Double world champion in 2006, triple world champion in 2007, Antoine Albeau wrote himself into the history books on March 5th 2008 by setting a new world record for sail speed. With his 49.09 knots, the big Frenchie has set the bar very high indeed and establishes himself as the men closest to that 50 knot mark, and very much the man to beat. Here's the WJ interview with a champion in every sense of the word !
Antoine Albeau going for 49.09 knots
Windsurfjournal.com : The record is still fresh in your mind, how do you feel now about that mad day ?
Antoine Albeau : Before I got the record, I really didn't think it would be possible to hit those speeds, I'd had a good look at the forecast and I wasn't expecting so much wind. But now that it's been done I think it was incredible the number of falls I had.
WJ : And yet you arrived in less than tip-top condition...
AA : The time difference is nothing really, it's the hours of traveling that are irritating, I got back to Paris the day before at 9.00am, I had to get to my house on the west coast and down to the canal on the south coast and do it all in less than 12 hours. I got there at half past midnight and got up at 6.00am to rig my equipment, that was the hardest part !!! It was very cold and I wasn't sure where I was any more. I made my first run at 8.30, and my last at 6.30 in the evening, ten hours in a wetsuit !!!
WJ : It was a very hard day physically, how did you deal with that element ?
AA : Most of all I was tired from my journey over from Florida, we'd ridden 3 rounds on the Sunday in almost no wind, but there were so many other things going on that I hardly looked at my watch. I really felt most tired during the 2 following days.
WJ : And were the conditions more apocalyptic than ideal for the record attempt ?
AA : Yeah, right, conditions were a bit fierce with a freezing cold, very strong wind. As far as the wind strength goes it was exactly what was required. We'll need that again if we're going to break 50 knots.
WJ : So what was the rig you used for the record run ?
AA : For the board, it was a Starboard 37cm custom, with a NeilPryde RS :Racing 4.8 m2 sail that, with Robert Stroj, we'd just made to fit between 4.6 and the 5.0. I think that to hit those kind of speeds you need the perfect combination, that's exactly why we built this sail. The fin was a custom Deboichet made specially for the canal.
WJ : There were plenty of fallers on the day and you weren't spared that fate… An Antoine Albeau wipe-out, how did that feel ?
AA : It hurts !!! I had a few myself, specially one at 49 knots that's currently on YouTube.com. When that happened I didn't know if I was in Florida, the Ile de Re or on the canal ! I was a bit stunned, I'd broken my harness strop, the harness, the forward boom mounting and I managed to rip the sail head with my feet, all that in one fall. I had a few falls that day but the conditions were completely radical and I was pushing the limits completely to try and give it everything on the run.
WJ : That puts you now in the position of 'defender' of the water sail speed record. Do you think you'll be concentrating more on speed now to try and improve on that record speed ?
AA : I did exactly what I'd hoped to do, firstly to beat the French record, then the world record. Now, thinking about 50 knots, that's another story, it's going to be really hard. It'll need a bit of luck to have the ideal conditions, but if the conditions are there we'll se what can be done. Personally, I didn't really think the world record would be so important, but now I'm completely stoked to have done it. It's immense !
WJ : Anything else to add ?
Antoine Albeau and the speed clock
AA : I'd like to thank Pascal Maka, Christophe Simian and everyone who worked so hard so we could use the canal again. They did a fantastic job and we tried to show our appreciation by breaking those records. I think a lot about the number significance too… The number 192 has been with me for some time, and I noticed that when you look at the time of the record run ( 12.12pm) and the speed (49.09 knots), if you put the two 9s in the middle of the 12s, it gives you two more lovely 192s !!!
Interview by http://windsurfjournal.com/