Preseason Buildup

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A Look into the Top Contenders Ahead of the 2018 PWA Slalom World Tour, Which Sees World’s Fastest Sailors Head for Asia

The countdown is firmly on for the start of the 2018 PWA Slalom World Tour with the first event of the season starting in just under two weeks time. The fastest sailors in the world will be heading to Asia for the opening two battles of the season, with Japan raising the curtain on the Slalom World Tour, this time around, with the Fly! ANA Yokosuka PWA World Cup (10th-15th May), before taking a short flight to Ulsan, South Korea for the Ulsan PWA World Cup (19th-24th May).

With reigning slalom world champion – Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / NeilPryde / Maui Ultra Fins) – confirming that she won’t be attending the Asian leg of the tour as she takes some time out to focus more on the waves, there will be a different girl stood at the top of the podium come the end of the season.

The prime candidate for that slot would have to be Delphine Cousin Questel (Starboard / S2Maui), who will be the only woman competing to have previously won the Women’s PWA Slalom World Championship – having won twice (2013 & ’14). The former world champion also dominated the last event of the year in New Caledonia – winning 5 out of the 8 races completed and would probably have loved another shot of taking down Offringa. That will have to wait for now though.

Cousin Questel’s biggest rivals are likely to be Turkey’s Lena Erdil (Starboard / Point-7 / AL360) – who has been ranked in the top 3 every year since 2014, except last year, when a foot injury inhibited her chances of continuing the run – and Marion Mortefon (Fanatic / NorthSails), who enjoyed her best season to date on the world tour as she leapfrogged Erdil to complete the prestigious podium. Mortefon showed excellent consistency last season finishing on the podium in 3 out of the 4 events but will have to find a bit more if she wants to be a genuine title contender.

Erdil has been in title contention before – leading the title race heading into the final event of the year in 2016 after winning in South Korea that year and she’ll be hoping that the Asian leg of the tour brings her further success.

We’ll take a full look at the women’s field during the full event preview.

Men’s

24-time world champion – Antoine Albeau (RRD / NeilPryde) – will start the season as the favourite for the 2018 Men’s PWA World Championship with the 45-year-old having won the title in 5 of the last 6 seasons (’12, ’13, ’14, ’15 & ’17).

In 2016 – when Matteo Iachino (Starboard / Severne / Shamal Sunglasses) won his first slalom world title and Albeau finished 5th – some started to question whether Albeau was still the same dominant force as old. The Frenchman wasn’t happy with his light wind setup during the season of ’16 and quashed any critics last season with a crushing display of dominance, which saw AA win 4 out of the 6 events, where he also carded a 3rd and a 10th. If Albeau is anywhere near that level of form it will be difficult to see anyone stopping him.

However, there are a fair number of contenders lining up to take their shot – the first of which will be Matteo Iachino – who changed sail sponsor over the winter to Severne Sails. The Italian led the world tour heading into the final event of 2015, before eventually finishing 3rd, before claiming his first world crown in 2016. Last season could’ve easily been a different story too for the 28-year-old when a broken mast during a semifinal heat in Sylt cost him a shot at the event victory. And rather than eyeing up the podium Iachino was left to finish 16th – worst result of the season – which swung the title race heavily in Albeau’s favour. Iachino will be there to go rail-to-rail with Albeau again over the coming months and he’s one sailor who has that killer instinct and can dominate events rather than nicking a bullet here and there.

Pierre Mortefon (Fanatic / NorthSails / Chopper Fins) hasn’t finished out the world’s top 3 for the last 4 seasons – 2x vice world champion, 2x 3rd – and will be in the thick of the action again. Mortefon was shaken after a nasty crash involving himself and Taty Frans (Starboard / GA Sails), but looked back to his best in the season finale in New Caledonia – where the Frenchman clinched 3rd place, to deny Ross Williams (Tabou / GA Sails / Shamal Sunglasses) a place on the prestigious overall podium. Expect to see another solid performance from the 28-year-old.

We’ll take a full look at the rest of the men’s fleet in the event preview, but other contenders include Britain’s Ross Williams – who hasn’t finished lower than 4th overall in the last 3 seasons – Pascal Toselli (99NoveNove / Loftsails / Chopper Fins) – who equalled his best ever finish (5th) last year – Julien Quentel (Patrik / Avanti) – who won in Japan in 2017 – and Marco Lang (Fanatic / NorthSails) – who won his first ever event last season with a spectacular display in Sylt, Germany. The only slight question mark is whether the above sailors can gain enough event victories to make them a genuine threat for the title, rather than a shot at the prestigious podium. In the end last year Albeau and Iachino finished well clear of the rest of the chasing pack… can anyone close the gap this time around?

Stay up to date with all of the latest developments from Japan and South Korea by staying tuned into www.pwaworldtour.com between the 10th-24th May.

Source: PWA

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