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Antons account of Le Defi Wind - Gruissan 2010

Day One at Gruissan, Defi Wind!

James Dinnis arrived in Marseille after a bruising trip from New Plymouth, New Zealand – Auckland – LA (via Venice beach??) – Munich then on to Marseille. Like any good travel story this one had its dramas from the start. The Premium Air New Zealand check-in was the site of the last minute repacking of 217kg of gear all destined for a one way trip to France. As always the Air NZ guys were rockstars. 36 hours later Team Carbon Art arrived in France to be met by team rider Vincent only to find none of the gear had arrived...

Long story short one van left from Paris a few hours later for a 10 hour drive to Gruissan and another came over from Germany. With a few hours to spare it all arrived in time for the start of Day One.

Day One was mainly about the set up with a briefing at 1pm and a race at 3pm. Unlike last year there’s a real buzz in the air in anticipation of some serious wind. It’s been two years that the event hasn’t happened and getting to race was the main objective of many of the participants. Carbon Art is still a growing brand in France but the buzz is definitely growing and some of the gear we left hear last year came with some fantastic feedback.

It was also great to see some of the old friends from last year and hear some of their stories. There’s nothing like being on the shop floor and hearing what people think – both good and not so. Dramas galore on the water once the racing started. James only just made the start line having forgotten to don his event vest and managed get involved in some board-on-board collision action but his board came out on top.

A quiet beer and dinner in town for the team – some of the rarest steaks we’ve ever seen, a red wine from Chardonnay (??) and then an earlyish night in anticipation of another great day.

--- day 2 ---

After last year’s quiet days the 2010 event has been a real eye opener. Big days on the water make the big nights a little less appealing is the main observation.

Briefing at 9 and then the race 90 minutes later...

James managed to remember his vest this time around and the team discovered a secret cafe with a great view of the start line. Impressive seeing 1000 windsurfers trying to cross a start line at once (see first pic). Carnage all around. Carbon Art managed to get a few people out on the water on our demo kit. The quote of the day following a demo from one of Europe’s better known faces was, “Like smoking a cigar while sipping on a gin”. Maybe not as healthy as you might like but we thought it was a great way of describing how the slalom gear feels on the water.

In between races we all hung out at the Carbon Art cabin. Not great for keeping the howling wind out but better than not having anything at all. After a few hours of clearing the sand off everything we eventually gave up and accepted we were living in the tent in a sandstorm in the Sahara.

The end of the day wrapped up at the Carbon Art villa where the kiwi contingent shared some New Zealand wines with the French. A tough audience. The rose' got the thumbs down – too strong for the French taste buds but the Syrah was a storming success. By all accounts, this one ‘has a bright future’. Team CA put on pizzas and the French guests put on a beautiful paella – I think we’ve all a thing or two to learn those guys about food. Never mind – we make great gear for the water, they make great gear for after hours. 11pm and its lights out, James having managed to sneak away a bit early in anticipation of some big wind tomorrow. They’re talking 30+ knots and there’s a rumour flying around that we’ll see Antoine Albeau again. The French legend definitely adds some more colour to the event so it’d be great to see him again.

--- Day 3 ---

A slow start today. In spite of an early start the boys are still wrecked from the day before and the villa was creaking even before Paul put the coffee pot on. Our view from the window looks over the beach and we can see a few hardy souls already on the water at 0800. By 0850 Anton, Paula and james have downed the cereal, grabbed all the gear and are heading to the beach...

First drag all the boards out of the cabin to put them on display then another briefing. Today the key message is – be careful. Peaking at 45 knots this is not for the faint hearted and the word goes out this is really only for experts. Even the support helicopter is having a tough time today. Poor Vincent gets himself dragged in by one of the support boats after having some gear issues in the first race. The second race still has the numbers even with winds of over 53 knots!! The course is set up in front of the main event area which makes for some great spectator activity. Anton looks pretty bedraggled when he gets in.

James is chuffed as all the gear is sold bar one board. Taking 20 boards to Europe is hard enough let alone having to bring them back. The Europeans are stoked we’ve come up – people love seeing something a bit different. The cookies we brought up are going down an absolute treat as well.

A quick shower and out for dinner and fun and frivolity. James tries the Get27 which is a spearmint local digestif. I think like marmite its an acquired taste. The town puts on an amazing aftermatch function here. Bands, DJs and events to keep all and sundry very happy. The line up Saturday night sees a rock band starting followed by a series of DJs. The crowds are a bit thinner than last year for the simple reason that its bloody cold!! But that doesn’t stop the dancing and nonsense being talked. All in bed at around 1pm in fear and anticipation of tomorrow’s sailing

Another great day at Defi Wind.

--- Day 4 ---

This was the last day of the 4 day competition. The wind early on in the day was as strong as at the end of yesterday. But since this was the last day I decided that I needed to go out. The race director announced that it would be only one lap around a 25 km course rather than two laps. Everyone cheered.

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People had rigged 4.0's and 4.5's. Yesterday only one guy in the top 25 had something bigger than a 5.2 up. He was on a 5.6 and was a big guy.

My smallest was a 6.2. I was in for a spanking. Sailed along the beach to line up for the start. Sail sheeted out in order to avoid being slammed. Jumped off and waited for 10 minutes. Could hardly hold onto the sail standing in the shallows. About 5 minutes before the start I decided to pull out of the race because there was no way that I could finish the course. The wind at the first mark, 12 km away was 10 knots stronger than at the start. That mean having to deal with 45 knots on a 6.2. The winds was so strong that it blew the ocean away. The wind shear on the ocean resulted in the water level dropping by about 40cm. Insane.

As I got to the beach with my tail between my leg, I heard the PA announcement that the race was cancelled. Phew. James was already in as well because his smallest sail was a 5.9. High five, no more racing in nuclear conditions. But then the race director came across on the PA to say that the top 50 would be going out for a race. Looked at the rankings and was in 58th place. Sweet. Off came the wetsuit. James was in 17th position so he had a tough call to make about whether to go out. With one discard to use, he decided to preserve the body and stay on the beach.

We watched the race with about 1000 other spectators from a rocky breakwater. The crowd here are really into this sport. Many families had come from around the region to watch the event. As the race leader came past for the first lap there was a huge cheer from the beach. The guy leading kept his lead and eventually won the race by about 40 seconds. Anders Bringdal was second. As the winner came back to the beach, the crowd cheered and people started crowding around him. He was a rockstar for the day.

Pretty cool to have been part of this event. And lucky to have picked the year where they had 4 days of wind. The previous two years there was no wind but by the sounds of it still good fun.

Managed to sell my CA 66 to an italian guy who had tried the 66 on lake Garda recently. He was so stocked with the board he had demo'd that then proceeded to buy a 58 from James. In fact all but one of the boards that James has made for the trip has sold. Good work getting a brand all the way from Taranaki to become popular in Europe. We also tried our best getting the Molly Woppy biscuits brand known to the french. The biscuits went down a treat with the locals. And some for us too of course. Thanks Al-p.

Speaking of brands, the biggest brand at the event was NP. Absent were Fanatic and Starboard as well as Tabou. Excocet, and The Loft were there, as well as the reincarnated Mistral, now owned by Anders Bringdal.

Full story with lots of great pictures on the Carbon Art ste
http://carbonartwindsurf.com/News/Defi-Wind-Gruissan-2010

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