The playground for the Formula Windsurfing Class has stepped up to a new level in 2008 with the creation of the Grand Prix World Tour; six events across two continents showcasing the talents of the world’s best windsurfing racers. Already, with a very successful first event under its belt in Sines, Portugal, the GP World Tour now moves on to the first of two events in Poland, beginning in Sopot in June and then combined with the FW European Championships in Łeba in July. The man chiefly behind this new tour is IFWC Class President Ceri Williams. CarbonSugar caught up with Ceri this week to find out about all things FW, event organising and the future of the class. Enjoy a short interview with Ceri by reading on …
Text: Ceri Williams
> 2008 Marks the beginning of the FW Grand Prix World Tour. Could you explain to us how the tour came about and what you think it will mean for FW sailing this year and in the near future?
A world tour for formula has been an aspiration of mine since i became chairman; and only reflects the desires of formula sailors. The Grand Prix concept has been in existance for many years , but we could not put together sufficient events to call it a “tour”.
> The 2007 FW World Championships in Brazil last December, marked one of the first international events in a long time where the full maximum of 15 races were run. The success of this event has surely played a role in having 3 events of the FW Grand Prix World Tour in Brazil. Could you tell us how Brazil arrived on the map for hosting FW events?
Brazil hosted the 2001 Worlds, which was also a good event. Formula has a long history and is very popular in Brazil. That, combined with a respected and motivated organiser, was the catalyst to forge ahead with the 2008 tour. Wilhelm Schurmann (BRA-999) has also played a pivotal role in co-ordinating the project - being a vital link between the class and BRA organisers (Arrow Marketing and Wind Brasil)
> After 3 years of FW World Championships being held outside of Europe, do you think having the Worlds back on the mainland, this time in Portugal, will help boost the numbers attending the World Championships?
I am sure the numbers will be up for both 2008 in Portugal and 2009 in Spain. Both events are hosted by tried and trusted oranisers, in good locations, with enthusiastic sponsors. But it is important for any “international” class to ensure its premier annual event reaches all continents where formula fleets exist. I hope that we can take the championship to North America in 2010 or 2011.
> At a past FW World Championships, light winds made it difficult for some top sailors to achieve their normal results at the front of the fleet, and it was written on various forums that tour organisers were thinking of “money” first, before thinking about the ideal wind conditions to run events. Could you explain for us what exactly is looked at when a country puts forth a proposal to host a World Championships; what helps the FW Class decide on one venue over another?
Wind stats are important -but not the only consideration; yes we have minimum levels of prize money but also expect a certain level of service (benefits) for all competitors; and a minimm standard of organisational skills. Probably the primary consideration is to take the World Championships around the world- hence Melbourne (Australia) in 2005, where prize mone was not at normal levels.
I also believe that formula has to live up to its promotion as an exciting racing class that can plane in 6/7 knots and still race in 30 knots, with the minimum of equipment. We also have to race in the widest possible range of conditions -and not favour either low or highwind specialists. Top sailors are the most versatile!
> With the resurgence in popularity of Slalom racing once again, many National fleets have opted to run combined events whereby FW is run up to 20 knots, and Slalom thereafter. Many event organisers appear to be interested in Slalom (in Poland/Portugal for example); do you think we will see this format appearing on the Pro FW circuit?
I personally have doubts about combining disciplines - especially if it involves 3 times as much kit to compete in an event. For National events - involving less time and cost for travelling - maybe it can work. That is a decision for National Associations to make. For the FW World Tour I think it must be on FW kit only - that does not rule out downwind courses and the elimination format as a light wind option however.
> The Euro-Cup Series, organised by ChoppyWater GmbH, has been the crux of the FW events in Europe for the past few years, but so far they have yet to post a calendar for 2008. Has the FW Grand Prix World Tour taken its place or are ChoppyWater still involved behind the scenes in other avenues?
The Grand Prix (GP) World Tour is not restricted to European events and the requirements for hosting a class GP are more rigorous in many ways. I do not think The GP World Tour has been responsible for the demise of the Euro Cup; but I think it has replaced it as the focus of international (formula) competition in Europe. This development is also alongside the growth of regional tours (eg. the Baltic Cup); and the relevance of the formula world ranking calendar to many National Associations where an “open” event attracts wider attention.
> The PWA is regarded by sailors as being the pinnacle of the sport. With Jimmy Diaz (an avid FW sailor) still onboard as Chairman, could you ever see FW returning to the PWA and do you think that would benefit the Class or not?
I am open to any idea that benefits formula racers, and in so doing is good for the sport. Many PWA (slalom) racers are (IWA /IFWC) formula racers. I think it is important for events to happen - formula very rarely fails to deliver an event (on the water).
I do not forsee a change of course for FW at the moment - ie, I expect to see further and continued development of the current event stategy - Championships (World, Continental and National) , the Grand Prix World Tour; regional tours and other “open” international events.
Hopefully the PWA can be involved in some way!
> With the introduction of the 2-year fixed Board designs (which everyone has welcomed!), sail and board development has appeared to have settled down and it’s not always necessary to have the latest equipment to do well at events. The biggest question on most sailor’s minds is now the Fins. Do you think the availability and increased prices of custom fins has an impact on the sport? As well as the mentality that not everyone can be riding the same fins as the Top Pros are using?
I think this is one area that concerns everyone. I think costs will also stabilise as development slows down, and more fin manufacturers will come on board - increasing competition, and decreasing costs. Of course we need a healthy formula racing scene to sustain that notion - I hope, I believe, that with current policies that is achievable.
Thank you for your time Ceri!
THE 2008 FW GRAND PRIX WORLD TOUR
Sines, Portugal // 6th - 10th May
Sopot, Poland // 4th - 7th June
Łeba, Poland // 29th July - 3rd August
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil // 15th - 19th October
Sao Paulo, Brazil // 22nd - 26th October
Forteleza, Brazil // 24th - 29th November