For a brief period it looked as though Day 4 of the Catalunya PWA World Cup would provide excellent racing conditions with the wind picking up in the late morning, which allowed the fifth foil race of the event to be completed and a further five heats of the second slalom elimination to also be verified, but after this a thick layer of cloud set in which interrupted the flow of the wind with the thermal effect almost instantly shutting down.
Antoine Albeau (RRD / NeilPryde) now holds the outright lead in the foil exhibition as he delivered another faultless display to earn a clear cut victory over his nearest challenger Antoine Questel (Starboard / S2Maui). The two Frenchman were tied at the top of the rankings at the start of the day, but Albeau now has a 1.3 point lead.
Sebastian Kornum (JP / NeilPryde) still occupies third in the overalls after continuing to sail consistently with the Dane recording his third, third place in the five races so far completed.
Meanwhile, Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (Starboard / Severne / Chopper Fins) continues to recover from his slow start on the opening day and the Argentine gains a further two places to move into 4th.
In the opening round of the second race the majority of the sailors you would expect to advance did, but Benjamin Augé (Patrik / Sailloft Hamburg) and Michal Aftowicz (Point-7) both faced disappointing first round exits. Meanwhile, Sean O’Brien (Starboard / Severne) completed a superb comeback as the Australian got up just before the line to steal the final qualifying place into the next round at the expense of Tomas van Zelst, who had held 4th place all the way until that point.
Maciek Rutkowski (Tabou / GA Sails) jumped the gun in Heat 5 to be left with a second round exit – upon the restart Cyril Moussilmani (99NoveNove / Severne) claimed top spot, but behind him there was plenty of drama as Taty Frans (Starboard / GA Sails / Mystic) catapulted on the final reach, when in second place, to allow Ben van der Steen (Patrik / Gun Sails) and Amado Vrieswijk (JP / Severne) into second and third, while Ramon Pastor (99NoveNove / LoftSails) was effectively the lucky loser as he unexpectedly grabbed the final qualifying position into the quarterfinals.
Heat 6 was the final heat of the day to be completed and the top 4 remained the same after the first mark, which resulted in German Sebastian Kördel (Starboard / GA Sails) convincingly winning the heat ahead of Basile Jacquin (Starboard / Point-7), Jimmy Diaz (Starboard / NorthSails) and Mateus Isaac (JP / NeilPryde).
Foiling looks set to play a major part in racing in the coming seasons so we caught up with Antoine Albeau and Gonzalo Costa Hoevel, who are heavily involved with the development of foiling to find out more.
You are involved in the development of foiling – how do you think foiling compares to say this time last year?
AA: “Last year, in April, I started working with the guys from F4 in San Francisco and together with NeilPryde we decided to produce and release one carbon foil, so we’ve been working and developing the foil together to be able to release the production foil we have now. And then at the same time we’ve also been developing the aluminium foil for beginners, which is available for the super attractive price of €800. It’s much easier to use and allows people to try foiling out.
Compared to last year I think the development has been huge, but this is still only the beginning because now most of the companies already have a foil ready for the summer. I’m pretty sure that this time next year everything will have majorly progressed again.”
GCH: “I’ve been working on the Starboard Foils for about 6 months now. Last year when we started and just before Sylt’s PWA Demo Foil event, I had in my mind that foiling obviously was a new discipline for speed and racing lovers, but I was not sure who could actually do it. I thought that your level had to be pretty high – i.e. PWA level or a very technical guy. Now after all this time and evolution I am sure that we have managed to open up the chance to foil to a lot more normal windsurfers. Now we have managed to make foils that any freerider can have a go on and experience the magical feel of flying above the water. It is not only for pros anymore.
In the PRO level, we have managed to bring down our minimum winds and we were competing in Japan with winds between 4-8 knots, something last year we wouldn’t have thought was possible. At higher speeds, we have created super stable foils, that allows us to go over 30 knots or challenge any slalom sailor on a 20 knots wind day.
Brands are also making specific foiling boards – what are the main differences between a slalom board and a foil board?
AA: “So with a slalom board it will be a little bit more pin tailed to reduce the drag on the water – whereas with a foil board you need to be much closer to the position you stand on a formula board – so the tail needs to be more square and because you aren’t touching the water (when foiling) there is no drag in the tail, which means you can have a wide tail to help you get going earlier and it’s also more comfortable.”
GCH: “A foil board needs to be pretty wide, with slalom we have a max width of 85cm, our big foil board by Starboard is 100cm wide. This gives us exceptional early planing ability in the 4-8kts range, plus it allows us to use bigger foils and more powerful setups. The further out you manage to stand. the more leverage and control you have over the foil. So it is actually easier to sail and control, which allows you to maintain your max speed for longer. The outline of the board should be pretty straight and the nose doesn’t need to be significantly big, as when we are flying we want less resistance on the front and a more aerodynamic design. If you want a high wind foil board we have slightly narrower shape and different rails, providing us control when flying. For a beginner, we have a slightly longer and higher rocker board, so that when you are learning and you dig the nose the board comes up instantly with control and you don’t catapult. This is key! I wouldn’t learn on those short boards and boards with a flat rocker line.”
And what are the main differences between a slalom sail and foil sail?
AA: “With NeilPryde we have been developing a foil sail that has a bit more shape in the front because when you are flying you need the sail to be really stable. Also, the leach is a bit more closed because when you are pumping in the light winds you don’t want to be exhausting all the wind. It’s better to keep the wind in the sail rather than releasing it. We’ve found like this you can fly earlier and it’s easier to keep planing – those are the main couple of differences. In Japan, I didn’t bring the specific foil sail because of the excess baggage, so I used my slalom sails – for now the difference isn’t huge between the slalom sail and the foil sail.”
GCH: “The foil sails needs to be very light in feel when you are up there you don’t want a heavy sail, so they have a reduced boom length, and a higher aspect ratio. We are looking for efficient pumping to come up on to the plane and very good rotation so when you try to do a foil gybe you have less effort. At the moment most of us are using slalom sails, but with Severne we are working hard on achieving a sail that offers the same top speed as a slalom sail while providing a light and effortless feel when on the foil.”
As foiling continues to progress – where do you see foiling fitting in?
AA: “Personally I’m trying to push foiling as much as possible because it’s something I’ve done for a very long time. I think my first foil experience was in Maui in 2000. At the moment everybody seems to see foiling as a light wind solution, which it is super nice for and it’s easy in those conditions, but you can also foil in 20-30 knots – it’s harder but it’s possible.”
GCH: “After Japan I see it progressing strongly on our tour. Already in Japan it has proved that it works perfectly in our light wind range and it massively reduces our minimum wind limit to 4 -8 knots. The medium wind range is yet to be properly discovered as most are only using foils in extremely light winds at the moment, but I see it being a great discipline in 8-15 knots as well. When the wind gets above 20 knots it is still a lot of fun, but then the performance of foiling and slalom become super close.“
What winds do you think foiling is currently best in?
AA: “When it’s super, super light, foiling is also really hard to get planing / flying – just like slalom – and it’s tricky to stay on the foil, so for me I would say 15-20 knots is the best range – particularly with flat water because then it’s quite easy.”
GCH: “4-15 knots.”
What are the main differences between slalom and foiling – in terms of racing and sailing angles?
AA: “With the foil you can point much higher and lower than slalom – it’s more comparable with formula. I haven’t done any racing again a good formula guy, but I’m quite sure on a foil we would win and be faster.”
GCH: “On a foil you can point much higher and race in much lighter winds. We could bring back upwind, downwind racing again, and bigger fleet systems. There many things that could be insane with foiling, but i think for now we need to develop and try different formats – focusing on the light winds under 15 knots.”
Do you need different foiling setups?
AA: “I currently have two front wings that I can change. For light winds I have a wing with more area and width to generate more lift and it allows to me go upwind and downwind, but if the wind is constant and say between 15-20 knots then you can change down to the medium wing, which is super stable and very easy to use.”
GCH: “You could play around a lot. At Starboard we designed a modular setup, meaning that you can change the fuselage length and the wings. So if it’s light you will put in a longer fuselage and bigger wings will make you plane earlier and have good lift and speed around the course. Then if the wind picks up, or if you are sailing a more traditional slalom course, or a long distance course, you can change to the smaller fuselage with smaller wings and it will give you higher speeds and comfort.
We have opted for this as we believe that in the future you will be able to change a wing, just as you change a fin and this will allow massive changes in performance. As well for the R&D it is much easier to evolve being able to try different combos of your parts, fuselage, mast, front and back wings.”
Compared to slalom do you setup the board or sail differently?
AA: “With the harness lines they need to be further forward compared to when slalom sailing and the harness lines are much shorter, but for a beginner it isn’t a good idea to immediately start with super short lines. You still need to shorten them a bit compared to your windsurfing setup, but then gradually shorten them as you progress.
GCH: “You can use the sail with slightly less downhaul, that’s for sure. Mast base and footstraps position go in a very similar place as for slalom, if you want slightly more power then set everything back, if you want more control further forward.”
Why is it not a good idea for beginners to start out with super short harness lines?
AA: “Because when they are super short it’s hard to get out of the harness if you lose control, which will happen, to begin with until you get used to it, so it’s better to have them so they are easier to get out of and it’s safer.“
The stance for foiling looks quite different to normal windsurfing – how do they compare?
AA: “The main differences are that you need to keep your body weight over the top of the board – you stand much more vertical. If you start to try and lay down it means that you will luff up. When you are just starting it’s really important that you keep your mast and body as vertical as possible.
Steering still uses the same principles as windsurfing with heel and toe pressure to change direction – so pushing on your toes will take you downwind and conversely pressure through your feet will bring you upwind.”
GCH: “If you’ve watched closely you would’ve noticed that some of us are railing the board to leeward, this stance allows you to control the foil and go for more speed. It is like your body is almost a continuation of the mast and of the foil angle, so your weight and strength keeps the board on trim with downforce. If you adopt a normal slalom stance you will probably take off and explode instantly. Sometimes you will see us leaning extremely far forward, this is for control and to keep the foil down.
But some foils produce more lift and others less, that’s why you will see some different stances around.
Is the pressure you have to apply when foiling different compared to windsurfing? (Is foiling more sensitive)
AA: “Yeah it is because if you apply the same pressure as when you are windsurfing you will turn much quicker and harder. You also have to be aware that every time you turn the foil will generate power as it turns, so it’s critical you really concentrate when you are trying to turn.”
Is it strange / difficult to switch between slalom and foiling?
AA: “No, it’s not hard. But there’s quite a big difference between the two. If it’s choppy you feel every bit of chop with the slalom gear, but when you are foiling you can just cut straight through it, so it’s great to be foiling when conditions are choppy.”
Do you think foiling needs different safety measures put in place?
AA: ‘No, I don’t think so. I think the problems that we saw on the start line on the first day of foiling in Japan are just because it’s the beginning of racing with the foils. People are already thinking that they know how to foil and that they know everything, so I knew that everyone was going to push like crazy at the start, but you cannot stop like you can in slalom and you cannot turn the same either, so I just decided to start from the back because I didn’t want to crash.
I just think at the beginning this is how it’s going to be because the people are not aware of how difficult it is to brake and turn, but over time this will change as everyone’s level progresses.”
GCH: “I think we need to use helmets for sure. It can be pretty dangerous if someone crashes in front of you. It is pretty technical to make a sudden change of course with control. The volume of water that you cover with the foil is much greater than with a normal fin too. Courses can help us to have less crashes and as we are doing it now helps a lot. We changed the angles a bit on the first leg and at the start and we have a downwind second leg too that allows room where everybody gybes.”
In Costa Brava we’ll be holding more foil exhibition races – what do you think people can expect?
AA: “I think we will see more people participating, but the problem is that at the moment the foil companies leading the way aren’t quite ready for the level of demand, so I think by Denmark (in September) that almost everybody will have a foil and by then people will have had more time to train over the summer, so if we have foiling in Denmark I think there will be even more people and you might see different names fighting for the top places.”
Thanks Antoine and Gonzalo.
The forecast looks promising for tomorrow afternoon with potentially ideal conditions for the sea breeze to kick in with a gradient wind of 9-10 knots from the southeast and clear skies. The skippers’ meeting has been called for 10am with a first possible start at 10:30am (GMT+2)
Current Ranking Foil Exhibition Catalunya PWA World Cup –
*After 5 Races – 1 Discard
1st Antoine Albeau (RRD / NeilPryde)
2nd Antoine Questel (Starboard / S2Maui)
3rd Sebastian Kornum (JP / NeilPryde)
4th Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (Starboard / Severne / Chopper Fins)
5th Mateus Isaac (JP / NeilPryde)
6th Maciek Rutkowski (Tabou / GA Sails)
7th Nicolas Goyard (Starboard / Point-7)
8th Malte Reuscher (JP / NeilPryde)
9th Pierre Mortefon (Fanatic / NorthSails / Chopper Fins)
10th Amado Vrieswijk (JP / Severne)
Current Ranking 2017 Catalunya PWA World Cup – Men’s Slalom
*After One Elimination
1st Arnon Dagan (RRD / NeilPryde)
2nd Nicolas Goyard (RRD / Point-7 / Mystic)
3rd Pascal Toselli (99NoveNove / LoftSails / Chopper Fins)
4th Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (Starboard / Severne / Chopper Fins)
5th Antoine Albeau (RRD / NeilPryde)
6th Pierre Mortefon (Fanatic / NorthSails / Chopper Fins)
7th Andrea Cucchi (Starboard / Point-7)
8th Steve Allen (Patrik / Severne)
9th Matteo Iachino (Starboard / Point-7 / Chopper Fins)
10th Ross Williams (Tabou / GA Sails / Mystic / Shamal Windsurfing Sunglasses)