Spotlight on Fanatic’s Guincho R&D Centre and Shaper Sebastian Wenzel.
With the regular conditions Guincho provides, it is easy to see why PWA Corporate Members Fanatic chose this magnificent spot to base their shaper Sebastian Wenzel and testing operations.
We took the chance to visit their workshop and design centre in the hills above Guincho to get some insight into their programme, and of course quiz Sebastian on his local knowledge, and what the chances are for wind on the last day of competition this Sunday.
Key team riders Victor Fernandez (E-42, Fanatic / Simmer) and Klaas Voget (G4, Fanatic / Neil Pryde) show us the way up the winding roads, eager to check on the progress of their latest toys. Fanatics Brand Manager Craig Gertenbach is already there. Just in from HQ in Munich, he's a key part of the testing outfit himself,and we find him checking the weather charts, and some new blanks with Sebastian.
It’s quite exciting seeing prototypes for the 2008 line already being sculpted by their shaping machine. Not a new concept, but only really used by Fanatic in the windsurfing world. Perhaps surprisingly, Sebastian says in fact it’s meant more work than the old fashioned hand crafted method. ‘We see ourselves as a moving target with this method. When we first started I was surprised that other brands didn’t follow, but now I see the effort involved I can see why! By hand if you make changes you take from the shape in one place and affect another. The machine and software allow me to keep a database of figures and keep things such as volume consistent’. It seems Fanatic have really only been evaluating and assessing the advantages of this method for the last couple of years and now have a system they are happy with. ‘It’s important to see the software as the advance, not the machine’ says Wenzel, as we discuss how the tunes and tweaks in the software take up his time outside of the shaping bay. ‘In fact my wife goes crazy that all my time not shaping or out testing is spent here in front of the screen!’
With 2008’s line underway I quiz Guincho’s adopted local about their testing set ups. ‘Although all the relevant team riders play their part within their individual specialities, it generally comes down to Craig and I to test boards for their all round appeal, as we don’t sell boards just to world cup riders!’ Klaas is instrumental right now as well as his wave contribution to Freeride boards such as the Shark, but generally speaking we use Victor, Klaas, and Jonas Ceballos (E-40, Fanatic / North), for waveboard's, but Cyril Moussilmani (F-71, Fanatic/ North Sails) works on waveboard’s as well as Super X product like the Hawk and is Vice-World Champion in this discipline. Slalom-wise we have a strong team with Dan Ellis (GBR 52 Fanatic / Naish Sails), Pieter Bijl (NED-0, Fanatic/ Neil Pryde), Arnon Dagan (ISR-1, Fanatic/ Neil Pryde) and in Freestyle we have the world number 2 and 3 with Jose Estredo (V-1, Fanatic/ North Sails), and Douglas ‘Cheo’ Diaz (V-34, Fanatic/ North)’.’We’ve got other top riders like Ben Proffitt (K-800, Fanatic/ Simmer Sails) competing in waves, Super-X and freestyle at the highest level, and some key ladies such as Nayra Alonso (E-4, Fanatic/ Severne). The next testing window runs for 6-9 months now before we finalise the 2008 range for production’.
Development is ongoing of course for most brands, and I push Fanatics key man for the last 12 years harder. I want him to express the change in percentage terms year on year. His response is unnerved. ‘You can’t really say this with individual boards so much, as it's really the market and the usage of the board required that determine the path of progress we choose. It is really concepts where the changes come rather than product for product. For example in order not to compromise our Newave lines hardcore heritage in down the line waves, we are slotting in the Allwave between this and the Freewave for next year. That is progress in our offering, rather than diluting a specialist product. The improvements in the Newave will be small in percentage terms, as you can still have great fun and high performance on a 3 year old model, but year on year and over time the improvements add up significantly. Put it this way. If it’s not better we don’t change it!’. Its clear to me this is a no gimmicks environment.
Perhaps a tougher question, I ask about what motivates him in his work. Of course he loves windsurfing and progress, but its clear there must be more than this to drive someone working at this level of the industry. ‘My motivation is the same as when I competed on the PWA. I want to win and be the best at what I do. At Fanatic we want to stay ahead, and be the first with everything we do’.
We move onto the weather as you probably won’t get a better take on our windless scenario here and now than from the locals and Sebastian. ‘To tell the truth I am very sad about the situation. I want to see it at its best for the contest, just like last year. This is a highly irregular weather pattern and the PWA, the sailors and local organisers Overpower are really unlucky to see this at this time of June. There is swell coming for the weekend, and a NW wind system which could bring some chance for late on Sunday. Even after Sunday it is looking like uncharacteristic East winds which will be very light’. Fingers crossed for the last hours of the contest on Sunday then!
One last issue that needs putting to bed is Sebastian’s take on his native Germany’s chances in tonight’s opening match of the FIFA World Cup?. A tricky question seeing he’s been here for over 12 years. I also noticed his sons wearing Portugal shirts, but both Portuguese and German flags fly above his hilltop villa's roof. ‘Easy! 3-0 Germany. They will keep a clean sheet in terms of goals until at least the end of the group phase!. As for my boys they are Portuguese really as they have only known living in this country, although they would support Germany unless they played Portugal!’
Thanks for showing us around Sebastian!