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The Defi Wind is great event, and probably one of the best examples of the sport with 700 sailors on the start line.

Let’s hear from Phil McGain as he tells us how he smoked the fleet on the soon to be released 2008 Carbon Art Slalom boards.

“I first heard about the Defi Wind from Robert Territehau several years ago, he used to rave about it, all the people, the strong wind. Well this year I thought I’d give it a try since I haven’t raced in France for a while and the long distance race was an interesting challenge. This is a 40km long distance race with 700 competitors.

I did some homework on the conditions and decided to take two boards, my 58cm and 62cm Carbon Art slalom boards, and sails from 6.3 to 7.6m. I figured this should cover it for the weekend, plus I heard there was always a pinch upwind back from start after the first reach.

I arrived in Gruissan on the Tuesday afternoon to be greeted by my old team mate from the eighties and good friend, speed sailor extraordinaire Pascal Maka. That afternoon we went for a sail together and got to witness some of the conditions we would race in during the Defi Wind.

I went for a short sail on Wednesday on my Carbon Art 58 and 6.3m sail and felt good… I had good speed against most sailors, but Man! a lot of those French guys are fast.

Well the first day was a bit of a wipeout to say the least. We woke up to 45 knots offshore winds and by noon it was gusting up to 60 knots. Due to the safety factor the organizer decided not to run a race that day. A wise decision because in the afternoon about 20 of us did a fun race and only a handful finished due to it being almost impossible to sail on the gear we had.

So the next day was due to lighten up a bit and sure enough we got to the beach on Friday to see perfect racing conditions, flat water and offshore winds about 20-25 knots.

We had a one hour warning signal to the first start around 10.30am, so we had plenty of time to pick the right sail and board and get the body warmed up. I headed out about 45 minutes before the start to check the conditions. I decided to go on the bigger side so I took my 7.0m and 58cm Carbon Art with a 34cm fin. It felt perfect on the course and I wanted to be aggressive from the get go, so I started at the Pin on zero. I had a flying start with only Anders Bringdal upwind of me, and we were side by side most of the reach to the first mark. It felt like the old days but there seemed to be only Anders and I as the rest of the fleet was well back. Anders rounded first, me second and we took off back towards the starting area jibe mark.

I had a plenty of angle to drive upwind on my 58 and stay well above Anders, who seemed to be lacking a bit of angle but made up for in speed. We were well clear by the time we got to the next mark, but unfortunately I couldn’t decide on which mark it was, so I had to slow down and wait for the third place guy. He rounded the large starting yacht so I had to turn around and head back to that yacht I had already passed. I was now back in 9th place. Damn stupid mistake, but that’s racing. I ended up 8th in the first race, but had confidence I was able to finish in the top 5.

Race two for me was much the same, I started down low and hit the pin flying. I rounded 4th at the first mark and was feeling good. We darted and weaved our way back through the other 650 competitors and got into the flat water on the inside. This was where we could really hit our turbo’s and let our boards run. It was all about letting those legs burn and staying sheeted in completely on the edge for 40 minutes.

Antione sealed another victory with Peiter in second. I ended up 6th in that one, but pleased with the result and my speed was good.

We had one more race to do in the afternoon and this time the wind backed off a bit, but still it was very good conditions.

You had to be careful at the start because if you weren’t you would be in the wind shadow of a lot of other sailors. I pushed the line again and got away clean at the pin with Micah just upwind of me.

We got to the first mark with Antione in the lead, I was in second, Peiter third, Arnon showed up for the party in 4th and Micah rounded out the top 5.

It was getting light in some spots so you had to be careful to keep in the gusts and bear off and keep speed.

Peiter took off downwind and had great speed, I had to fight off Arnon and eventually he got past me when I hit a light patch.

Antione ran away with this one, but Peiter put on the after burner near the finish and was second, Arnon third and me in fourth. Micah had a good race in 5th, Dan Ellis in 6th.

There was no wind on the Saturday and Sunday but everyone was still smiling from the spectacular races we had completed on the Friday. The Defi was a success with three good races in good conditions.”

Final results

1st– Antione Albeau

2nd– Pieter Bijl

3rd– Dan Ellis

4th– Phil McGain

5th– Micah Buzianis

Words by Phil McGain
Photos by Sara A2 / Defi Wind Gruissan