Antoine Questel has been racing on the PWA since 2004, but in the last year or two has really found his slalom speed. Most recently in Korea Antoine finished second, behind the previous world champion and fellow Frenchman Antoine Albeau, only losing out on first place due to some course confusion.

So, where has Antoine found the few extra knots of speed that sees him taking podium finishes? Winning competition at any level requires skill, great equipment and a lot of training. Boardseeker finds out the secrets to Antoine’s success.

Image credits Chrystèle Escure

Name: Antoine Questel
Sail Number: FRA 99
Years Windsurfing: 20 years
Years Competing: 15 years
Height: 1.87m
Weight: 93 kg
Sponsors: Starboard, Loft sails, Sooruz, Saint Barth Community, Eden Rock Hotel, the SBYC and Jimmy Buffet

Top result before 2012:

7th PWA in Aruba 2011 11th PWA in Korea 2011 11th PWA in Turkey 2011 12th Overall ranking PWA 2011

2012 results:

7th PWA in Reggio Calabria, Italy. 2nd PWA in Korea

On and off water training is key to racing success, Antoine have you changed your attitude to training and what are you focussing on?

I have not changed much, just intensified my on and off water preparation. My hard work and training over many years seems to paying off now!

I know that in 10-20 knots conditions I am one of the fastest in the course, and I am also competing more consistently, these together really help my confidence in these winds. I spent time in Tarifa, after the Saint Barth Cup and this allowed me to fine tune my strong wind performance a little more.

This year we do not have many PWA events with a good chance of strong wind racing, so my priority to keep improving in 10 – 25 knots conditions.

How has your equipment developed over the past couple of years? Has this been a key factor in your success so far this year?

Year on year the sails advance, between 2011 and 2012 there is very little change, just some small details on every sizes of sails to improve the sails in light winds and strong wind. Although there are only small changes I can really notice the difference, especially in the lighter winds.

Have you noticed that your speed has dramatically increased? Or have you been improving and going faster every year?

For sure, my speed is better than in past years because the equipment has evolved and on my side, I work on my speed. If you look at my results, you can see that each year, I progress and that’s thanks to my work more than anything. Yes equipment progressing helps, but it really is time on the water, constantly sailing, trying to get more speed and pushing myself all the time that leads to success. My objective this year is to enter in the top 10.

With many of the top racers weighing in at around 100kg, do you think being a little lighter is an advantage for you?

I think I have a perfect weight and height to be at the top in all conditions. For me, it's a small advantage mainly on the gybes. I find that I am now one of the best at coming out of gybes with speed. I still wouldn’t consider myself a lightweight though, I think anything from 85 kg upwards is classed as, and effective as, a heavy weight sailor.

  • Above all, choose the best board and the best sail for you. This takes time and is personal, so it is hard for someone to tell you what will be best for you. But when you sail what is right and fast for you, you will know!
  • It is important to find a fin that works well the conditions, so depending on the state of the water and if the wind is constant or gusty. Again this involves testing, so sail with friends and other racers and focus on figuring out which fin is fastest for you and when.
  • Find the best way to set your sail. Downhaul tension should be changed depending on the wind. You will probably need more tension if the wind is up and down, and a little less downhaul if the wind is steady and you are comfortably powered up.
  • The warm-up is for me the most important thing, before a race you have to check if the settings are good and then change them if you need, before the race! It is also important before the first start, to sail the first length of the course to see how it is, whether it is a little upwind, very broad, and to know how best to approach the mark.
  • And finally, you must concentrate the most during the start and the first gybe. If you can make a good start and a good first gybe, you will be in control and put the others under pressure. If you can then keep your cool you are sure to be in the final! But if you start badly, it really is hard to make back up places, especially when everyone racing is so fast.