After a short break the 2017 PWA World Tour is ready to resume as the men’s and women’s slalom fleets head for Hvide Sande, Denmark, for the Waterz Festival which takes place between the 9th-14th September. And based on the current forecast we should be in for an epic event with a proper autumnal storm on the way, which should provide plenty of pulsating racing.
Hvide Sande is a small town in the middle of the Holmsland Dunes and placed around the artificial canal which connects Ringkøbing Fjord to the North Sea, in the western part of Central Denmark, formerly Ringkjøbing County. This small town is only home to around 3,500 inhabitants for much of the year, but during the months of July and August this can rise by as much to 20 times more with the area proving extremely popular with tourists looking for a quieter break away from city life and of course with watersport enthusiasts with the fjord creating a perfect playground for a vast array of sports. With the glassy flat water, it will be interesting to see whether the conditions favour anyone different after the most extreme stop of the tour in Fuerteventura.
Ones to Watch
At the halfway stage in the season, Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / NeilPryde / Maui Ultra Fins) holds a commanding lead coming into Hvide Sande after claiming victories in both South Korea and Japan at the start of the year. The 26-year-old has barely put a foot wrong and if she can maintain her perfect record her in Denmark then she will have the 2017 PWA Women’s Slalom World Championship title sewn up with an event to spare. A top 4 finish here would guarantee that Offringa holds on to her title race lead no matter what – heading into New Caledonia – as she looks to complete a hat-trick of slalom world crowns – which would be her 4th slalom title.
However, before that becomes a reality there’s still an awful lot of sailing ahead and with the forecast on offer, it really is an event where anything could possibly happen. In terms of the title race, there are realistically only two women who can now stop Offringa – (although it is not mathematically impossible for other sailors to win). Firstly, Turkey’s Lena Erdil (Starboard / Point-7 / AL360) – last year’s vice-world champion and current world No.2 – who has sailed solidly so far this year with 2nd and 3rd place finishes. The 28-year-old came so close to a maiden world title in 2016 but saw that dream slip through her fingers here as she missed out by just one place and she’ll be doing everything in her power to keep the here title race fight alive.
Secondly, France’s Delphine Cousin Questel (Starboard / S2Maui) would be the other main threat as a former two-time world champion. However, the 26-year-old suffered a disappointing 11th place finish in Japan after her outhaul snapped and as a result she now has no room for error. So the pressure is now on, but if she could win the last two events of the year she would still have a chance at the title depending on how New Caledonia plays out. First things first though she has to concentrate on the task at hand here.
This season has also seen 25-year-old Esther de Geus (JP / Point-7) and 20-year-old Maëlle Guilbaud (Patrik / LoftSails) break through the ranks as new names began to emerge on the women’s tour. Both have performed excellently so far and are currently tied for 3rd in the overall rankings and they’ll be looking to keep cool heads as they aim to stay in the hunt for a place on the prestigious podium.
However, behind them will be the likes of Marion Mortefon (Fanatic / NorthSails), who quickly put a disappointing start in South Korea – 11th – behind her to recover with a solid 3rd place in Japan, which sees her in 6th place coming into Hvide Sande. Also in the mix should be the Japan’s Ayako Suzuki (Tabou / GA Sails / Mystic), Norway’s Oda Johanne (Starboard / Severne / Maui Ultra Fins), Turkish teammates Cagla Kubat (Starboard / Point-7) and Fulya Ünlü (Starboard / Point-7), while Anissa Mohrath (Tabou / GA Sails) will be hoping to perform at her home event.
Antoine Albeau (RRD / NeilPryde) has been in irresistible form so far this season with two wins and a third place from the three events where it has been possible to gain a result. The 23-time world champions latest victory in Fuerteventura was vintage Albeau and with the current strong winds forecast, another victory could beckon in Denmark, which would put him on the verge of a 24th world title.
However, while Albeau has opened up a decent lead he’ll be aware as anyone how quickly the tide can change and with 3 events to go he hasn’t yet shaken off reigning world champion – Matteo Iachino (Starboard / Point-7) – who is his closest challenger at the moment. The Italian endured a tricky start to the season but looked to be back to his best in Fuerte after a disastrous first race – as he then bounced back with 6 top 4 finishes from the next 7 races. If the 27-year-old can maintain that superb form then you wouldn’t want to bet against him defending his event title here from last year.
Pierre Mortefon (Fanatic / NorthSails / Chopper Fins) was involved in the horror crash with Taty Frans (Starboard / GA Sails / Mystic) in Fuerteventura, but thankfully the Frenchman survived unscathed and he’s ready to continue the battle in his quest for a first world title. Coming into Hvide Sande, Mortefon currently sits in 3rd place.
Ross Williams (Tabou / GA Sails / Mystic) has gradually improved in each event so far this season with 9th, 5th, and 3rd place finishes thus far – the question is can he continue that upward trend here in Denmark? The Brit struck a couple of bullets in Fuerte and was in contention for the event title heading into the final race and you’d have to think he’s in with a decent shot for the podium again.
If a result is gained in Hvide Sande, which it looks like it should be, then the discard will come into play and while Iachino, Mortefon and Williams all stand to benefit from potentially discarding their worst results so far, it is Julien Quentel (Patrik / Avanti) who stands to gain the most. The 31-year-old has blown hot and cold so far this season – going from a brilliant victory in Japan to a disappointing 20th place in Costa Brava before stabilising the ship again with an assured display in Fuerte where he finished 5th. If he performs to the best of his ability then you can expect to see Quentel closing the gap on the current top 4.
Antoine Questel (Starboard / S2Maui) has been Mr. Consistent so far with two 10th places and a 12th from the opening 3 events. The Frenchman has seen that consistency rewarded with 6th place in the overall rankings and he’ll be hoping to find another top 10 performance here.
Sebastian Kördel (Starboard / GA Sails) will have fond memories of Hvide Sande having earned his first podium on the PWA World Tour here in 2016. The German is quickly establishing himself as one of the best slalom sailors in the world and he’ll be hoping he can conjure up the form that saw him finish in the top 3 last year to remain on course to break into the overall top 10 for the first time in his career come the end of the season.
Flying Dutchman Jordy Vonk (Fanatic / NorthSails) is also enjoying his best season to date – 8th overall at the moment – and the 24-year-old will be hoping to muster another top 10 finish here as he too attempts to break into the overall top 10 by the end of the year.
Elsewhere, Cyril Moussilmani (99NoveNove / Severne) currently occupies 9th place and he’ll be hoping to discard his 23rd place from Costa Brava, while fellow countryman Pascal Toselli (99NoveNove / LoftSails / Chopper Fins) could be on elf the biggest moves come the event of the event. Toselli started the year with a disastrous 29th in Japan, but has since recovered admirably with 4th and 8th place finishes respectively.
Taty Frans completes the top 10 coming into the Denmark, but the event has come too soon for him to have recovered from his injury sustained in Fuerteventura – the true is same for Ethan Westera (Tabou / GA Sails) and everyone from the PWA wishes them all the best with their recoveries.
After disappointing starts to the season – Ben van der Steen (Patrik / Gun Sails) and Cedric Bordes (Tabou / GA Sails) – both recorded their best results so far – 9th and 6th respectively – and both will be hoping to build a bit of momentum now heading into the second half of the season.
As always there’s plenty of other sailors who are more than capable of recording top 10 results and making finals, so also keep an eye out for Finian Maynard (99NoveNove / Gun Sails), Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (Starboard / Severne), Maciek Rutkowski (Tabou / GA Sails), Marco Lang (Fanatic / NorthSails) – who could be one of the biggest movers should he discard a 41st from Japan. Arnon Dagan (RRD / NeilPryde) – who has been hot and cold so far and Tristan Algret (Starboard / Severne / Mystic / Chopper Fins), who has finished 7th and 18th in the events he has attended this season.
The stage is now set for what promises to be a wet, wild and windy week in Denmark, so make sure you don’t miss any of the warp speed action by tuning into www.pwaworldtour.com between the 9th-14th September – here you’ll be able to follow all of the action as it happens via the PWA live stream – plus find elimination ladders, entry list, images and live ticker to follow the event – simply click HERE and scroll to the bottom of the page to find those.