The wind took a little longer to kick in on the penultimate day of the Airwaves Noumea Dream Cup PWA, but the sun soon burnt through the lingering cloud to allow the wind to build – producing another exhilarating afternoon of racing. A further two races for the men and four races for the women were completed in winds ranging from 14-25 knots and at the end of the day Ben Van Der Steen (Tabou / GA Sails / Mystic) still heads the event rankings with one day to go, whilst Delphine Cousin (Starboard / Loft Sails) can now officially celebrate securing back-to-back world titles, as it is now mathematically impossible for her to finish outside the top four. Meanwhile the men’s title race will go down to the wire between Antoine Albeau (RRD / NeilPryde) and Cyril Moussilmani (Starboard / Severne) with just 3.6 points separating the two Frenchman, so there is all still to play for.
Men’s – Elimination 7 – Winners’ Final
Taty Frans (Starboard / MauiSails / Mystic / MFC) made the best start of the bunch to heat sixteen, but by the first mark Antoine Albeau held the lead ahead of Pascal Toselli (Starboard / Point-7), Ben Van Der Steen, whilst Antoine Questel (Starboard / Loft Sails) gybed inside Micah Buzianis (JP / MauiSails) to move into the top four. Albeau clearly had the bit between his teeth – with Cyril Moussilmani failing to qualify for the winners’ final – and AA made his title rival pay the maximum price as he secured back-to-back bullets to take a stranglehold over the title race and was clearly delighted with his efforts after crossing the finish line. The top four of Toselli, Van Der Steen and Questel remained unchanged over the remainder of the course, despite Frans’ best efforts to fight back.
Elimination 8 – Winners’ Final
Cyril Moussilmani knew he needed something special to keep the pressure on Antoine Albeau and he responded in the perfect fashion as he crossed the start line in first place, but it was Pascal Toselli who held a narrow lead into the first ahead of Moussilmani, Ben Van Der Steen and Matteo Iachino (Fanatic / North). However, Moussilmani, dug deep as he fought back to take the lead by the third buoy, before holding his nerve at the final mark to claim a crucial victory, which could yet play a decisive factor in 2014 title race, especially with Albeau finishing in a disappointing seventh place. The victory clearly meant a lot to Moussilmani, who celebrated in style after crossing the finish line – showing that he is still very much in the fight for a maiden world crown. Behind him Toselli secured second place followed by Van Der Steen and Iachino, who finished third and fourth respectively.
Women’s – Elimination Nine – Winners’ Final
The opening women’s winners’ final of the day saw separate premature starts leading to – Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / Mystic / Maui Ultra Fins), Valerie Ghibaudo (Tabou / GA Sails) and Océane Lescadieu (Starboard / Loft Sails) – all being disqualified. At the fourth time of asking the final was underway as Sarah Hauser (Tabou / Simmer) made the best start. The local girls lead didn’t last long though as Delphine Cousin broke into first place by the opening mark – followed by Lena Erdil (Patrik / Loft Sails / Mystic / AL360), Ayako Suzuki (Tabou / GA Sails / Mystic) and Mio Anayama (Starboard / NeilPryde). Cousin continued to fly, both on the straights and through the gybes, and it wasn’t long until she was claiming an emphatic victory. Behind her Erdil claimed second place, whilst María Andrés (Fanatic / Gun Sails / Mystic) fought her way back into third place ahead of Suzuki in fourth.
Elimination Ten – Winners’ Final
Lena Erdil and Valerie Ghibaudo led the way in race ten as they gybed side-by-side at the first buoy ahead of Mio Anayama, María Andrés and Ayako Suzuki, whilst Delphine Cousin and Sarah-Quita Offringa both got caught up at the first. By the third gybe though Erdil had built a healthy lead over Ghibaudo, whilst Offringa and Cousin produced great comebacks after navigating their way back through the pack into third and fourth respectively. After the final gybe the top four remain unchanged leaving Erdil to celebrate her second bullet of the week.
Elimination Eleven – Winners’ Final
Delphine Cousin dominated again in race eleven as she built a substantial lead to claim victory number six and all but secure the world championship. Meanwhile, it looked as though Lena Erdil would be finishing in second place, but at the final mark she dropped her gybe, which allowed Sarah-Quita Offringa to move into the top two. Credit where credit is due though as the Turk made a swift recovery to keep Océane Lescadieu at bay to finish third.
Elimination Twelve – Winners’ Final
Sarah-Quita Offringa narrowly led the final heat of the day as the fleet entered the first gybe, but Lena Erdil managed to out manoeuvre her to lead by the second followed by Delphine Cousin, who managed to move up to second place ahead of Offringa and Valerie Ghibaudo. This time around, Erdil, made no mistake at the last as she flew down the final straight to cap a fine day, which saw her win two eliminations. Meanwhile, Cousin, finished in second place – meaning that with one day to go there is no way she can be caught in the title race and is officially world champion for the second consecutive year. Just behind her were Offringa and Ghibaudo, who finished third and fourth respectively.
Tomorrow is set to see a grand finale to the 2014 PWA World Tour – with the men’s title race going down to the wire. With a superb looking forecast, tomorrow is a day that simply can’t be missed. Who’s your money on? Antoine Albeau or Cyril Moussilmani? The skippers’ meeting will be held at 10:30am – with the action commencing from 11am.
Text: Chris Yates / PWA – all pics by John Carter / PWA