The last day of the Airwaves Noumea Dream Cup PWA saw a grandstand finale to the 2014 PWA World Tour as the morning showers finally cleared to allow the wind to fill in and the respective titles to be decided. With the racing beginning later than scheduled the title race came down to one final race, which would ultimately decide the title, so there was everything riding on it for both Antoine Albeau (RRD / NeilPryde) and Cyril Moussilmani (Starboard / Severne). Ben Van Der Steen (Tabou / GA Sails / Mystic) had been leading the event rankings for the past two days and the flying Dutchman secured his maiden event victory after claiming the final bullet of the week, whilst Albeau completed a famous hat-trick of world titles after finishing second compared to Moussilmani’s fifth place in elimination nine. Meanwhile, Delphine Cousin (Starboard / Loft Sails), ended the year in style as she claimed the final victory of the week to be crowned both the Queen of Noumea and the world.
Men’s – Title Race Scenario
Cyril Moussilmani entered the final race of the event knowing that he must finish in the top four or better to have any shot at winning the title. If Moussilmani finished outside the top four then Albeau would automatically be crowned world champion.
Ways For Moussilmani to Win the World Championship:
- Win the final race and Albeau finish 5th or worse.
- Finish second and Albeau finishes 6th or worse etc
- All other scenarios would result in victory for Albeau
Both men responded brilliantly under pressure in the final race as they, almost, effortlessly navigated their way through the opening three rounds to book their places in the winners’ final – setting up a mouthwatering conclusion to the title race.
Elimination Nine – Winners’ Final
Event leader Ben Van Der Steen made the best start to the last winners’ final of the event and he continued to look blisteringly quick – as in the previous days – to lead into the opening mark. Behind him all eyes were on the battle between Antoine Albeau and Cyril Moussilmani and at first sight it looked as though Moussilmani held the upper hand. However, Albeau made a smoother exit to the opening gybe to gain second place – as well as control of the title race, whilst Taty Frans (Starboard / MauiSails / Mystic / MFC) moved into third place ahead of Moussilmani. Aiming for his first event victory on the PWA Slalom World Tour, Van Der Steen, showed no sign of nerves as he produced another flawless performance over the remainder of the course to claim a well deserved victory. Meanwhile, Albeau, wobbled his way around the final gybe, but held on to race for the finish line to secure the 2014 PWA Slalom World Title, much to the delight of the cheering local fans. Behind him Julien Quentel (RRD / NeilPryde) manoeuvred his way into third place ahead of Frans, whilst Moussilmani eventually finished in fifth place.
Ben Van Der Steen on claiming his maiden event victory:
“I’m really stoked to win. I didn’t have the best preparation coming into the event with not much wind in Sylt, no wind in La Torche and also at home we didn’t have too much wind either. Also I had a problem with my neck after some training I did – it just got stuck. So I came here injured and then the physio sorted me out quite well, so thanks to them. I’d also like to thank the organisers for making this event happen it’s been a great event with good wind and conditions and I hope to be back next year.”
“For the final I was on my 7.9m GA Sails Vapor and Tabou Manta 116l, paired with a 37cm fin.”
Antoine Albeau secures a hat-trick of world titles – 2012-14:
PWA: How were you feeling this morning before the racing began?
AA: “It felt like any other day to be honest because every other day was also like this – you know Cyril [Moussilmani] was leading at the beginning and then I was leading too so we’ve been dealing with the same feelings all week. Obviously everything could still change this morning, but I felt the same as otherwise – it’s never done until it’s officially done. I was hoping that Cyril didn’t qualify for the final though, but he did and so did I. I was really happy with my sailing today. I didn’t take too much risk, but made some good starts and overall sailed very nicely.”
PWA: Were you feeling nervous as you left the beach with Cyril as you sailed out for the final?
AA: “Errr yes and no… I cannot really say no because for sure we’re under stress, but what can you do? It’s just part of the game and whoever handles it better wins. If you don’t want to have the stress of winning then you just wouldn’t compete. It’s a good sensation – something we want and something we need.”
PWA: That makes it three years in a row for you being world champion – how does that feel?
AA: “It feels good because in a second it can all change and you can just as easily miss out on a world title, so I’m very happy it turned out well for me today. It was also nice to have my parents and my girlfriend on the beach too, together with a lot of guys who wanted me to win – so they were happy to see me do well in the final. Overall I’m pretty happy.”
Björn Dunkerbeck’s (Starboard / Severne / Chris Benz / Dunkerbeck Eyewear) final race on the PWA World Tour didn’t end in the fairytale he may have dreamt about, as he was sadly disqualified in the first round after starting in the wrong heat. However, whilst the end to his PWA career on the water may not have gone to plan – he bowed out in style at the closing ceremony as he was presented with a lifetime achievement award for a career spanning 30 years and seen him win an incredible 41 world titles. Everyone from the PWA wishes Dunkerbeck all the best for the future.
Women’s – Elimination Thirteen – Winners’ Final
Thirteen may be unlucky for some, but it proved to be Sarah-Quita Offringa’s (Starboard / Mystic / Maui Ultra Fins) lucky number on this occasion as she claimed her fourth bullet of the week. The Aruban gem held the inside line over Delphine Cousin into the first mark and this proved crucial as Offringa steamed away after the first turn to leave Cousin and Lena Erdil (Patrik / Loft Sails / Mystic / AL360) in her wake. Océane Lescadieu (Starboard / Loft Sails) held third position at the penultimate buoy, but dropped her gybe to allow Valerie Ghibaudo (Tabou / GA Sails) to claim fourth. The top three remained unchanged and Offringa was clearly delighted with the victory and could be heard shouting in celebration from the beach.
Elimination Fourteen – Winners’ Final
Delphine Cousin ended the event in the best possible fashion as she claimed an emphatic final victory, which guaranteed her the event title to go alongside her world championship. The, now, two-time world champion led from start to finish proving exactly why she is the Queen of the world for the second year in a row. Sarah-Quita Offringa was in contention at the second gybe, but suffered a broken outhaul rope – ending her hopes of back-to-back bullets. This meant that Lena Erdil finished second ahead of Valerie Ghibaudo and María Andrés (Fanatic / Gun Sails / Mystic), but more importantly for, Erdil, her excellent form over the last four days of sailing sees her finish second overall in the world rankings – her best finish to date.
Delphine Cousin speaks after winning the Airwaves Noumea Dream Cup and the 2014 PWA Women’s Slalom World Championship:
“I feel very happy after this season. I’m delighted to win the last event here [Noumea] in front of Lena [Erdil] and Sarah [Quita Offringa]. My goal at the start of the year was to be world champion again, so this is just the perfect finish for me.”
“The whole week has been very good for me. We’ve had amazing winds – magic conditions really. We had fourteen races for the girls, so I don’t think we could do any better than that.”
The day ended with the champions of both the event and the world being crowned in front of a packed out crowd to cap a fantastic week in Noumea, New Caledonia, which has seen four days out of six of exhilarating slalom.
Text: Chris Yates / PWA; pics John Carter / PWA