Name: Sean O’Brien
Nickname: Hansel (on account of how many pairs of sunglasses I own!)
Sail Number: AUS-120
Years Windsurfing: 23!
Disciplines: Formula, Slalom
Home town: Brisbane, Australia
Current Residence: Nago-Torbole, Lake Garda, Italy
Sponsors: Starboard, Point-7, GetWindsurfFit.com, SuperFit Training, VMG Blades
On the PWA Tour since, and best result:
I did the Fuerteventura World Cup in 2006 with one board and 2 sails and came 21st having never done any slalom before at that level. I had a relatively lousy event last year here after one of my boards snapped in half but I did get a 6th in a winner’s final which felt pretty nice!
How well prepared are you for Fuerteventura?
After Costa Brava, where I wasn’t particular prepared; I feel great coming here to Fuerte. After my disastrous event in Fuerte last year, I decided to put a bit more effort in to my small gear choices this year. I ordered all the small board sizes from Starboard last December and being summer back home in Australia I had 5 months of great conditions to try all the boards and also spent some time developing a new line of fins custom designed for me, with the help of my father who did all the build-work. I now have a stack of small fins in all sizes and various stiffnesses to try here and am using the Starboard iSonic 80L, which I believe is one of the easiest boards to sail in NUKING conditions. My Point-7 small sails; 5.6 and 6.3 are working really nice and I’ve had a lot of good windy morning sessions on Lake Garda on the small kit getting dialled in. Even though we had over 45 knots training on Wednesday, I feel pretty comfortable on my equipment and am looking forward to tomorrow!
How do you think you could do?
Right now I’m 78kg. Lean and mean I guess you could say. Pretty much the WORST weight you could be for this event. The run to the first buoy is incredibly long at this event, so it favours the heavier guys, but I grew up windsurfing at a really gnarly beach in Brisbane so I back myself gybing in hardcore conditions with lots of chop and I’m also very, very good at starts. So if I remember back to my winner’s final last year where I was as slow as a dog, but had killer starts and would never fall off the gybes so I managed to get to the front without needing the speed; there are plenty of ways to skin a cat. So I’m not focussing on the overall but doing my best to make some more winner’s finals!
Names to watch out for:
Everyone is kidding themselves if they don’t look for Antoine Albeau in this event. He is the KING of highwind conditions; winning the heavy days Costa Brava last year in 65 knots and destroying the fleet in Fuerte last year. He’s on new boards this year but I doubt anyone will touch him if we get winds up to 50 knots. The only dark horse is Bjorn, as he’s pretty used to these conditions growing up in the Canaries and even if he can only manage a 2nd overall, we get a drop for the season pointscore after this event so he might manage to pip Antoine on the leaderboard for 2012.
Who could bring a surprise result?
Ben Van Der Steen has had a slow season after finishing 3rd on the podium last year. Ben is also a king in high winds so I definitely think he’ll be one to look out for. Peter Volwater is another who’s had a slow start; Peter has been hammering the speed course down a bit from the Rene Egli Centre (where we race) all week so no doubt he’ll be working on his top speed for that run to the first mark. Also never rule out the young guns like Pierre Montefon and Pascal Toselli who live in a very windy part of France so will be used to these conditions.
How are the conditions looking?
Hard to judge based on the forecast. We’ve had 25 knots forecast the last 3 days but late in the afternoon it’s been kicking to +40 and on Wednesday (although I didn’t see a wind reading) I’d be very surprised if we didn’t have a few 50 knot gusts as not one sailor was out on the water!! In this place, we generally get 2-3 days of NUKING, 1 day of 25 knots, and one day where we can barely get a race away! Let’s see !!