COOLANGATTA, Australia (Friday, August 10th, 2007) -
Down on the Cornish coast we are down to the last twelve in the Women’s division. With only a 4 Star in Brazil and the season ending 6 Star at Haleiwa remaining for major points offerings for 07, the next skirmish at Fistral will have a major impact on the WQS standings, and in turn, who will graduate to the 08 ASP Women’s Tour.
Along the way there have been some major casualties, some missed opportunities and conversely, significant ground made up by several fringe dwellers seeking a shot at the Major Leagues. Serena Brooke’s comeback mission hit a snag, the seasoned competitor looking to better her lowest counting points, 780, but came up short. Serena was sitting precariously at #5 going into England, and although this is a setback, her campaign could well be assisted by the fact that several girls in front of her on the WQS ratings could well qualify solely via the Champions Tour, thus bumping Serena up.
Reigning ASP World Junior Champion Nicola Atherton was another looking to better a 780 low ball, but her yield of only 700 translates as a fruitless quest in "the old dart", as England is affectionately called throughout the Commonwealth of Nations. At #9 Nicola was looking for upward movement at the Rip Curl Boardmasters and will now have rely on a barnstorming finish at Haleiwa, a daunting task in its own right. Meanwhile, at the helm of the ratings lead, Jessi Miley-Dyer and Jacqueline Silva are forging a commanding lead, and with both advancing into the last 12 at Fistral will add to their points tally.
Last year Jacqueline Silva hung in by a thread, however she has come out guns blazing in 07, even if she fails to advance further in England 1000 points will go directly onto her overall points. The Brazilian could well challenge for WQS #1 by Sunday afternoon, although Jessi Miley-Dyer is keeping abreast of proceedings by remaining alive in the field. The showdown could come rather swiftly; both are matched up against USA surfer Lyndsay Baldwin, and with two going through the stakes have been lifted.
The real pressure cooker is in the very next heat. Australian Laurina McGrath surfs it out against American Kyla Langen and South African hottie Nikita Robb. They occupy positions #12-14 on the WQS and two of them will progress to the Quarter Finals and a minimum 1220 points. This is a real window of opportunity for this threesome; a good result in a 5 Star could catapult them into the qualifying frame and will certainly apply pressure to the likes of Serena Brooke, Sam Cornish and Amee Donohoe.
Rising American star Karina Petroni, although having bowed out of the Rip Curl Boardmasters, is the other big mover. The 900 points accrued in England has gone straight on to her tally, and, depending on how some of the girls just below her, who are still alive in the meet, go, Karina will leapfrog a bunch and be right in the reckoning as the WQS enters the home straight.
With only two events being staged thus far on the ASP Women’s Championship Tour, it is far too early to predict who will safely secure Top 10 status. Chelsea Hedges and Stephanie Gilmore, with a 1st & 5th to their credit, look sweet, but pretty much the rest have already posted one potential discard result and things could fluctuate wildly over the next brace of events. Defending 7 times World Champion Layne Beachley has opened her account with a 3rd & a 9th, as has Rebecca Woods, Silvana Lima and Samantha Cornish. Someone from this group could easily step up and challenge Chelsea and Steph, however one would think a Final’s berth in Brazil or Spain would be required.
Jessi and Jacqueline, while languishing on the cusp of the Top 10, have secured their 08 ticket via a strong WQS campaign, and with the pressure off they will become real dangers on the Championship Tour. Melanie Redman-Carr, after blazing to a record 3 consecutive victories to open her 06 assault, has had a lacklustre start, but Mel has hedged her bet with a reasonably solid WQS outing. Former World Champion Sofia Mulanovich opened at Snapper with a shocker but blasted back to #3 with a runner-up to Steph Gilmore at Bells to get her title campaign back on track.
Praia da Tiririca is the venue for the next big event, featuring a double header Billabong Girls 4 Star as curtain raiser to the resumption of the World Championship Tour event. With the World Top 10 using the QS event as a warm-up event following a 4 month hiatus, it will be slim pickings for WQS girls trying to improve their average and slot into the WQS Top 6 going into Hawaii.
So it really is all on the line in Cornwall this weekend. All the best to the survivors, I’m praying for surf too.