Closing out 2023 - The first official year of downwind foil
Make no mistake, 2023 is the year those paying attention sat up and noticed
A brief recap of the last 2 races of 2023 (incl M20… which happened in July!). Also announcing the winner of the DWfoil.com Open Champion. Closing out with the regular
Recap - M20
This race certainly delivered on the promise to be interesting. An incredibly dynamic race both from a tactics and gear perspective.
The start was flat, with maybe 10 minutes of pumping required. Many top riders getting stuck for 30min or more in the flats. The end was upwind, with a few swells wrapping the point into the finish line.
Edoardo Tanas was underfoiled for the start (see below orange board) and had a cardio blow up and had to take a rest. He managed to get to the wind line eventually and recovered a massive amount of ground to place third. Pretty incredible.
Kai Lenny took fourth and Andrew Gibbons fifth.
James gives his take:
The bunch mid race, live tracking keeping everyone safe and visible.
Reef dodging on the last bend before the upwind slog to the finish. Great clip:
FOIL DIVISION RESULTS 🏁 (link)
I will focus on pumping endurance and overall fitness design and preparation for racing!
Some great videos
Armie frothing so much he doesn’t mention Americas Cup once in 10min
Edo describes his experience, lots of detail
Voyager Foiler Crew reminisce, long form chat about being overamped and underfoiled
Josh Ku with an hour of detail if you’re planning on joining next year
Recap - Open de France Downwind Foil
This is arguably the most important event of the year,. The only foil exclusive large scale downwind event, which ran over three days:
60 athletes, 12 different countries
15-km, 20-km and 12-km over 3 days
2 x bay runs, 1 x ocean
Overall the event was a resounding success. The organisers did a fantastic job to put on a great event that not only ensured rider safety but posed a good challenge for the riders of the 3 day period.
I went for the AXIS ART Pro 1201 combined with my 7’7” Appletree Skipper and the late arrival of the wind meant that the race director chose a slightly shorter course (16km).
The run was tough with a lot of pumping in the small bumps, but that didn’t stop it from being fun, sharing bumps with so many new faces. From the get go the contenders made themselves known, sprinting off the start with a close race eventually taken by the “dark horse” Etienne Fleur from Tahiti followed by Oskar Johansson and Matteo Ell.
With the good forecast the race director also decided to extend the run further up the bay to make the run around 20 km. This put the start close to shore paddling out at Roscanvel, with a short fetch and almost flat start.
The remaining 18k was extremely fun with decent and steep bumps thanks to the current and I myself forgot about racing. Competitors opted for two different lines. Down the middle where the bumps were bigger and a bit faster, or down the right where the bumps were smaller and easier to ‘up and over’. Upon converging I think there wasn’t much in it, but it also really came down to foil size and selection. Strung out weeds added a challenge and proved crucial for the top 5 ranking with a number of guys having to stop for weed including the eventually first placed Oskar who was closely followed by Etienne and once again Matteo in 3rd.
With a light forecast, and a small 2m swell left over from the previous days the race director opted for an ocean run to add a technical element to the racing. The wind was anywhere between 10-15 knots with the swell in the mix. Checking the bumps up from the ‘Cap de la Chèvre’ the field was split. Some opting for fast foils to keep up with the faster ocean swells and some choosing for the bigger foils in order to ensure getting onto foil as the priority. (I opted for the AXIS ART Pro 1201 being less experienced in Ocean runs). To get to the start of this run, we piled into 10 boats with all our gear and drove about 14km upwind out to sea, taking in the scenery, chatting with new friends and enjoying the last day of racing. Unlike the previous days which had been rainy, the icing on the cake was blue skies and sunshine so everyone was in good spirits as we got to the start line. As before the contenders got away at the drop of the flag, but much to my relief, a lot of the field struggled at the start. Once I got going the field was so spread out that I didn’t even feel like I was in a race, moving between the ocean swell and the wind bumps. I just soaked in the surroundings on what was the end of a fantastic week in Brittany with 3 days of awesome racing.
🥉 Jack Ho
Oskar has a taken it with a 4 point lead over James. Congrats to everyone who put in the time, effort, money etc into getting to all of the races, it has been very entertaining to experience!
After looking more closely at the numbers, I realised that it was effectively a dead heat between James and Oskar, and so for posterity I’ve just pinned it as a draw, given them both a crown and next year I’ll have a more robust system. You can read all about it in the footnotes1
Constructors I ran off top 5 only as it is too much of a pain to find out who rode what and even fourth and fifth is tricky. My impressions:
Lift - Very good showing in Hawaii where they are the default choice.
Armstrong - Top rider and double-dipping at the French race took it for them.
Code - Excellent debut, pretty incredible to launch a foil and take it straight to the top.
Axis - Interestingly, since the race Andrew Gibbons and top female rider Gabriella Bella have both signed up to the team.
SPG - One race, huge points. Clearly a dark horse for next year.
Fanatic - Spencer fam definitely could push these into the top 5 if they weren’t winging.
Phantom - I wonder if Kai will continue to race with them, he rode Axis for M20 but still uses them for doing flips.
F-One - Talented Jack a strong contender for next year.
KDFOILS - Definitely one to watch, Kate is absolutely one to watch for developing incredible foils, uniquely short feedback loop because of his talent on the foil
Nearly all of the brands above have released their race prototypes to the public, Axis even released their mega-mast even after saying they wouldn’t.
Looking to 2024
More interesting races: James and I agree, foil racing should do its best to stay fun to keep it interesting. See my proposal:
If you have anything to add or any thoughts, comment below or DM
Those to watch: Andrew Gibbons - you can feel the intensity, the intent. Clearly one to watch. The other person to watch is Etienne Fleure who gave Oskar a real reason to keep at it for 2024. Etienne only competed in a single event and almost won all three days straight in varied conditions, Oskar getting him only on day 2 by a few seconds.
Jonn Mann’s blog is good.
If you’re downwinding in windy spots, realise that you may stray into a pretty established line up - below example of what not to do and almost getting a fin in the face. If in doubt, turn away early and obviously, not at the last minute.
This is rad. Though my current feels are that paddling up onto bumps isn’t as hard as I expected, and I only see this catching on if it can also go upwind.
Anyone new to F-one coming from Armstrong now having severe whiplash? Adam ripping the shit out of these waves is really just amazing, and the camera work catches the detail in slow motion. Cool to see.
Garda 2024, I’ll be there in June. Outlaw time trial race? Check out a clip from Michi Schweiger below
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This is the original that only had top 5 getting points, and a few points rounding along the way. This didn’t really make sense and so when I redid the sheet getting ready for 2024 I realised that I could easily give points to to top 10 for each race if I just made the setup a bit more sensible. V2 is the result and what I’ll use next year
Points awarded to top 5 for each race, and points weighted by distance for each race. Maybe for 2024 time would make more sense.
That pretty much looks like an overhead wave, calling it a bump is a bit of a stretch.