rankings. Other names likely to be in the mix are Gonzalo Costa Hoevel, Antoine Albeau and Sebastian Kornum (JP / NeilPryde) to name just a few.
To stay up to date with all the latest developments from Japan — including the live stream, elimination ladders, entry list, images and live ticker simply click HERE and scroll to the bottom of the page.
Schedule for Day 1:
- Registration - 10am-11am (GMT+9)
- Skippers’ Meeting - 1:30pm (GMT+9)
- First Possible Start - 2:30pm (GMT+9)