Over the last 8 years the TWS slalom training in Tenerife has become one of the places to be for aspiring racers, whether you want to finish higher at a national event, are pushing to make the PWA top 10 or even win it outright. John Skye has been a frequent student of the Tenerife school of training, read on as he let’s us know more about its benefits and illustrious pupils.
Originally published in the June ’19 edition of Windsurf.
Words John Skye // Photos TWS/Bartek Jankowski – 7Pixels
The TWS training has been around in one form or another for 8 years now and the results it has produced at the top level speak for themselves. In 2018, 2 of the top 3 PWA men’s slalom trained in Tenerife. Further down the rankings, 5 of the top 10 trained there, and 10 of the top 20. That is 50% of the worlds 20 best slalom sailors! What is perhaps more impressive is the rise of some of the riders, from back of the fleet nobodies, to World Cup superstars almost overnight. To find out more about its history I sat down with Maciek Rutowski (FMX Racing/ Challenger) and Matteo Iachino (Starboard/Severne).
Matteo Iachino – “I first came to Tenerife back in 2011 just to train a bit for a month with Andrea Cucci. The place was so consistent for wind and straight away we realized the potential. The following winter (2012/2013) Andrea put together the first training camp, mainly for the Point 7 team. We had Mark Hosegood as the race director and we had a good group of riders, including Andrea Cucci, Alberto Menengatti, Pascal Toselli, Maciek Rutowski, Vincent Langer, a few others and myself. It was really good because we never had anything like that before, and Sparky was an amazing race director and did a fantastic job, so it was a very beneficial experience. We then went to the first race of the year in Korea and I made my first ever winners final and Alberto won his first ever PWA event, the first Italian to ever win a PWA event. In 2013/2014 it was even better with a greater level of off the water training and a higher level of rider joining.”
Maciek Rutowski – “The idea of a training camp was not new and many had tried before, but it’s hard to find the right place. You need somewhere where there is a harbour for the boat, where 6-10 world cup guys are willing to come for an extended period of time, where it’s consistently windy and where it’s relatively easy/cheap to get to. In Tenerife it just all worked really well. The first year we were pretty much all just starting in the World Cup. Alberto was the best and was ranked 12th in the world. Matteo and I were pretty much nowhere, but that all changed really quickly. Alberto finished 2nd the following year. Matteo got in the top 10 for the first time and I advanced about 30 places. After that the whole thing gained a lot
In the winter of 2014/2015 TWS took over the training. Seeing the huge potential from a business point of view, the owner Harco straight away started marketing it to a bigger audience and from there it just grew and grew. The easy flights from Europe, the consistent winds and probably more than anything else the nice lifestyle that goes alongside it, made it hugely popular for all levels of racer from amateur to PWA podium front runners.
“In 2018, 2 of the top 3 PWA men’s slalom trained in Tenerife.”
So why has it been so successful in turning wannabe contenders into PWA front runners? Pierre Mortefon (Fanatic/Duotone), Jordy Vonk (Fanatic/Duotone) and Maciek explain.
Jordy Vonk – “Racing is all about experience and with this training you just instantly gain so much experience. Most days at the TWS we make more races in a day than we do in the majority of entire PWA events. This winter I was there for 2 ½ months and we had 27 days of training. With 15 races a day, that works out at over 400 races. That is probably more than 2 full years on the world tour, so you can learn so much.”
Maciek – “For me there is no better race preparation. We are normally racing 4 times a week, so your fitness levels increase and we have repetitions of hundreds of starts and gybes. You learn the racing lines and you have so many different racing experiences. You learn what your gear is able to do. For example, sometimes your gear is super fast, but maybe you cannot go low on the start, or maybe the opposite. Maybe the board is great on the entry to the gybe, but bad on the exit, or maybe the other way around. All these things you have a great feeling for on the race course and you arrive at the first event ready to compete.”
The daily schedule of the training is pretty much the same as an average race day. There is a briefing at 09:45, where they explain the course and write down the groups. Depending on the number of people in a given week there are 2 or 3 groups based on level. Group 1 is full on World Cup level pretty much representing a PWA semi-final. Their level is crazy and they are pushing as hard or possibly harder than if there was a World Cup title on the line. Group 2, from my experience, is something similar to a first round of PWA or maybe a national level final. Finally group 3 would be national amateur level. The great thing is that whatever your level, you are racing with similar standards, so you really get to learn the maximum.
Pierre Mortefon – “The race team is a really really high level, so the race simulation is pretty much the same as the PWA. Then the level of racing is very high as well, maybe even higher than on the PWA somehow as everyone is pushing even harder.”
“Most days at the TWS we make more races in a day than we do in the majority of entire PWA events.”
The first of 3 sessions kicks off at 11:00, with 5 races back to back. Then there is a short 30 minute break to rest or change gear, and then a second set of 5 races back to back. After that there is a break for lunch and finally a third set of 5 races to finish you off. It is brutal! 15 races is a lot, and don’t think that anyone is taking it easy! They really are pushing to the maximum. During one of my trips a few years ago I was approaching the start line with 10 seconds left on the watch. Upwind of me Andrea Ferin is absolutely flying, and slightly too early. I see him arrive at the line and to avoid going over early he just pointed off the wind, straight at me. Me, being slightly less motivated to do or die, took one look at him and decided a good start was really not worth dying for, so I sheeted out, slowed down and dived into the water. Andrea flew in front of me, missing the nose of my board by millimetres and sailed square into Malte Reuscher, snapping his own mast and ripping his sail in half. I watched on shell-shocked, but from the reactions of everyone else, this was pretty much normal procedure!
The only real rule to the training is that you have to be at the first race, or you have to miss the whole series of 5. It is a great way to make sure the guys are on time and full power from the beginning. I guess it came from the early years, where latecomers would stroll up midway through, taking away the importance of the first races. Like this, from my experience, everyone is on the line, on time… and ready to fight!
The vibe is something else that is pretty special in Tenerife. It is a strange mix really because all the guys are basically competitors, but somehow they have worked out a really nice balance. From what I saw they all talk pretty openly between themselves and as Ethan Westera (Tabou/GA/F-Hot) says, there is a really good vibe and energy amongst the guys.
Arnon Dagan (Future Fly/Neil Pryde) – “The guys aren’t really secretive, it’s all pretty straightforward. The training is hard so guys are focussing on it and there is no bullshit. I can imagine that most top guys including myself are not “ALL IN” with best mast, fins and boards and are saving them for the real world cup races, but it’s pretty close. For me it’s just great to get in shape and best of all is trying my new boards that I just released on the race course.”
Simon Chippington (RRD/RRD/F-Hot), 4th last year in the UK national amateur series – “I got a cheap flight and headed out for 4 days. For me personally it’s great to mix with all the different levels of sailors. Everyone is really chatty and happy to share their knowledge and experiences. As an example I picked up a tip about my harness usage and I’ve now made the change from a waist to a seat harness which really helped me!”
Personally I am not out to win the PWA slalom tour. Probably the biggest reason for the huge success of the training is the town of El Medano. There are not many places I have been to that so nicely mix lifestyle and windsurf conditions, and it’s one of the only places in the world where you can windsurf without needing a car. Pretty much the whole town is within a 10 minute walk of the windsurf beaches, and within that 10 minute walk you have loads of restaurants, cafes, bars and enough entertainment to take you past midnight. For those looking for more there is obviously the world renowned nightlife of Las Americas around 20 minutes away, but for the most part a nice dinner and a couple of beers is all the guys need after a tough day on the water.
For myself personally the trips here are brutal physically. As I said I am not trying to win a PWA slalom title and also I am not pumping iron all winter in the gym to get big and strong. Therefore the physical shock of the training is pretty extreme. It is so intense that this year I nearly puked at the end of the first race. The conditions are rough, there are a lot of people on the race course and everyone is pushing really hard. Almost every race there will be a big collision or crash and the racing is really on the edge at times. The first race I think I nearly crushed the boom in my hands I was gripping so tight. By the third gybe my arms were already cramping. A lot of it is learning to relax and by the end of the day I was definitely dealing with it better, but it literally took me about a week to recover, with my legs feeling like they had climbed the stairs of the Empire State Building!
For me there is no better test ground. Lining up in a heat with 5 of the world’s top 10 and racing full power in a relatively controlled test environment is priceless. For the racers I think the experience is as equally important. As Arnon says, “I think this training is a must for everyone who wants to be serious about the World Cup.” Time will tell what the results will be this year, but I expect to see the Tenerife training guys getting closer and closer to the top of the rankings.
Matteo Iachino – “I am always wondering if it’s really the actual physical training that helps so much or if it’s the fact that you know you have trained well and so you are mentally stronger and therefore you compete better. You never really know the answer to that, but whatever the reason, it works really well!”
A huge thanks to all the guys for their help with this article, particularly Maciek Rutkowski. Make sure you check his online vlogs on YouTube, for a deeper insight into the training of the world’s best.
“This training is a must for everyone who wants to be serious about the World Cup.”