Windsurf Raceboard Championship 2023 – Sea Warriors in Ibiza
Words: María Perez
October 31, 2023
The European Championship & World Masters Championship of Windsurf brought to Santa Eulalia Olympic champions and high-level athletes from nine countries.
A loud beep sounds over the loudspeaker. It’s the position warning. The windsurfers on the racecourse have 5 minutes to get into position at the starting line, an imaginary line between two boats. Another beep signals the start, but almost immediately, there’s a series of confused radio broadcasts. We’re witnessing one of the days of the European Championship & World Masters Championship for the Raceboard class in Windsurfing from one of the support boats. We meet Maite Cuenca Cuadro, manager of the Santa Eulalia Yacht Club, and Luis Poggi, technical director of canoeing, who confirms out loud: “something has happened”. The race, one of three scheduled for today, has had to be postponed due to lack of wind; there are only 4 knots, making competition impossible. For better or worse, it is quite common in this sport, which depends entirely on the weather.
The European and World Masters Championship for the Raceboard Windsurfing class was a historic event for the Santa Eulalia Yacht Club, which organized it from October 9 to 12, 2023. For a week, we had high-level athletes from 9 countries, the best in the world in this category, including Olympians like former world champions Joao Rodrigues and Blanca Manchón, and the current world champion Daniel Sánchez.
Despite the constant lack of wind, which meant only 7 of the 15 planned races could be completed, the event was a success. For a week, fans enjoyed the competition and a host of complementary activities each afternoon in a tent next to the Santa Eulalia Sailing School: music, performances, and food trucks brought the event closer to the public and demonstrated that high competition is not at odds with pure enjoyment.
The championship was also a success in terms of tourist promotion. As highlighted by the female category champion, Blanca Manchón, who came to enjoy the event with her family: “Ibiza is an island that is very conducive to sports, especially outdoor ones… I think it has a lot of futures in terms of sporting events”. Blanca has been a mother of twins for 5 months and has retired from Olympic competition, but she did manage to go to Tokyo with a 6-year-old and a pandemic in between. “When I got pregnant, I had a lot of problems, my sponsors left me… But I am a fighter and I wanted to prove that it was possible to go to the Olympic Games as a mother”. A true example in a sport that, even today, continues to be overwhelmingly male. Notably, in this competition, of the 60 athletes registered, only 8 were women.
In the men’s category, first place went to the Olympian and former world champion Joao Rodrigues, a lover of the Raceboard class and Ibiza: “I have many friends in Spain and in Ibiza in particular”. Joao has been sailing all his life and perfecting his technique; in fact, he laughs that when he met Blanca she was a baby, and he is a native of another island, Madeira. In second place was the Andalusian Curro Manchón, Blanca’s brother, and in third, the Balearic athlete Toni Colomar, director of the Santa Eulalia Sailing School, tireless in working with young talent: “Since I arrived at the club we tried to greatly promote grassroots sports”. At the School, between sailing and canoeing, they have about 80 racers who train all year round, in addition to about 5,000 students each season. Toni was also delighted: “This is a very grateful class and there is a very good atmosphere”.
The championship also featured a sub-23 category for younger athletes, where Spanish athletes also dominated, with the current world champion Daniel Sánchez winning in the men’s category and Nara Heins from Santa Eulalia in the women’s.
The lack of wind during the championship led to the cancellation of a ferry that was going to take the public to the racecourse for free, taking advantage of the October 12 holiday so they could feel the excitement of the competition up close. But windsurfing totally depends on the sea and wind (or the lack of it). The athletes have to wait in the water until the right conditions come about. How long? Until sunset. Joao Rodrigues said he has been waiting in the sea for 11 hours to do a race. And the youngsters in the grassroots categories also compete under the same conditions. Maite told us a very illustrative personal anecdote: “My daughter started windsurfing and in her first race in San Antonio at 8 years old it was raining and freezing cold and they went into the water at 12 and did not return until 17h. But the same happens with light sailing or canoeing, which are relatively unknown sports and the kids who practice them are real champions”. And she concludes: “nautical sports, in general, are for warriors”.