The Grand Pavois, held in the port of Les Minimes in La Rochelle, is easily one of the most popular boat shows in Europe. This major, yearly event dates from the 1970s and showcases European maritime industry. With a focus on small maritime startups, it’s the go-to event for all kinds of smaller, innovative industries, and offers businesses and buyers the opportunity to test equipment on the water, as well as networking and embracing all kinds of inspiration.
Alongside the Grand Pavois, the Federation Française de Voile seized the opportunity to show off the exciting sports of Wind and Wingfoil in tandem with the display of maritime industries. The French Autumn National Championships for each sport was held directly on the expansive sands of Plage des Minimes, all mixed up with watersports brand exhibitors in a great sandy chaos of high-tech beach toys.
Organized by the Club Nautique d’Angoulins, the Autumn Nationals was a key event for the FFVoile’s expanding windfoil youth development programming. Additionally, the competition was the first Wingfoil Nationals ever held in France, and proved to be a resounding success. The advancement of this new and exciting sport proceeded straight before our eyes as riders exchanged information and checked out each other’s equipment. Racing on a course close to the beach, the vibrantly colored wings in action made for a great spectator experience. Wingfoil events will soon be popping up all over France with the recent inclusion of this new discipline under the FFVoile umbrella.
This year, despite many challenges from adverse weather, TAAROA ruled all sides of the Grand Pavois, from commercial to competition. In blustery, rainy and cold weather, Team TAAROA swept the podiums of both wind and wingfoil regattas and made an impression on riders as they wandered over to our beachfront stand to check out fast foils and engineering technology.
The gusty, wavy and chilly conditions on the racecourse, as well as the competent, large fleet gave TAAROA windfoil competitors a real challenge. Tricky, technical pin-end starts made getting a clean start more complicated, as this end of the line became crowded and slow. Big chop and dirty air and water were also a challenging factor during starts. Under threat of the adverse weather, the race committee rolled through starts nonstop for all the fleets.
As racers fought for their places, it was clear that speed and precision ruled the day, and any small technical mistake cost too much time on the choppy, gusty course area. Defensive sailing in the gusty and tricky conditions was also a key strategy, as sailors wishing to remain on the leaderboard had to maintain control over the others near them in results.
Finishing in first place for iQFoil and second place in the overall windfoil category was local racer Adrien Mestre (@adrien_mestre7), a well-placed senior rider vying for a spot at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Adrien, recently added to Team TAAROA, is enthusiastic about his role in research and development.
In first place for the Under 21 iQFoil category was Jules Chantrel (@juleschtrl), a young French Olympic hopeful and a talented surf foiler. Newly accepted to the French national training center in Brest (Pôle France de Brest), Jules is looking forward to hitting all the local surf spots in Brittany.
Mateo Dussarps (@matdussarps) , involved in TAAROA social media management, debutant in wingfoil racing, and an iQFoil French Olympic hopeful, won the overall National Wingfoil title. Mateo, pleased with his performance, says “This was a super competition, my first competition in wingfoil. It was a great way to start working with Team TAAROA - next time I’ll be World Champion!”
Last but not least, senior TAAROA windfoilers Farrah Hall (@farrahusa1) and Benjamin Tillier (@benjamin.tillier) took home an awesome second and tenth place in the Men and Women’s categories. Ben says, (jokingly) “We had a great event with a lot of sun all weekend, 20 knots of breeze and perfect conditions. There were a lot of young guys, but old guys too…” More importantly, Ben feels that the business-related side of being a team TAAROA rider grew in inspiration and energy. “We had all kinds of riders pass by the stand, people interested in everything from wing to speed to the iUP. It made me realize how many great foils we have for every sport and how much foiling sports inspire people.”
Team TAAROA is looking forward to seeing these talented riders do great things towards the future of foiling! Looking towards the future as well, TAAROA foil research and development was certainly at the forefront of the team spirit on the sands of Plage des Minimes.
The TAAROA stand attracted many riders and spectators interested in testing foils, talking shop, and marveling at the innovative iUP. Wing riders were especially active in testing different foil configurations and were throwing great freestyle moves just in front of the beach. The new, young generation of wing riders is innovative, hardworking and enthusiastic, and lent the team an injection of motivation to keep up with their demands!
We had the opportunity to continue to test the iUP with wingfoil, and now have new ideas to improve settings in windy, wavy conditions. Although the tough conditions were not exactly beginner-friendly, riders were still able to gently jibe and go back and forth with excellent stability. The iUP performed admirably and attracted lots of attention on the beach. TAAROA wing and surf foil rider Gaël Contal states, “Testing the iUP was a lovely experience, even in 25 knots of wind and big swell. Jibing was gentle and easy, and it was fascinating to let the foil take control.”
Here in the sand, wind, and rain, Team TAAROA riders and businessmen demonstrated performance and inspiration on and off the water, in both racing and commerce. Team TAAROA is very grateful to the organizers of the Grand Pavois and the Club Nautique d’Angoulins for the opportunity to showcase our talented riders, fast foils, and innovative technology. Despite the inclement weather, these were incredibly well-organized events and we are looking forward to coming back next year!