Ciao Antoine, youre 19 times World Champion and youre one of the most known windsurfers ever. You need no introduction to the RRD Family, Boardseeker readers and fans. So the first question is: how and why did you decided to join the RRD Team?
The first reason I decided to join RRD, is that I was at the end of my contract with JP, so before signing for another 3 year long contract, I preferred to explore other interesting opportunities. Thats why I got in touch with Roberto, and after some talk we came to an agreement for a 3 year long partnership. I chose RRD because I already knew that RRD was like a family, working hard all together, to reach a goal. Now after have being there in Grosseto and having met everybody, I really can confirm that its like a big family. This motivates me a lot, so I truly believe it will be a good future for me there.
Was your choice also motivated by your will to win the Slalom World Title again?
For sure. I want to have all the chance on my side to win the World Title again in Slalom (and maybe in Formula, if we decide to make a Formula board with RRD ) and for sure to make it I need to have the best shoes in my feet! Now I already tried almost all the RRD slalom boards and I really like them. They are very easy and fast, so I think my choice will give me a good opportunity to win the World title again.
What boards do you think you will register for the 2012 PWA season?
Well, I still have to make a fine test of all the board, but right now I think Ill register the X-Fire 129l for the light wind, since this board has perfect width (85 cm) and volume to suit my style. As my medium board I think I will chose the 114l, that is 70 cm wide. Ive already used this board and it seems to me to be VERY good, fast and easy to gybe. For the high wind event like Costa Brava or Fuerte, I think Im going to choose the X-Fire 98l, which is 62 cm wide. I already tested this board too and I found it very easy to control, and FAST. You can reach extreme speeds on it. Those are the 3 boards I think Im going to use during the coming PWA season.
Which fins sizes and sails do you think you will register and use on each board?
Well, I still have to test properly all the boards, but talking about fins I think Im going to use a 48-50 on the X-Fire 129, a 38-40 cm fin on the 114 and a 32-34 on the X-Fire 98. For sure Ill give my best set up after some good training on the boards. Talking about sails, Im pretty sure Im going to use 9.5 and 8.6 on the X-Fire 129, 7.0-7.8 on the X-Fire 114, and then for the high wind Ill take 5.8 and 6.2.
In your opinion who will be the best contender for the PWA World Tittle this year?
Well I think that Bjorn will be again be my best (or worst) contender for the world title, because last year he had a very good speed, and since hes always motivated to add another title to his collection, I think he will fight as hard as usual. On the other side there are many other riders like Ben Van der Steen, who is very fast, and last year was also able to be very solid and constant in all the conditions. Cyril Moussilmani is another always in the top fight. Finian Maynard as well can count on experience and very fast boards. Ill keep an eye also on Julien Quentel, fellow team mate on RRD, because he had a great season last year and Im pretty sure he can be a challenger. Also not forgetting that all the other top 10 riders, Im sure, can fight to win an event, so it will be a big challenge and extremely exciting to follow throughout the year.
The First PWA Slalom event will be in May, a late start this year. So what is your training plan now and which events will you attend, to be ready for your new season?
Well, the first event in May will give me plenty of opportunity to train and test all my new equipment, to make sure it is ready for the coming season. I will train most of the time with Julien Quentel and Ill attend some events to be ready for the new season. End of January Ill be with Julien Quentel in the Caribbean and Ill attend an event in St. Barth. It will be a promotional event, with slalom and long distance, and some top riders will attend. So it will be very good to put my feet on the board for this first event and to have a first run against the competition to see how it suits. Then I want to go to Maui for at least one month to train again with Julien. Its going be nice to be back there, since I know all the spots very well (Kanaha, Sprecks, Kihiei). It will give me a good chance to work on my fins and setting all the sails. Then Im going to do the event in April at Leucate, France. It will be long distance and speed. Then it will be time to attend the first PWA event in Korea.
RRD already have a well proven R&D department with Finian Maynard and Julien Quentel working on slalom boards, John Skye working on wave boards, and Jem Hall advising on the freeride/move, freestylewave and wave programs. Which will be your part in the RRD R&D?
I know that RRD already has a good R&D department. This is one of the key reasons Im here, so for sure it will be very interesting to test all the slalom boards with Julien Quentel and Finian as well. I will give my feed back to add to the good team-work RRD is already doing. For sure I think Ill start to develop big wave boards for heavy guys like me, and UK tester Jem Hall. Right now Im already working on a new light wind program with a board wider than 90 cm to use with sails bigger than 10m for long distance. Maybe Ill start working soon on a Formula board as well, as I would like to battle again for the Formula World Title. I will also start to develop some SUP wave and race boards. So I think there is a lot to do in RRD to keep myself extremely motivated!
You were used to training often with Julien Quentel in the past seasons. Do you think that being in the same team with the same equipment will help you to have an even better result this year? Can you tell us when and how did you met Julien, and why you became such good friends?
I met Julien in the Caribbean, in Saint Martin where he lives. I dont remember exactly when, but he was very young. I went there for a promotional Event and we become immediately good friends. So when he came to France to attend national Tour, and every time he was coming to over, he often came to my place and we would always train together. Then he started to also attend the World Tour and we continued on training together. Thats why we are friends he comes from an island, me as well, so he really understands me. He also knows that sailing with me can give him a lot to progress to get a better level. Thats why I think it is very good for him, and also for me, to train together. Especially with exactly the same equipment, because we are always going be really similar about what kind of sail, fin, trim to choose. Which we can now also use to help develop the next generation of slalom boards for RRD.
For those that dont know, RRD HQ is in Grosetto, Italy. So Antoine, have you had a chance to sail in the country already, meet the team and sail their local waters?
I have been many times to Lake Garda for testing with light winds. Its also a good place for strong winds, because the north wind blows very strong in the early morning. Ive also just been in Grosseto, at the RRD Factory, and I found a few nice spots with side shore wind and slightly choppy waters. Even places that have off shore wind as well.
When will you be seen again in Italy?
I think Ill come back first for some test sessions to continue the development of the next X-Fire range. If possible, Id like to come again to attend the One Hour Classic in Lake Garda and also for the Surfin Venice SUP event, where we take over the canals on the RRD Stand up 126 and 14.
Can you tell us if you have ever visited the UK and if so, can you tell us a little about your trip?
Yes I've been many times to the UK. First was Weymouth in the 90's for a World Olympic youth event, where I finished 3rd, then I did the Brighton PWA Event World Cup. I also did the 2009 crossing between Cherbourg, France and Poole, UK in 6hours and I did the Animal Wind Festival in 2010.
Roberto Ricci visited the UK National Windsurfing Festival last year, will we see you at this huge event or even at the Olympics with part of the Neil Pryde development?
I don't know yet if I will go to the UK National Windsurf Festival, this depends on my avalability, but I will go to the Olympics as I am really good friends with Julien Bontemps, the french guy who will be competing at the Olympics. So for sure you will see me there !!
Finally have you ever had the opportunity to experience and share some RRD love with the UK's most infamous RRD icon Jem Hall?
Not yet but I think soon !!