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[Thierry] Hello Matthew, for those who are not knowing you, can you quickly introduce yourself? [Matthew] Age – 46 ; Years sailing – 35 ; Years sailmaking – 23

Life before sailmaking – Sailing Instructor, Catamarans, dinghies and windsurfing. Learnt to sail in – Firefly

Favourite sailing location – Bretagne (anywhere) France, Aotea Harbour New Zealand, and Cornwall UK.

Job – Sailmaker at Demon design Sails

[Thierry] About Raceboard in general, what is your feeling about this kind of board?

[Matthew] I think Longboards are great, especially for racing. To have a successful racing class the most important thing is to be able to turn up at the beach and race, whatever the weather! The other racing classes are severely limited because they simply do not work under a certain windspeed. Formula, windfoil, slalom all need 10 knots+ to race. Longboards are unique in windsurfing, they have the biggest performance wind range, 4-30 knots. For anyone wanting regular racing at club level, Longboards are the perfect solution.

[Thierry] Why do you like Raceboards?

[Matthew] I love all forms of windsurfing, from wave sailing to slalom, to windfoiling. But at the very top is going upwind on the rail of a longboard in 10-12 knots, heaven!

[Thierry] What is your vision for the Raceboard Class in the future?

[Matthew] This will be for the sailors to decide but I would encourage everyone to think carefully about the class and how to make it more attractive and successful.

I would like to see a move to open the class up to more board builders.

For me, the constraints of having 25 boards for registration is an issue. Now, there are only 2 boards available on the market. It is not enough! We must consider eliminating the production board rule completely and allowing anyone to build a board for the class. It allows sailors to have access to a local board production with good aftermarket service, a good local connection and relationship. Perhaps more importantly it would allow an enthusiast to build his own board, turn up to an international event and race his hand crafted design against the best anyone else can make. Do we really want to exclude such people from our class?

BUT for this to work it will require a complete re-write of the current Raceboard rules. You will have to introduce a measurement control system and I think that system would have to be tightly defined. An “open” box rule will not be very good, the boards would be too divergent. Instead the rule will have to specify widths, thicknesses, minimum weight, etc… to a tight design criteria, whilst still allowing variation in design and sailor choice within those limits.

Raceboard used to be like this, as did Division 1 and 2. They were the most successful windsurf racing classes ever, we should learn from them!

The class currently does not do any measurement at all (of boards or sails) so it would be a big cultural shift, but I believe it would help in the following ways

  • Sailors of different weight and physique could find a board more suited to them- enjoyment goes up.
  • The quality of the boards will go up, both in design and construction. They will last longer.
  • There will be a range of equipment available at a range of prices.
  • Local builders to service local markets ( NZ, AUS, France, Spain,UK)
  • Smaller more focused manufacturers will be more responsive to the class.

It is a difficult decision to take. And I have only started to talk about it here. The rules need a complete review. The class has formed a technical committee to do this work – I just hope they consult widely and genuinely consider all the options in a transparent way.

We should also take note of the fin. In the Brisbane worlds several sailors “finned” upwind with large and long fins. It makes sense to reduce the drag upwind. And when it is windy it can also be easier for all sailors, especially if the boards are designed for this. Is this what we want to do as a class? There are already classes for this type of sailing, so it is something that needs to be considered carefully and NOW before boards are produced to exploit this characteristic. I already know one top Raceboard sailor who will not race longboards again if “finning it” becomes normal, so doing nothing has consequences as well as doing something! (I am undecided if it is good or bad)

For me the raceboard rule and class should appeal to the widest possible range of sailors(weight, skill physical ability), be useable in the widest possible range of conditions(sea state, windspeed) and be recognizeably a classic “longboard”

Oh, and I would ban pumping… immediately! We should be windsurfing not “air rowing”

[Thierry] What about shorten the board length?

[Matthew] For sure, a shorter board is easier to travel by plane. But this is the only advantage and it is a concern for very few people. It is obvious that a shorter board is slower than a long board in light wind conditions. Light wind conditions is where a longboard is better than every other racing class, so why would you make it shorter and worse? If anything we should be trying to improve the performance of our boards in this wind speed. I don’t have any interest having a shorter board for the raceboard class.

[Thierry] What is a good Raceboard Sail today?

[Matthew] A fast one!

We like high aspect ratio  sails for longboards.

In ALL of our testing since the 1980’s High aspect ratio sails have proven to be superior  over a series of races or a season. They are more efficient, faster and importantly nicer  and more pleasant to use than low aspect sails.

The sails MUST also be highly adjustable. We do sometimes build specific lightwind sails, but our preference is to make sails that have the biggest possible wind range.

[Thierry] How a high aspect ratio can be easier to control in the windy conditions? It should be more difficult.

[Matthew] Yes, a lot of people think that but practically it does not seem to be true! The secret is to adjust the camber profile of the sail with the downhaul and the boom settings. If you can flatten the profile of the sail from top to the bottom in the high wind conditions, it works. For example, for the 9,5 Demon Design VG7 sail, we have 110 mm range of setting at downhaul between the light and strong wind settings. A shorter boom on an adjustable sail is also just easier to control.

In these 2 photographs you can see the shape range that we try to get into our sails, full and tight for the lightwinds (Left) and flat and loose for the strongwinds (Right)!

We primarily make sails for ourselves, that means, we only sell a sail that we would be happy to own, so we make them as light and strong and fast as we can!

[Thierry] What are the future changes for Demon Sails?

[Matthew] We have so many projects for Raceboard, but so little time! We are working on new daggerboard, fin and  sail designs. We are implementing a completely new batten set throughout the racing sails. We also build wave sails which we sell under the brand, so if someone can help us find 25 hours in every day… it will really help! Excitingly in 2018 we are establishing a new Sail Loft in Dept 29  Finistère, near Le Dossen, where we will be shifting some of our sailmaking, so very soon we will be able to write “Demon Design Sails – Fabriqué en France”!

[Thierry] Great news! Hope we can sail together very soon! Thanks again for your kindness and your time.