Brest, an unassuming, chilly and wet city on the westernmost point of France, also happens to be one of the foremost communities of windsurfing culture in the country. Home to both club and elite programs, Brest attracts and creates many strong youth sailors prone to falling madly in love with windsurfing. In this light, we meet Alexandre, a young Brestois immersed in windsurfing culture and his high-level sailing community.
From his first class at the popular club Crocodiles de l’Elorn (named after the alleged saltwater crocodiles living up the river) Alexandre became a windsurfing addict. A few years later, he discovered windfoil, and was immediately hooked by this exciting discipline. A student at the National Engineering School of Brest, he is also a windsurfing coach at the Brest Bretagne Nautisme watersports and sailing club. He coaches youth on the Bic Techno 293 one design class.
Wanting to sail with top of the line equipment, Alexandre turned to Team TAAROA for a performance-oriented, modular windfoil: the NOE 97 FREERACE. In this first-person article, Alexandre offers his impressions of his NOE windfoil.
A student wearing many different hats
Who am I?
I’m Brestois and 19 years old, and a student at the National Engineering School of Brest. I discovered windsurfing when I was 13 years old while doing a first course at the windsurfing club Crocodiles de l’Elorn. I was totally hooked and turned towards competition right away in one of windsurfing’s classic supports, the youth one design class called Bic Techno 293. This let me participate in many regattas in our department (Finistère) and region (Brittany). In parallel, I sailed on slalom gear year-round.
My favorite sailing spots
I discovered windsurfing in the bay of Brest, which is a place frequented year round by windsurfers of all ages and levels no matter the weather. Brest is an interesting place to sail and offers a variety of conditions from summer thermals to winter tempests. There are lots of windfoilers as well. It’s a great place to push yourself and your equipment to the limits, and we can sail in all directions and all conditions of breeze. I also habitually sail in spots in north Finistère where there are broad white sand beaches, clear water, and waves for surfing, bodyboarding or funboard, all in magnificent natural surroundings.
How did I discover foiling?
I discovered windfoil about two years ago. It was mind-blowing for me with its totally unique sensation of flying above the water. Ever since my first takeoff, the feeling of lightness and speed is incomparable.
The NOE 97: An alliance of performance and modularity
I turned to TAAROA and the NOE 97 Freerace specifically because I wanted high-level, performance- oriented equipment that is modular as well. This foil met my requirements with three different front wings, excellent carbon engineering and quality control, and a perfectly proportioned mast.
Why the NOE 97 Freerace?
I was looking for the best compromise between accessibility and performance, and the NOE 97 Freerace let me learn quickly and move towards a more competitive practice. I appreciated its easy setup with minimal screws and fixations; I can rig it really fast to get the most water time possible during my sailing window. I can spend more time tweaking the settings to try to discover new sensations and exploit the full potential of the foil.
The strengths of the NOE 97
One of the strongest points of the NOE 97 is the Freerace 800 front wing. With this wing, I can use the foil in all conditions, and it passes through the chop really well, staying stable and easy to control in all wind conditions. It lets me attain incredible performances at all angles, even in light, flat conditions with big racing sails.
Finally, the little extra this foil gives is the ability to play with the stabilizer’s settings by advancing or retracting it on the fuselage (changing the angle). I’m in the habit of taking a foil key with me on the water so I can adapt the angle while sailing. This feature is really practical if there is a change in condition during a session or a day of racing. Overall, the NOE 97 Freerace is a stable foil that lets you easily go fast, and adapts to all conditions. Its strong point is undeniably versatility.
What is your favorite kind of session with the NOE 97 Freerace?
I’ve had a wide variety of sessions with the foil, but overall I prefer to use it with my foil race sail of 8m2 and a 91 cm wider board, to be more efficient and cover more ground on the water. I love long tacks upwind or downwind to cover ground in almost no time at all, or feel all the potential of the foil in these unlimited runs.
I also have the opportunity to have no-stress freeride sessions with my friends. We have fun competing with each other and with the elements, and this lets me exploit the playful side of the foil – the foil stays very reactive even while using a smaller sail.
What’s your advice for getting started in windfoil?
The discipline of windfoil offers the possibility to have fun in much lighter wind conditions than classic windsurfing. This support has already greatly evolved since its first prototypes and the equipment has become more accessible, so I recommend starting with recent equipment. The brands, including TAAROA, offer a wide range of equipment and it’s not necessary to have a strong level of windsurfing to get started: mastery of planing and harness is enough to begin with. I recommend wearing a helmet for safety in case of a fall; a helmet is otherwise obligatory in competition.
If you are still hesitant, many windsurfing clubs propose an introductory foil lesson, so why not try?
We all remember our first windsurfing sessions; I remember well my first experience planing on a windsurfer, and my first flight on windfoil was equally memorable. Windfoil demands more finesse, very different from the discipline of slalom, for example.
Thanks to foil, the sport of windsurfing hasn’t had its last say!