Behind the brand
Foiling & Slalom R&D
With Daniel Aeberli
Foiling & Slalom R&D
Dani – can you please take us through the highlights of the new Falcon Slalom TE range?
For 2023, we have redeveloped the PWA relevant key sizes 99 & 116 according to our top riders demands, so they can reach 100% performance on the racecourse. Those will be the sizes our pro riders are going to use in the competition the most.
What exactly is new?
The recessed mastfoot area keeps the rig connection low for better control, while the cut-out rail design will ensure 100% power and straightforward jibes.
How about the Falcon Foil?
For 2023 we will offer four new high end completely redesigned foil concept boards: 140l for high-end foil slalom in strong winds, 170l for free slalom & lighter riders and women (a smaller copy of the 180), 180l PWA World Cup edition model, and the 190l IFCA/FW Class course racing edition.
The slalom team must love those new boards?
All new models are 100% optimized for competition with Duotone race sails to gain every ounce of performance and control around the slalom course. I’ve been getting a lot of input and feedback from our team riders
Who is involved in R&D and how does it work?
We usually do several prototypes and test rounds between Jordy, Pierre and myself over a period of several months at several spots to make sure all conditions are covered.
Can you tell us a bit more about general R&D process at Fanatic?
To start off the R&D process, we get as much feedback as possible on the current boards from our dealers, agents, reps, team riders and opinion leaders; and filter all the information to learn what improvements or changes they would like to get. We also work very closely with Duotone Windsurfing and make sure that the corresponding boards and sails match perfectly in every size.
Our shaper Sebastian Wenzel makes CAD drawings according to our wish list then. We have a closer look together at the file then before sending it to our special Custom Factory. They are building the prototypes up to our demands and then ship it to whatever destination we require to test. Besides me at least two riders should be involved, sometimes we also get some local and national riders for even more input. I summarize all information then and feedback after every session.
Most important is having a workshop close to the test location so I can modify the boards right away if there is any need to amend. We also always keep the actual production board as reference. We send the best board as master to our production then. If not, we start to make the next prototype until we reach our goal to get the next optimized proto.
How far ahead of the season do you start testing new prototypes?
Usually we are over one year ahead in time. So, the moment the boards are on the market, we are already working on next year´s range.
How is the development in foil racing?
Foiling opens a new era of competition where you can also enjoy tight battles in conditions which are not as perfect. For example the PWA competition can take place in very light winds already.
What´s the difference between a race and a freerace board (like the Jag)?
The main goal of the race board is to win races. For this you need to have a fast board but also something comfortable that helps you to focus on racing, and not on driving your board. A freerace board like the Jag is easier to sail. The goal of those boards is just to have fun racing with some friends!
For slalom racing, what would you say is the hardest feature to design speed/control/jibing/range – what are your most important criteria?
The perfect slalom board should be fast, plane good, jibe easily and stay comfortable - even in tricky conditions. Sometimes you will have a rocket that is not jibing, or the opposite. You need to play with all the different aspects to find the right magic position.
Most people think the fastest board will win. Without acceleration, early planing and control you will never win any races. You cannot build a board with the ‘best’ of everything, so you have to find the perfect balance between all these features.
What makes you decide on which one is best? Are the fastest prototypes generally the ones that are easier to sail, or they rather feel like they are on the edge of control?
It´s all in the mix! Too much control won’t be fast. We always tune up in a way that we’re on the edge of control; but we see that a board with amazing control is always fast, it just has to be alive enough to have it working on the racecourse and in gusty conditions. We’re always testing one-on-one, which is an easy way to see the differences in speed and control straight away.
What happens if you don’t all agree on the best board?
At the end of the day, we choose the best prototype which works for everyone at the highest level of competition. In the end it´s up to me to find a balance between all the riders, but mostly we all agree.
Do you test boards from other brands?
Yes, and it’s important to compare to the other brands for various reasons. You can learn a lot trying some other board about shaping, but also about your opponents’ skill and tactics. When something is good, why not try to be better! But our ‘old’ model is always the reference while testing.
Photo Credits: Si Crowther