Antoine Questel and Delphine Cousin Questel Share Their Thoughts on the Wonderful New World of Foiling

Hydro-foiling has taken the world of sailing by storm from the America’s Cup Yachts to Dinghy Sailing and now into the world of windsurfing. Last year saw the first foil exhibition take place in Sylt, Germany and this year has seen further a further foil exhibition in Japan, while there will be more foiling to come in Sylt again at the end of the month. So, as the latest craze and the current biggest development in windsurfing  we have Antoine Questel (Starboard / S2Maui) and Delphine Cousin Questel (Starboard /S2Maui) on hand to discuss their thoughts on foiling and where they see it fitting in.

These Questions were posed to Antoine Questel and Delphine Cousin Questel by Artur Szpunar and Barry Spanier to help drive S2Maui’s sail development as it relates to the foil racing discipline

Q: Antoine, you have shown exceptional speed and consistency in the exhibition foil events on the PWA tour this season, winning in Japan and first overall after 2 events. And Delphine, you have also had great success at foil, winning the women’s division and 8th overall at Le Defi Foil. How long have each of you practiced foil? 

Antoine: I’m one of the first riders in France to practice foiling - I started 3 years ago. The first time was at my home place in St-Barth. 

Delphine: I tried foil for the 1st time in St Barth, one year ago. It was pretty fun to do something different especially related to windsurfing! 

Q: Antoine, what sail and foil combination have you been using at the PWA events? Delphine how about your foil equipment during Le Defi?

Antoine: Each event I used S2Maui 8.4m Venom and the Starboard Race foil. The combination is perfect for super light condition like 6 to 10 knots. 

Delphine: For le Défi I used my S2 Maui Venom 7.7m / 7.0m and my Starboard Foil with the special foil board from Starboard.

Q: Do you tune your sails differently for foil racing vs slalom? 

Antoine: For foiling I put a bit less downhaul just to have more power in the front of the sail and also more stability in general. The setting of my sails is close to the setting of my slalom gear. Before each race, just like in slalom, I try different outhaul settings to find the best power for the sail for that race.

Delphine: At the moment the tuning is the same. Maybe when the wind is really light I put less tension in the sail to foil easier, but when you are foiling I think the same tuning as slalom applies. 

Q: S2Maui made a significant design effort to make the 2017 Venom race sail the lightest weight of any on the PWA. How important is light weight for foil?

Antoine: This is one of the most important thing . The S2Maui Venom sails are super light sails and it’s a really good point for the light condition. For example in Japan, It was clearly a real advantage to accelerate during the straight sequence and also at the end of each jibe. The secret of the 8.4 venom is that you rig it with a 460 mast . Thanks to that you can pump the sail easily and foil quickly.

Delphine: It’s really important because it’s easier to pump, and when you are a beginner you don’t use your full weight in the harness so you can appreciate a light sail! In slalom light weight is really important too…

Q: What characteristics do you feel are important for a sail to be effective in foiling? Do you think a specialised sail is necessary for foiling or are slalom sails suitable for racing? And something else perhaps for fun?

Antoine: We are in the beginning of development for this discipline and I think we can progress year after year like in slalom or other disciplines. The most important thing in foiling is the weight of the sail while maintaining excellent stability. In a few years I think we can get sails for slalom and sails for foiling, but before then I think we need a bit more experience in this discipline.

Delphine: For my level I think slalom sails are suitable for foil racing. I feel great with my S2 Maui Venom for foiling. 

Q: Next season there will be an official, separate foil title on PWA. Do you feel that eventually foil will simply become another type of fin used in the slalom discipline?

Antoine:  For sure foiling is a different discipline. We can compare it with the formula windsurfing. We can do a lot of things both upwind and downwind. So the best way in my opinion is to separate slalom and foiling. 

Delphine: I think foiling is very different. At the moment you can’t mix a result in slalom and foil because it’s too different. Maybe later…

Q: Currently foils seem to have an advantage in light winds. Do you expect foils to evolve to be faster than traditional fins in high winds and also in speed sailing? How do foil GPS speeds compare to slalom?

Antoine: I already foil in medium winds with a 7.0m. My top speed is around 28/29 knots. With my slalom gear in the same conditions I’m clearly much faster because the speed is between 32 to 35 knots, but let’s see what’s happen over the next few years with more development…

Delphine: Honestly, I don’t know ! Probably we will see a lot of evolution in the coming years! I see already some foils going really fast in light wind and it’s really impressive! 

Thank you Delphine and Antoine for taking the time to answer our questions.


Barry Spanier and Artur Szpunar