Défi Wind Superstars
The Superstars edition of the Défi Wind started with a surprisingly light breeze for a location such as Gruissan, South of France. Helle Oppedal (Duotone) and Antoine Albeau (JP / NeilPryde) showed no sign of difficulties throughout the day. With a sky displaying fifty shades of grey, the passing clouds disturbed what is called a “Black Tramontana”. Two races were validated on a very tricky day in terms of equipment choice. Racers had to select the right sail size with the wind going up and down - anywhere from from 12 to 25 knots depending on the clouds. Foiling was definitely the best option -as long as you could control your gear over the 5km crosswind reaches.
Gruissan didn’t show its true potential this Wednesday. Races were not as extreme as expected and competitors only battled on short 20km slalom courses with shifting wind forcing some tight reaches. Tokyo’s silver Olympic medallist Thomas Goyard (Phantom Windsurfing) won the first race, and was rightly very satisfied to hold off Albeau on pure speed. The New Caledonian lost all chances with his start in the second race by pushing too hard, which forced him to pull out of the flight rather than crashing into the rabbit boat. His brother Nicolas Goyard (Phantom Windsurfing), the current Slalom PWA World Tour leader had a shocker in race 1 losing his foil in a stylish crash and was unable to be competitive with a ripped off clew eyelet in his sail in race 2. Maciek Rutkowski (FMX Racing / Challenger sails) came to Défi Superstars with great ambitions. Taking two 3rd places, the consistent Polish is currently second ahead of Matteo Iachino (Starboard / Severne), who finished 5th and 8th respectively.
Equal third with the Italian sits 18 -year-old Danish sailor Johan Søe, creating the surprise of the day: “I do lots of IQ Foil with the Danish team but I mostly do slalom. I’m the IFCA U21 European Slalom Champion. I also came 2nd at the One Hour Classic. This is my first time in Gruissan. I was on fin for the first race where I finished 9th - 1st on fin with my 8.6m. It was difficult to compete against the foil in light wind as foilers have more abilities to point upwind or downwind. They can control the race better. I went big today and it paid off as the wind got quite gusty”. The Danish confirmed his potential in race 2 by finishing 4th on a foil this time.
Back on top with a big smile on his face is the 25-time world champion Antoine Albeau. Master of hard-core conditions, Antoine was expected to take control of the Défi Superstars in stormy conditions. Bookmakers are all surprised to see the strong Frenchman dominating the new generation of foil experts in light conditions. Antoine added: “It feels good to be back on top even if we didn’t get what we are expecting in Gruissan. We had strong battles in light wind with a very high level on the course. PWA racers are used to compete in those conditions where they shone when it was more difficult in the back for sailors needing bigger gear and more experience in light wind. I’m specially stoked about my result after hearing all the rumours of people going 35-36 knots on foil when I stay around 28/29 knots, but still I was able to beat them twice today. I’m quite competitive in that kind of wind with my big foil. I didn’t train much this year since I have a windsurfing school to run and I have an open wound in the foot, but I’m satisfied to see that I’m still in the game in slalom. I’m ready for any kind of conditions and I really hope we get a chance to race in 45 knots!”
In the ladies division, the smallest competitor of the fleet comes out on top with impressive manners. Helle Oppedal reacts after claiming two bullets: “I won both races, both on a foil. I’ll be on a foil whatever the conditions will be. I don’t really know how to perform on a fin to be honest! I’m ready even if it blows up to 40 knots like they had for the qualification, where I tried my 4.7, it’s hard but it’s doable. It is scary on crosswind reaches but I think foil is the future so I’m trying to be able to do it at high level in every conditions. Competing on a foil gives you more options and today was perfect for foiling. I like Gruissan, it is usually super windy with flat water. This is my first time in the Défi Wind. Rabbit start is not what I usually do, it is a bit hard but I kind of find a way to do it and it’s also super cool to have so many people in the same race. We are all very close to each other”.
Behind the Norwegian, Blanca Alabau (Starboard / Severne) and Delphine Cousin Questel (FMX Racing/S2Maui) fought their way through the pack of sails to secure 2nd and 3rd position. Going too small on her sail choice on that difficult day, local Marion Mortefon (Fanatic / Duotone) currently occupies a disappointing 6th place, but nothing is over here in Gruissan where everybody awaits the extremely strong Tramontana over the next 2 days of competition.
Men’s provisional ranking after 2 races - Défi Wind Superstars
1st Antoine Albeau (FRA | JP / NeilPryde)
2nd Maciek Rutkowski (POL | FMX Racing / Challenger Sails)
3rd Matteo Iachino (ITA | Starboard / Severne)
3rd Søe Johan (DEN)
5th William Huppert (FRA | Fanatic / Duotone)
Women’s provisional ranking after 2 races - Défi Wind Superstars
1st Helle Oppedal (NOR | Duotone)
2nd Blanca Alabau (ESP | Starboard / Severne / Starboard Foil)
3rd Delphine Cousin Questel (FRA | FMX Racing / S2Maui)
4th Justine Lemeteyer
5th Hélène Noesmoen