Formula Windsurfing is the high performance competitive course racing format of the windsurfing world. These boards have a massive wind range that enables racing in very light winds from 7 knots up to 35 knots and are capable of reaching speeds of over 30 knots.
History and beginnings
This class of windsurfing born in late of 90's decade like an upgrade of funboard-type course racing boards looking for lowering wind limits and broad wind strengths. Historically for lighter winds the boards designers increase the length. In late 90's some brands AHD, Berky, Drops, ML, Pro-Tech, Roberts and Starboard work on alternative solutions. In overall they go for widening and shortening board length looking for use larger fins to get into planing earlier. Few concepts were developed with different solutions around the tail of the boards because the fins moves further back of the board looking for freely the nose to lower drag. Brands develop a variety of solution to avoid ventilation in the fin area using flaps or steeped bottoms. Last ones are widely adopted due its durability and easy of use. These designs where developed due the new technology that allows to make larger fins (around 50cm.) who can stand the increasing sail size and fin pressure. In few years this concept was widely adopted by almost all Formula Windsurfing board factories.
The concept of Formula Windsurfing as a class was born in France, who successfully pioneered Formula competition in 1998. The first Formula Windsurfing contest was held on Brest the 24th March of 1998. During the 4 day competition ten races were held in winds of 6 to 12 knots by the top 20 French funboard sailors. The event was won by Erik Thieme on a 2.75m. board powered by a 10.0sq.m. sail.
The new class was formed by joint effort of the International Board Sailing Association (IBSA) and the International Funboard Class Association (IFCA). During 1999 many national funboard associations included Formula as a discipline in their national racing circuits. Four international Formula regattas were held, including the first Formula World Championships, in Belgium, won by Wojtek Brzozowski from Poland. The Formula Windsurfing Class was adopted as an ISAF "International" class in 2001.
The International Formula Windsurfing Class is controlled by the International Sailing Federation and was launched in 1998. This class introduced rules that restricted competitors to one board with a maximum of 3 sails and 3 fins (changed to 2 fins in 2011). This led the designers into creating boards with a very wide wind range coupled with excellent upwind and downwind performance.
Formula boards have now been restricted to 1m wide with fins up to 70 cm long and maximum sail sizes of 12.5m^2. By changing the fin length, type and stiffness as well as the sail sizes these boards can be tuned for a wide range of wind and water conditions and suit a variety of different sized sailors.
Who is formula windsurfing for?
Formula boards are ideal for advanced windsurfers who wish to do any of the following:
- Course race. This class has been specifically developed for this purpose.
- Maximise time on water. The number of days with wind suitable for formula windsurfing is far greater than for any other type of windsurfing.
- Cruise and explore coast lines. Formula boards are capable for sailing much larger angles relative to the wind direction and are therefore ideal for exploring coast lines.
Formula boards can also be used by the Intermediate windsurfers. The large board width and volume create a stable platform for intermediate windsurfers. However, as these boards have been developed for racing they are extremely light weight and therefore fragile. New formula boards are therefore not recommended for this type of user. Intermediates should consider starting with sail sizes of about 9m before progressing to 11-12.5m^2.
Formula boards are not recommended for beginners as they are very fragile.
The ideal weather conditions for formula windsurfing are flat water with winds of 7 to 25 knots, however international rules allow racing in up to 35 knots. Sailing in chop and swell is more challenging. Due to the fragile nature of this equipment, windsurfing or launching in breaking waves is to be avoided. Due to fin length, formula boards should not be used in shallow waters.
A formula windsurfing event is usually made up from a number of races over a given period. Races are run in the same method as conventional sailing races with a count down to the start after which competitors can cross an imaginary line between 2 start markers. Races usually 15-30minutes, with up to 4 races per day (conditions allowing). The winner is the competitor with the best total score for all of the races in the event (although some race results may be discounted depending on number of races sailed and various other factors).
Typical courses are include upwind/downwind sausage, triangle or square courses.
Formula Windsurfing Class rules for equipment are as follows:
- 1 Production Board (max 1005mm width),
- 3 Sails (with maximum size of 12.5m²),
- 2 Fins (with maximum length of 70 cm).
Common sail size vs wind range are as follows (although this various according to personal preference, rider size and weight):
- Large = 12m to be used in winds of 7-15 knots
- Medium = 11m to be used in winds of 12-20 knots
- Small = 10m to be used in winds of 17-35 knots
Racing against other sailing craft
Racing against other windsurfer types and boat type is possible using a handicap system. The most widely recognised handicap system in the world is the Portsmouth Yardstick. Formula boards commonly sail with a handicap equivalent to the 18foot skiff. Currently this is a handicap of 685. Although not a lot of racing between Formula boards and other sailing classes has taken place at the international level; in an event in San Francisco in 2003, Formula sailor Micah Buzianis (USA-34) beat the world's best kiteboarders and 18 ft Skiff sailors in the Ronstan Bridge-to-Bridge race, showing the speed of Formula boards against some of the fastest racing craft in sailing.
Formula Windsurfing Throughout the World
Formula Windsurfing has grown enormously in Europe since its start in France, from a large pool of mostly amateur windsurfers who were missing ease of planing in the thousands of not very windy lakes in continental Europe.
- Czech Republic: the Czech champion using a Slim sail made by the Ostrava (CZ) sail factory, became world champion in Thailand.
- Greece has a very active Formula racing scene since 2000, and 2008 the Greek formula windsurfing association was founded (www.fwa.gr).
In the US, Formula Windsurfing has also developed relatively quickly. Formula windsurf is especially popular in the Miami, South Florida area with sailors such as Fernando Martinez, Alex Morales, Ron Kern, Mario Diaz, and juniors such as Alex Stankie, and Sergio Cremisini representing the sport. Recently it has sprung up in events held in Hood River, Oregon and San Francisco, California.
- Brazil has a very active Formula racing scene. Brazil has hosted 2 Formula Windsurfing world championships in the last 10 years.
- Argentina has had the #1 ranked formula racer in the world (ARG-3 Gonzalo Costa Hoevel).
- Peru hosted the Formula Windsurfing World Youth and Masters in 2009.
- Formula Windsurfing is extremely popular in Australia. NSW Windsurfing Series and Nationals are held every year.
- Melbourne, Australia hosted the 2005 Formula Windsurfing World Championships.
- Formula Windsurfers have made Japan a growing area for the sport.
- The UAE has also invested in the sport.
- ISAF website
- Official website
- Formula Windsurfing International Event Calendar with Notice of Race, Results, Photos, Videos etc.