Onwards & Upwards

Maciek Rutkowski Talks Croatia, Podcasts, Signing a New Multi-Year Contract with FMX Racing & Looks Ahead to Next Year

After a highly successful 2019 season, Maciek Rutkowski (FMX Racing / Challenger Sails) was looking ready to attack the top of the racing world in 2020 - having just earned his first event podium and winning several eliminations on the world tour for the first time in his career. However, COVID-19 abruptly changed those plans with the majority of the events unfortunately having to be cancelled. In the end just one racing event was held on the world tour in 2020, the Zoo Station PWA Slalom Croatia, which the Pole would happen to win comprehensively to show that despite a lack of competition this year he is still in form. We recently caught up with Maciek to talk about that event in Croatia, his WindsurfingTV podcast, and signing a multi-year contract with FMX Racing despite the strange year we have just experienced.

Hey Maciek, how's this strange year been for you? 

Hey Chris, first of all I hope you and the rest of the PWA staff are well and staying safe. I guess we’re all in a similar boat missing the tour and maybe now realising how cool it actually is to be a part of that travelling circus. Having said that my year was actually relatively normal in terms of training, preparing for events, competing etc. Sure, it wasn’t major events and there was less of them, but after not knowing if we’re ever gonna be able to do our job again in March, competing internationally in the European summer felt like a breath of normality. And then the extra time I’ve had due to less events I could put into other projects which I always have a huge list of – some of them already came alive and others still need a ton more work! 

If you can cast your mind back, in July you won what would turn out to be the only event on the world tour for 2020 - how was that event for you as a whole and how pleased were you with your level of performance having not raced for the entire year beforehand? 

Damn, it feels like ages ago already and it was only July! Going to Croatia I had no idea what to expect. Who would even show up as travelling restrictions were in place and also what my level of performance would be. I spent the 3 prior months at home and as great as the foiling scene is in Poland, it’s pretty hard to get good “fin slalom” training. But the event was good, Toni the organiser is a legend and makes sure everyone feels at home in Bol, we scored epic conditions and as a cherry on top of the cake I took the lead the first day and then never really gave it away, so it was one of my best performances. I also had no idea how it’s gonna be with racing on foils, but it turned out my gear was good and racing was just like “normal” slalom.

Your rise up the rankings may have taken a little longer than some may have thought - having been crowned youth world champion in 2010 and then again in 2012. However, last season you made a major breakthrough - cracking the overall top 10 for the first time and also winning your first eliminations on tour - how much of that success would you attribute to your move to FMX Racing? 

I attribute quite a lot. Boards are very fast and suit my style well, they ride high and loose and I’d always rather have too much power than try to create lift. But first let me stop you, cause I feel like cracking the top 10 sells me a tiny bit short. It was really a season of two halves, in France we had only one elimination and I got crashed into and in Korea no discard either and some bad decisions from me. So after 2 events I was out of the top 20. From there though I managed to find my groove a bit and build. Fuerte was really fun and I started to realise like “shit I can actually race the big3”, in Denmark like you say, first win and a podium overall, and in New Caledonia I was even leading the event! So 7th is pretty low for my late season form and it could easily be 4th or 5th, but the beginning of the season really held me back. And yes obviously gear is mega important and the FMX/Challenger combo is a match made in heaven. But I’m pretty sure a few years ago I wouldn’t be able to utilise that gear to the max, so timing is critical here. Also I probably matured a bit and that makes the rider-brand communication much better which is crucial in any relationship, but even more while developing products. Especially from scratch like the slalom foil board which was something totally new. There needs to be an almost telepathic understanding between the designer and rider. Finian and myself worked that out, he knows exactly how it is to race for a living and I start to understand when is the time to push and when I should just focus on myself. I feel really comfortable at FMX Racing and I feel our mission is far from done yet. 

And what do you think some of the other major factors were which allowed you to make such a big jump? 

Well first of all we can’t forget the sails. Challenger is so underrated I can’t even put it in words. I’ve seen some designers work but Claudio Badiali is just on another level. This year every prototype we had was an improvement! The guy just doesn’t get it wrong and even with all that skill there is no ego trip like “I’m the designer I’m gonna do my thing, you just race”. Again there’s a chain of communication and since I got there in 2018 we managed to improve at a crazy pace. And for sure I’ve developed as a windsurfer and as a person. Every year I try to look back, analyse the data I gathered throughout the year, talk to my coach and tweak certain things either in preparation or even the mindset on race day. It’s endless and I love that process. 

You've created a great podcast together with Windsurfing.tv - how have you enjoyed that experience and is that something you want to continue to do in the near future? 

Yeah I’ve been telling Ben Proffitt for years now – man you should do the podcast. And I guess he was over listening to me and just gave me the job! Seriously though it’s a privilege to be able to pick the brains of some of the most successful people in our business. I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to talk to Robby Naish for more then 30 seconds and now I got him 1-on-1 for 2 hours! It’s really fun and yes if time allows I will keep doing that! Check out The Windsurfing Podcast! 

Now, back to the racing - What are some of your goals for the future? And how do you think your relationship with FMX Racing can help you to achieve them? 

Well I think anybody that races, races to win. I’m no different. But in the short term I try to set goals that are more about the performance rather than results. Even in Croatia I could’ve done a few things better, and the previous year even more. So if I continuously improve on my performance I’m happy – let’s not get into the measurements of that cause we’ll run out of space here. And as for FMX it’s just that our timelines are correlated. Already I think no newcomer has ever been so successful as a brand and Finian very much like me wants to win. We drive each other towards that every day and I have the utmost confidence moving forward I have the best tools available and that once the flag goes up it’s all in my hands and feet. If I perform, results will appear. 

Looking ahead slightly, hopefully after a turbulent 2020 things will return to normality in 2021 - do you already know which weapons you will be choosing for the race course next season and what is your current favourite setup? 

Yeah, so next year it’s still 4 boards and 7 sails. So we’re looking at a foil slalom design, the Hyperion 178, and then 3 fin slalom sticks, Invictus 138, 118 and 98. For sails it’s 2 foilslalom designs Aero+ 9.1 and 8.1 and then 5 slalom, Aero+ 8.4, 7.7, 7.0 6.2 and 5.4. As for my favourite combo I won in Denmark, NewCal and a couple in Croatia on 138 and 8.4, but if I had to choose one it would be 98 and either 6.2 and 5.4. There’s nothing like high wind racing! 

You also just signed a new contract, right?

Yeah, I’m super excited to announce that FMX Racing and myself have reached an agreement on a multi-year contract extension. From day one this was a great match, our goals align and we will continue to build towards achieving them together. New boards are on the way… cant wait to get my hands on those puppies! 

And finally, if things return to relative normality will you be returning to Tenerife for your annual winter training?


Thanks, Maciek and congrats on the new deal.