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From our August 2021 issue of Windsurf Magazine, top PWA racer, Maciek Rutkowski from Poland, gives John Carter the inside line on the PWA slalom tour with some juicy behind the scenes information

WORDS – Maciek Rutkowski // PHOTOS – PWA / John Carter

JC: Who is the most competitive person on tour? 

MR: I think everybody is, otherwise, they wouldn’t be doing it! When I go back to the “real world”, people always tell me I’m too competitive at everything, but on tour it’s normal, so I guess everybody is the short answer. Or me, ha-ha, I live for this!   

JC: Who is the most secretive with their equipment? 

MR: Finian Maynard used to be, and now he’s my boss at FMX Racing, so I get to ask him about all those things! Other than that Antoine is rather good at these games. Definitely the older generation were a lot more secretive than we are. Probably a custom era thing!

JC: Who is the strongest?  

MR: There are a couple of absolute animals, whether natural or through training, or in most cases both. Enrico Marotti and Bruno Martini come to mind. Antoine Questel is a beast too; for sure I’m forgetting someone. Bjorn was on another planet, but luckily, he left us alone ha-ha! Who maybe doesn’t look ultra-strong, but I know can lift with the best of them, is Matteo Iachino! And then on lower body I got up there through sheer training – absolutely zero natural ability!   

JC: Who trains the hardest? 

MR: Hard to say for sure, but I’d like to say I do! Between the water and the gym, I haven’t seen anyone doing as much as me, but that’s the beauty of it – you can’t know for sure, maybe someone is outdoing me three times over and is going to be untouchable very soon? Or maybe not. I learned not to really think about it too much.

JC: Who is first and last at the beach? 

MR: I remember Bjorn rocking up pretty late to all his gear rigged and ready, prepared perfectly by his long-time caddy Victor. Personally, I’m slow at preparing stuff and if I want it to be perfect I kind of need to do it slow, so I need to get there pretty early, but I don’t remember being there first. I definitely leave the beach last though, this happens all the time! Some guys don’t even unpack their bags in the equipment tent! I make racks, and hang stuff up etc.; plus as I work slowly, by the time I pack after the event, some guys are on their third beer!   

JC: What sailors get sidetracked with parties? 

MR: Let’s try not to shame much, but I’ve seen a group of young French guys struggling in the 35-degree sun of a Fuerteventura afternoon. 

JC: What sailors are the most determined on tour? 

MR: That depends how you define determined. If you mean like motivated, that probably goes back to training and for most people it’s hard to judge how much they sail. Definitely the group that winter in Tenerife are determined. But if you just look at events and who will do absolutely everything to win, I think the “Big Three” are leading that conversation. People talk about dirty tricks and hard sailing and I often get mentioned, but once you race Pierre, Matteo and Antoine you realise those guys not only don’t give an inch, but also will do absolutely every trick in the book to get ahead.   

JC: Who is the person you would least want to be next to on the start line? 

MR: Anyone fast. It’s much easier to start when you’re surrounded by slower guys, then you dictate the line and whether they point upwind or go downwind, it really doesn’t matter. But if someone is quick and changes his line constantly on top of that, that’s where you lose the most ground.

JC: Who is the sailor you would least like hot on your heals at the last gybe? 

MR: Matteo is solid on that and aggressive. Julien Quentel has this insane luck that would make you probably slip, even if you have never slipped in the last 10 years; but the straight T-bone that Pierre did to Ross in New Caledonia is something I would not want to experience. I was in third in that heat, Ross fourth and Pierre fifth, needing to advance to fight for the world title. I didn’t look back, but the noise I heard was the most horrific, loudest thing I’ve ever heard on a windsurfing course.   

JC: Which sailor is the best gyber in the business? 

MR: I think there is quite a few and all have certain tendencies and go-to moves and you might have one situation with them a season, but it’s your job to know these moves and tendencies, how to attack them, how to defend them etc. 

JC: Who has the tidiest tent on tour? 

MR: Jordy tries super hard to get that title, sometimes maybe too hard with all the social media ha-ha, we get it Jordy, you’re anal! Antoine Albeau is the true leader though, I think, he brings more gear than anyone to the comps and knows exactly where every single screw is. Sorry Jordy!   

JC: Who is the untidiest and least organized? 

MR: When me and Benny van der Steen hook up it’s pretty bad. Usually if I’m with a tidier person, that person would tell me to clean up, or rarely sometimes the opposite way. With Benny, we don’t tell each other anything, we just let it evolve naturally and sometimes it gets quite hectic!

JC: Which sailor stays the most cool, calm and collected? 

MR: The last years of Bjorn were incredible – no matter what happened out on the racecourse he would come in, put his Red Bull hat on, put his Dunkerbeck eyewear on and just sit there with a stone-cold face. I think it comes with age, you definitely see the older guys a lot more balanced and not so up and down emotionally as the younger ones. I’m already triple as calm as I used to be, so can only imagine what’s going to happen in my thirties and later.  

JC: Who is the most modest winner? 

MR: It’s funny, some guys like Pierre they are super aggressive on the water, but when it comes to podium celebrations, cheering etc., they are super modest. Then you have guys that the emotion comes out on the beach more than on the water. It’s pretty individual I would say, but if I had to pick one, I would probably say Ben van der Steen. He had a run of podiums and bullets and you’d never hear a word of brag coming out of his mouth. 

JC: Who is the worst loser? 

MR: Antoine’s bad, but I think it’s because he rarely loses anything ha-ha! Nobody likes to lose and I’m quite sure we’re all absolutely fuming inside when it happens, it’s just a matter of how much you let out!  

JC: Who is the best racer on social media? 

MR: Matteo’s solid, no matter what happens there’s a post every day and he seems to have a good following. I have my moments, but I guess sometimes I post something that seems super funny at the time and maybe without the context it isn’t. I should maybe post a bit more “normal” stuff ha-ha! 

JC: Who has the coolest van on tour? 

MR: It’s going to be mine when it’s finished. I haven’t posted anything about it because it’s probably still only 50% of the way now, but give me until Sylt or around that period and you’ll see. Sorry Jordy! 

JC: Who puts in the most hours on the water? 

MR: When I grow up, I want to find someone that looks at me the way Ingmar Daldorf looks at the water when its windy. This guy is incredible!   

JC: Who has the best and worst diet? 

MR: Damien Arnoux loves his McDonalds, that’s for sure!! In terms of best, I’m always surprised how little and healthy the big guys eat – they’re just naturally so big that if they eat like me, they’re 120 kg straight! 

JC: What sailor could drink everyone under the table but still be back on the water the following morning? 

MR: Bjorn. Thank god he retired!   

JC: Who has had the biggest baggage bill? 

MR: The higher the ranking, the bigger the bill. When you fight for a world title, you are going to bring everything spare, especially to a new place like Israel this year. Expect four to eight guys bringing eight boards, twelve sails, eight booms and twenty plus masts. That’s at least seven to eight bags, so it’s fingers crossed there’s a baggage deal!

JC: Who has had the worst piece of luck? 

MR: I had a run in Fuerteventura that I absolutely couldn’t believe! First Matteo dropped his sail in the gybe onto my head when we were first and second in the semi. The guy is solid as a rock, but with me in front his hand just opened and he lost the boom. Then my mast snapped on the last reach of another semi, while in qualifying position of course. Then again Matteo barely touches me in another semi-final, but his nose goes on top of mine in a way that I get totally stuck. And then finally I will finish top five if Julien Quentel doesn’t make the final and in the very first round, he’s in 6th and the guys are already congratulating me. On the last gybe two guys fall in front of him just by themselves and he advances and I finish sixth for the event. Hopefully that was the limit for bad luck forever. 

JC: If there was an out and out drag race who would be the fastest guy on tour? 

MR: Depends. How is the start? What are the conditions? Do they use their own gear or all use the same? The level right now is so close that all these factors might determine who wins.

JC: Which racer do you think is the best all-rounder – wave, freestyle etc? 

MR: Is Amado a racer? Is Taty a racer? Ross Williams we can classify as a racer, he’s exceptionally good in waves too. Antoine is a former PWA freestyle world champion, so we must count him in. And if you put me against all racers in a wave contest in port tack conditions, I’d fancy my chances too!   

JC: What event do the racers dread the most? 

MR: The Asian ones where sometimes you have one shot and the conditions are super iffy and sometimes you can’t control everything. When it’s light and gusty, somebody nails the start on top of you and that heat is over and it might be your only heat of the event. That sucks. And then some guys dread Fuerteventura ha-ha, but let’s not get into that.

JC: Do you think racers should be paid more than freestylers and why? 

MR: I think everyone should get paid more than they do, that’s for sure! Other than that, let’s say I understand why slalom sailors get a bit more – there’s more events, more slalom gear sells, it’s closer to what an average joe does etc. But today’s freestyle is super impressive and I believe it deserves financial recognition!   

JC: Do you think racers should be paid more than wave sailors? 

MR: Well, that’s really individual isn’t it? Do I believe I should get paid more than Brawzinho? Probably not. Do I believe I work harder than any wave sailor out there? Probably yes. Is my risk of injury the same as a wave sailor? Totally not! Let’s say that if somebody is an asset to his sponsors, whether it be results, media, R&D or whatever it is, they should get paid handsomely. What shouldn’t come into play are personal preferences of the people in charge, which is something natural, but I think happens a bit less in bigger sports. 

JC: Who is the highest paid racer? 

MR: Antoine Albeau. No contest. The guy has no space left on his sail he has so many stickers!   JC: Is racing the hardest discipline? 

MR: Define the hardest. Most physically demanding? Yes. Most injury prone? No. Most time consuming? Yes. Most talent demanding? No. Most knowledge demanding? Yes. Most age dependent? No. I wouldn’t want to be a freestyler, but it’s not because I have a choice – i just can’t freestyle! 

JC: Why does France have so many racers compared to other countries? 

MR: It’s a snowball effect isn’t it? It’s the biggest market, there’s the most people windsurfing. If there’s the most people windsurfing, there’s the biggest talent pool. If there’s the biggest talent pool, the level is the highest. If the level is the highest, then the young guys improve the most. And since it’s the biggest market, there actually is a bit of support for the young guys and they get thrown into a much more professional situation than other countries. The AFF French tour is probably the second highest-level slalom tour in the world, so the transition to PWA is way easier than it is for somebody let’s say from…hmm… Poland? Ha-ha. 

JC: Who is the most dangerous on the foil? 

MR: To be honest, so far in all the training we’ve done it was all pretty safe. The worst situation I had was with Matteo where he lost control and catapulted straight into me, which I guess shows it can happen to anyone.

JC: Who is the best sailor in high winds and rough seas? 

MR: Hard to bet against Antoine in that, Ross was always special in those conditions as well. Whether I’m good or not in that, it’s hard for me to judge, but I love challenging conditions too.

JC: Which two sailors have the biggest rivalry? 

MR: Either Matteo and Pierre or Antoine and Pierre. There’s a great mix of tremendous respect and bad blood from 6-7 years of fighting for world titles every year. I wish we had a Netflix series to show a bit of that behind the scenes like Formula 1’s “Drive To Survive or something!   

JC: Who is the funniest sailor? 

MR: Arnon Dagan can be hilarious. Taty is super positive, always makes you smile. Josh Angulo was always straightforward, that cracked me up. And then there’s some inside stuff in the French team that I’m quite sure is hilarious, but you can’t understand if you don’t speak French. Fairly sure they take the piss out of me a lot; those Frenchies! 

JC: Who is the most intelligent sailor? 

MR: Hell knows! We’re all pretty dumb I’d say!!  



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