The 2015 slalom is underway with Antoine Albeau (RRD/NeilPryde) and Sarah Quita Offringa (Starboard/NeilPryde) the man and woman to beat in the months ahead. After two rounds for the men and four for the women, the Frenchman and Aruban walked away from Jinha Beach victorious, ready to defend their lead in Costa Brava in June.
But before the action kicked off, four days of insufficient wind put the riders' patience considerably to the test. On the second day of the event, conditions came frustratingly close to being suitable for competition, but the wind meters never made it past the minimum required wind speed. But then on day five and six the long wait was rewarded, as Jinha's famous thermal winds finally showed up and competition could begin.
The first round saw two notable early big name exits. Both 2014 vice world champion Cyril Moussilmani (Starboard/Severne) and 2014 New Caledonia winner Ben Van Der Steen (Tabou/GA Sails) didn't manage to make it to the final, leaving the door for the other contenders wide open. In winds gusting to well over 20 knots, it was last year's number three Pierre Mortefon (Fanatic/North Sails) who successfully fought off the others, taking his first elimination. Antoine Albeau (RRD/NeilPryde) crossed the line in second, with Steve Allen (Starboard/Severne) in third.
In the second round, it was again Van der Steen who crashed out early. The winner of last year's closing event hit the proverbial wall in the quarterfinals, followed by Arnon Dagan (RRD/NeilPryde) in the semis together with first elimination winner Mortefon and Pascal Toselli (99 NoveNove/Point-7). Moussilmani did make it to the final this time around, but wasn't able to play a role of importance. Matteo Iachino (Fanatic/North Sails) however did. The Italian took the lead right from the start and never gave it up. Josh Angulo (Angulo/Gun Sails) and Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (Starboard/Point-7) came in second and third respectively.
With two eliminations in the bag, it was Albeau who took pole position, followed by Mortefon and Angulo. Would the final day be all-decisive for the final rankings? While it came very close, unfortunately it wasn't to be. After two heats in the afternoon thermal winds, the wind dropped and cut the men's competition short right there and then. That meant the standings as they were, would also be the final rankings for the men at the 2015 Ulsan PWA World Cup and Antoine Albeau proved once again that this year too, he is virtually unstoppable on the slalom course.
In the women's fleet, it was Delphine Cousin (Starboard/Gun Sails) who set out to defend her 2014 title. But the Frenchwoman was off to a bad start as she missed out on the first elimination final, as did 2014 third place rider Valérie Ghibaudo (Tabou/GA Sails). The first women's final of the event proved indicative of the event title race, as Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard/NeilPryde/Maui Ultra Fins/Mystic), Lena Erdil (Patrik/Point-7/Mystic/AL360) and Fulya Ünlü (Starboard/Severne) battled it out for the top podium spot. It was Unlu who took the lead right from the start and held on to it all the way to the finish line. Her compatriot Erdil chased her in second with Offringa not far behind. But the PWA Youth World Champion wouldn't have any of it and consolidated her lead with every mark she rounded to impressively win her first elimination, ahead of Erdil and Offringa.
In the second elimination, the same sailors claimed the podium, but in a different order. This time, Offringa had the best start with Erdil and Unlu were chasing her down all the way to the finish line. With one more day to go, Offringa took the lead, with Unlu and Erdil in second and third.
But it wasn't over just yet, as the final day of the 2015 Ulsan PWA World Cup turned out to be a ladies affaire with another two rounds of racing. Right after the men were released, the wind stabilised and the women had the windy bay all to themselves. In the third round, all usual suspects sailed their way into the final, Valérie Ghibaudo (Tabou/GA Sails) even doing so with a broken rib after a bad crash the day before. But it was Erdil who snatched victory from under Offringa's nose and with it the lead in the event. She would have to hold off the celebrations a little longer though, as the call was made to run one last round.
It all came down to this final elimination, with the podium spots far from locked in. The fourth round final was a showdown between Erdil, Unlu, Cousin, Ghibaudo, Dusart, Offringa, Kubat, Suzuki, Anayama and Lescadieu. But the biggest battle was between Erdil and Offringa, both gunning for Korean gold. Right from the start, it was Offringa who dictated the pace, while Erdil didn't have the best of starts. Offringa extended her lead throughout the race, with Cousin in second and Erdil watching her hopes for the event title shatter from third position. Offringa's first position in the fleet was never in any danger and the Aruban crossed the finish line not only the winner of the heat, but of the event as well.
Top 10 Men
1. Antoine Albeau (RRD/Neil Pryde) 2. Pierre Mortefon (Fanatic/North Sails) 3. Josh Angulo (Angulo/Gun Sails) 4. Ross Williams (Tabou/GA Sails/Mystic) 5. Pascal Toselli (99 NoveNove/Point-7) 6. Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (Starboard/Point-7) 7. Matteo Iachino (Fanatic/North Sails) 8. Arnon Dagan (RRD/NeilPryde)' 9. Marco Lang (Fanatic/North Sails) 10. Steve Allen (Starboard/Severne)
Top 10 Women
1. Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard/NeilPryde/Maui Ultra Fins/Mystic) 2. Lena Erdil (Patrik/Point-7/Mystic/AL360) 3. Fulya Ünlü (Starboard/Severne) 4. Delphine Cousin (Starboard/Gun Sails) 5. Cagla Kubat (Starboard/Severne) 6. Ayako Suzuki (Tabou/GA Sails/Mystic) 7. María Andrés (Fanatic/Gun Sails/Mystic/AL360) 8. Marion Mortefon (Patrik/Gun Sails) 9. Mio Anayama (Starboard/NeilPryde) 10. Marion Dusart (Patrik/Gun Sails/Flymount)
Next stop on the PWA slalom tour is tour evergreen Costa Brava. From June 9-14 Antoine Albeau and Sarah Quita Offringa will have to give it their all to consolidate their leads with a strong field of title contenders breathing down their necks. Until then, check out all the images, rankings and footage from the 2015 Ulsan PWA World Cup right here. Click here for updates on www.pwaworldtour.com