Interview from the Wave Hobbit, Russell Groves to Andrea Cucchi.
Want to know where Andrea is? He is always on the beach or on the water working on his product development, close to windsurfers, understanding the needs and making sure that what the brand sells is what people look for.
Seriously, being where you are is important to him. Unless he is testing one of his secret weapons.
His heavy schedule sends him all over the world and around Europe, but he always has time for his Black Sheep community, Clients and Black Team.
I caught up with him after the Defi Wind.
TWH:- Defi Wind has always been one of your favourite events. What is so magical about this event?
ANDREA: The vibe around the whole event. You are in a village with only windsurfers. After 4 days of event, you go home and realize that you were not able to cross everyone you know that were there. The mixture between professional and amateur windsurfing is great and there should be more events like this. The fact that everyone competes for their own personal goals makes it even more fun. Let’s also be clear about a point. Windsurfing is freedom, and Defiwind gives you the freedom to do a long distance in strong wind in full security with lots of friends. A long distance allows everyone to be on the water the whole time, unlike slalom events where you need to wait for your heat. The parties, the fair, the entertainment, the energy that the organizers put behind it, is just amazing. Next year is the 20thedition, and you should already book now! With more events like this, windsurfing would a bigger sport.
TWH:-This year you had time to go there a couple of days before the event and scored some classic conditions. A chance to use the smaller AC-ONEs. Did you test some prototypes?
ANDREA:-I did not test any prototypes as I was already happy to be there 1 day earlier to try my personal equipment to tune in a bit before the race. As I’m often testing gear, I sail very little with my personal racing gear. I was already very happy to re-try the 5.6 in those conditions and I scored with my 95l slalom board and normal slalom fins over 43 knots of speed. This year we have 3 cams and 7 battens on our race AC-One, and it’s just amazing to have seen the difference in comfort and ease of use from the sails. The average speeds I had, were much better than the other years.
TWH:-Fine tuning is your game. With so many Black Sheep there, you must have had a busy time. How many different models did you see being used?
ANDREA: There were lots of windsurfers with our Point-7 Black Sails. The day before and during the event I tuned a lot of sails for our clients, our team and Blacksheep community. I think the only sail I did not tune was the Slash Freestyle! All the other models were on the water! I think on Friday I was over 14h on the beach and most of the time tuning sails and this was a great thing more. I learn so much from staying with our clients. I see their difficulties, their windsurfing knowledge. It’s all important.
TWH:- On the first day there was not so much wind, well if you can call 30 knots not much wind. What size sails did you use in the 2 races?
ANDREA: That right. We did not race on 5.6 survival mode. It was the best wind for everyone this time. I think there were over 1100 finishers, which is not always the case! Amazing! Defi wind can be tricky. What you see at the beach is always than different on the water. On the side we start the wind is sometimes up to 3-5 knots lighter than on the other side 10km away.You need to go upwind a lot, but also do some speed runs. You don’t want to be too overpowered for all those kilometres in one shot, but also you don’t want to be slow if you get some lulls. The sail sizes are very important. I was always on the water with the right gear. 7.1 in the first and 7.8 in the second where the wind had dropped to 18 to 25knots. I can’t complain on my choice…I was super happy to have all my sails rigged and making the right choice all the time!
TWH:- There were so many events going on that weekend. PWA foil just down the road, EFPT freestyle in Sardinia, Fehmarn Surf festival and the German freestyle battles. Maybe there were others as well. What are your thoughts on this?
ANDREA: Some people sit at home on Sunday zapping from one channel to the other to follow MotoGP, F1, Soccer. This weekend, windsurfers who stayed home could have done the same on the different organizer’s online pages. Difference is that 2 of the events were open to everyone to be part and enjoy, while the PWA foil and EFPT freestyle was for mainly selected pro riders. Apart from the last 2 events which are selective, it was a more of a pity to have had Defiwind and Surfestival together, as I would have personally liked to be attending both. The choice of dates is though good for both events, and it’s understandable.
TWH:- It was nice to see Basile and Taty there, but they should normally have been at the PWA event. Was it your choice or their choice to do the Defi?
ANDREA:- They were smart and went for the biggest windsurfing event! Is not possible to compare an event of 1200 windsurfers against an event of formula foil. With all respect, Defi wind is what windsurfers do, Formula foil is at the beginning and far from what windsurfers do and dream of. I hope PWA realizes that the way foil is run now with 10m sails, is not efficient, expensive for young windsurfers, and it reminds me of formula which after a hype of few years, slowly disappeared. Foil as it is now in PWA, is taking the same path, and just more expensive. I think PWA should keep its DNA, and not keep the show on the beach if there are more than 25knots. There are different ways to make foil attractive and I hope PWA will slowly change direction. At Defi wind you have the chance to meet with lots of people, be part of the real community of windsurfers. I think we have a lot to learn from Defiwind, and I fully support the choice of Taty and Basile.
TWH:- I know the dream is always to win but a 5th is not so bad. The level is very high at the top and it is very nice to still see you up there, even though you have very little time to train. Basile getting 14th is fantastic and Taty 32nd in his first Defi. I can understand Lena not doing it, but it would have been nice to see her battle it out against Delfine and Marion. Would you like to see all the team riders doing the Defi next year?
ANDREA:- Yes, to be top 10 is always a nice result. It goes so fast from being top 5 to top 15. So Basile and Taty did very well, as it was for them the first experience and they went out a bit underpowered. Lena was busy at the Surfestival, Yentel was winning the second event in the row from the EFPT, so I can only be happy the each was putting their effort in growing Point-7. Next year is the 20thanniversary. I want to see all my Point-7 staff, beloved clients, Blacksheep community, Black Team at the Defi.
TWH:- Le Defi is massive in France and world famous. It is fantastic for the competitors to do, just to complete it, is an achievement. For spectators it is the famous start with the rib going at full speed down the start line. Can you explain what it is like? Trying to win the event means you must get close to it?
ANDREA:- Well, it’s 40kms, so if you are fast you will be in the front even if you don’t hit right behind the rib. To win, there will be always someone your speed, so yes, the timing behind the rib is very important. Everyone goes a bit too early, so to get out from the line is not always easy. The first race I was starting in third line, and to come out from the huge group takes time. You have so many people around and everyone goes different lay lines and is super choppy. On the start line you need to keep planning in the front line, without going to fast otherwise you will get hit by the rib, but you cant slow down too much on small boards, as if you do, you could lose planning which is then super hard to get back on, with all the people around. So, you need to try to stay front line, but with a big group next to you, so that the power of group, pushes the rib to take care a bit more. I would not like to be on the rib. I think is less scary on the board! Philip Bru is driving it, and I totally trust him!
TWH:- Defi is over for this year and many will already be at home training for next year, for a lot of people it would also have been there first year.
Thanks, Andrea, for the chat and I am sure you will be there again next year