Disqualification Update

Official statement from the PWA regarding the disqualification of Johan Søe

The PWA is a rider and manufacturer governed association. Rules are set by the PWA Management Board that are elected from the industry and rider members of the association. The rider and industry representatives on the PWA Management Board consult with the members on all matters, including competition rules.
All PWA racing is run on registered production equipment. As such, sails, boards, and foils must be registered by the manufacturers before the start of the season. All participating brands and riders are aware of these requirements.
This is intended to ensure that any competitor has access to the same level of equipment, and so that any advantage through having additional wealth or funding is minimised, creating as level a playing field as possible.
This also creates an environment whereby recreational sailors can also obtain and enjoy using the same high-performance gear as the pros.
For 2023 competitors registered the 3 boards, 6 sails, and one set of foil components that they would compete on for the whole year, at the first event they participated at.
Not all equipment is checked at events as it is expensive and time consuming to do so, but riders are expected to abide by the rules and the responsibility is on the competitors themselves to make sure that their equipment is not in breach of the rules. If they are in any doubt they can request to have their equipment measured to check it for legality. Equipment is checked randomly at events across multiple brands and riders to help ensure that the rules are upheld.
As part of equipment checks at the PWA slalom finals in Japan, sails from top riders were inspected to check for rule compliance. Examples of sails from NeilPryde, Challenger, Severne and Point-7 were collected from the riders.
All of the sails collected were measured, with the battens and cambers removed, and on a flat hard surface with the sails being pulled flat to the ground.
On inspection the Point-7 sail belonging to DEN-37 showed clear and undeniable indications that the sail had been modified from its original factory construction. Marks left from the original construction, such as glue and stitching holes were clearly visible, and normal graphics printed on the sail were obscured where batten pockets had been moved. Neither Point-7 or DEN-37 have denied or challenged this fact.
The Point-7 sail was found to have leech measurements between the battens that were outside of the registered specification by more than 2cm, and even with the production tolerances of 0.35% applied, were still 1.5cm outside of the registered specification.
To ensure fair consideration, a control sail from another rider using the same Point-7 production sails was also inspected. This sail showed none of the signs of modification that DEN-37’s sail did, there was no glue or altered stitching and the graphics that had been obscured on DEN-37’s sail were fully visible. All of the sails measurements were within the acceptable tolerances.
To ensure that all reasonable doubt was eliminated, the measurements of the other production sail were then taken as base measurements, tolerances were applied, but DEN-37s sail was still found to be more than 1.5cm out of spec even with the extra millimetres granted by the variances in the second production sail.
The judges then convened a hearing with DEN-37 to ask him if he could provide any information as to why his sail had been modified, why it was out of the tolerance of the registered specification and to allow him the chance to explain the situation from his point of view and put forward any mitigating circumstances that might justify the discrepancies discovered in the inspection.
The sail had been registered for competition by DEN-37 and therefore needed to be to the correct specification whether used or not, but it was found that it had been used through the year including in Japan.
After hearing DEN-37s evidence, and equipped with the findings of the inspections, the judges reconvened to discuss the situation and decide on whether the rules had been infringed and, if so, what, if any, penalty should be imposed.
The judges were unanimous in their opinion that the sail did not – with all tolerances and reasonable doubt applied – meet the required specification and was therefore illegal for use in PWA racing. The committee found that although DEN-37 may not have used the sail in a counting heat in Japan, that he had used it in valid starts where he could not have known that the heat would subsequently be abandoned, so this argument was not a valid defence. The committee also felt that although they did not have measurements taken from this particular sail at other events, he had used it in its current state throughout the season, and therefore whether he had used it in Japan or not was not the only consideration.
The judges therefore felt they had no option but to apply the rules which state.
 {2.5.3} Equipment Scrutinising (SLALOM)
(a) Scrutinising of equipment will be performed either by a PWA Representative, or any member of the PWA Race Crew. A sailor must make his/her equipment available for scrutinising at any time whilst the event is in progress. Failure to present equipment for scrutinising may result in disqualification from the respective race or from the entire discipline.
(b) Equipment used by sailors must meet all registered specification and shall not have been modified in any way without prior approval from the protest committee. Modification from the normal specification as delivered by the manufacturer shall not be permitted. For the purposes of this rule, the addition of any extra tack or clew cringles or positions, puncturing of the sail to allow any attachment to provide tension other than devices supplied with the sail as standard or any other attachment or modification that is designed to alter the shape or performance of the sail from the standard supplied configuration shall not be permitted. For the avoidance of doubt, brochure / website specification and or the majority specification of other identical items of equipment may be used as evidence of the standard supplied specification by the protest committee.
(c) Batten types and tension, mast type and tension, adjustment of camber inducers including sanding / filing and the addition of any spacers or other optional devices that are supplied as standard for the adjustment of battens, masts or camber inducers, shall be excluded from this rule and may be adjusted at the discretion of the sailor in question.
(d) Any sailor found to have been using equipment that has not been registered, or equipment that does not meet the registered specification for that particular item of equipment, including the conditions outlined above, shall be disqualified from the entire race discipline for that event.
Therefore, the committee was left with little option other than to disqualify DEN-37 from the event in Japan.
As with any decision by the judges at an event, DEN-37 will have the right to appeal the decision and the hearing may be reopened if significant new evidence can be presented. DEN-37 has indicated that he intends to appeal, although no appeal has been presented at this time and as DEN-37 will be travelling home currently, he will be granted further time to lodge an appeal, should he choose to do so.
The PWA takes the application of the rules surrounding equipment registration seriously and competitors or brands who breach such rules do so with great disrespect to the vast majority of their contemporaries who strive to uphold the rules.
Point-7: "It was not the first time that our brand has been at the top of the PWA podium and certainly not the last. We proved it in different disciplines and often with new young talents. We are very competitive and work hard on our development and for 2024, as Johan has already signed with us, we are even more motivated to take him back to the top, as he has shown amazing racing skills. We are happy to support PWA in the task in enforcing the checking of riders equipment throughout all events."


"It has meant a lot to me to see that in 2023 even without doing all the events, I was there at the top. Racing is very complex and not only based on gear. You need to start good, not fall and there is no margin for mistakes, and this is one of my strengths. My motivation for the sport has never been greater than now, and I am grateful for the strong support from a widespread part of the windsurfing community in a situation that has been very challenging for me. Thank you for this.

The PWA also measured a P7 7.8 of a Japanese rider. This sail was also quite far of the specs registered by Point-7 and my one was unfortunately just a bit further away. This means that the sail belonging to the Japanese rider was already far off the registered specs. I am sure Point-7 is more capable of explaining the technical details. The sail was NOT used for any valid race for PWA Japan. I did one start with it but the heat was cancelled due to too light wind. Therefore the sail did not have any affect in the result. It’s sad to hear riders say that I used in Japan in a valid race.

I have always had a very good collaboration with PWA, and I find the events well-organised, with good cooperation and a positive atmosphere. Nevertheless, the experience in Japan has been very tough as I feel that a great injustice has been done to me. I’m sure PWA will start to have measurements on gear done more frequently throughout the events with a stricter system and tags on parts allowed to be used, and not on rider demand on the last day of racing.

It is very important to me that this situation does not affect the sailors who have changed their rankings due to my disqualification in a negative way. I’m looking ahead already, and I am confident that I will emerge stronger.

I look forward to a continued professional collaboration with PWA, just as I look forward to 2024. It is important for me to stress, that I have always had full confidence that all my sails meet the specifications, so I have never considered measuring them, and I'm even not entirely sure how to measure."