Gonzalo Costa Hoevel: 2013 Formula Experience World Champion

The 2013 Formula Experience World Championships in Araruama, Brazil has come to a close and what an event it's been! After four days of windy, tactical races on the water and entertaining evenings off the water, the 2013 Formula Experience World Champion has been crowned! And it's no other than Starboard Dream Team rider Gonzalo Costa Hoevel. We were able to ask him a few questions regarding his victory, his vision for the Formula Experience Class and his winter training plans. Just scroll down to read the exclusive interview!

The overall podium - © Rémi Vila

Starboard: Congratulations on the win and the World Title! How does it feel?

“I am stoked!! You don't become World Champion every day!! Course racing is my favorite discipline and I was very close to get the Formula World Title in Croatia this year finishing in 2nd place, so winning this one means a lot to me."

Starboard: Can you quickly walk us through the event? What was the key to your victory?

“When I stepped on the board for the first time the day before the event, I was bit nervous to be honest. After a few meters on the water, the gear felt very familiar and it felt like I had sailed on it all my life. After some upwind and downwind tacks against my key competitors, I felt I was flying. I knew at that time that if I raced good, I could be challenging the title.

I would say that the key to my win was my speed in all the different conditions we had. Also, racing in big fleets has always been something I was comfortable with and I have a lot of experience. And having four podium finishes at the Formula World Championships had to help too...”

Starboard: Why did you decide to attend the FE Worlds this year in particular? What did you enjoy most at the 2013 FE Worlds?

“The event was held in Brazil which I always like to visit and a lot of friends from Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru and Chile were going too. I had a busy season, with a lot of challenging and high performance competitions. Coming to Brazil with friends, competing in board shorts on a beautiful white sandy beach with perfect wind and all on the same gear sounded like a great idea!

I enjoyed not only the racing but the nice relaxed feeling out of the water. The organizer and owner of Upwind Windsurfing Club, Leo Rebello, had prepared a lot of activities and entertainment out of the water which allowed all the competitors to know each other and share great moments together.

The highlight for me was meeting a lot of new windsurfers I hadn't met before and sharing my passion with them. All of them were aware of my season so I had endless conversations with them, telling stories and anecdotes from the PWA World Tour and stuff. Going from old anecdotes with some old Brazilian friends to "teaching" the young Peruvian and Chilean team different concepts of design and racing was very satisfying... Especially when you see some much passion to improve and get better!”

Gonzalo flying over the finish line - © Didado Azambuja

Starboard: How is the Formula Experience gear compared to your high-end carbon boards?

"I was truly shocked that the equipment was so similar to my Formula Windsurfing equipment! If you don't have anybody sailing around you on a FW you would be convinced that you are on a Formula Windsurfing equipment. I honestly loved it!

I sailed with an 11m² sail from 8 to 30 knots... Just switched from the light wind fin to the strong wind fin and that was it! Very simple and functional. The aluminum boom are very stiff and the trim on the sail is very good and reliable. I was rigging my sail with the same down-haul in the light as in the strong winds; just added a couple of centimeters at the out-haul and that was it! I hope it would be so simple in Formula Windsurfing!

The board does not feel heavy at all and the shape is very noble. This FE equipment is a high-performance equipment with all the simplicity and easiness people look this days to go in the water and enjoy.”

Starboard: You have a background in Formula Windsurfing and have been competing on the PWA Slalom Tour, how is the Formula Experience Class different?

“In the FE Class, we all compete on the same gear. There are not advantages regarding the equipment, we are all with the same stuff. I believe this is something that a lot of people like.
The trim of the equipment is pretty easy to find and pretty unique so we all end up in the water with almost the same amount of down-haul, out-haul tension and similar mast base positions. The heavy guys with the Drake R19 fin and the lighter guys with the Drake R13... It's that easy and the racing becomes very tactical and very fair!

With FW and slalom equipment, you need a bit more knowledge as you can trim your gear very differently to others to get your own personal max speeds and comfort. The racing itself is also pretty different. In Formula Windsurfing, everything goes very fast and you're flying up and down the course. You are normally not so much influenced by shifts as you would on the FE equipment. In slalom, it's a different story again, flying downwind at high speeds with no rules at the marks is something pretty unique too!

Formula Experience is a class with a lot of fun involved, a lot of fairness on the course and with a high retribution of knowledge, meaning that you will learn a lot from racing in it. I felt I learned a lot after this event and I am saying that even though I have been doing the Pro tour for 13 years! I highly recommend it for Techno 293 kids who want to experience and enter the real fun and high speed disciplines in windsurfing.

FW and Slalom is the same as the FE. The only difference is the cost of the equipment and that you are going faster, which makes it a bit more challenging.”

Going out - © Rémi Vila

Starboard: Do you prefer racing on One-Design gear or on your own, tuned equipment?

“Tricky question! My mind forces me to say that i prefer my own equipment but actually I enjoyed racing this one-design gear as much as my own. I think that if we generate a Slalom Experience Class, this would be a bomb!”

Starboard: The Formula Experience Class is quite popular in South America. Why do you think that is? Where do you see it going in the next couple of years?

“It became very popular because of the difference in price compared to the Formula Windsurfing equipment. South America is home of many Formula racers but with the high prices and local economical crisis, the numbers went down and the FE class take place. I can't understand why the class is not popular in Europe or the rest of the world. I think it's only a matter of trying it; nobody really has given it a try in Europe I believe. In the coming years, I see it having the same success as the Bic Techno 293 with the right management and promotion. All the kids would love to sail on the Formula Experience gear in their last Techno 293 days.”

Starboard: Everyone is talking about seat harnesses versus waist harnesses. What's your stance of this issue?

"I used a waist harness for that event in Araruama. I normally use a seat harness when I sail Formula, especially when I'm on my 12m². In slalom, I prefer my waist harness as I get more control with it. I believe a seat harness with a high back support and a high hook is the best for the FE class."

Leading the pack in Alaçati - © John Carter

Starboard: What are your plans for the next couple of months? What will you work on this winter to improve last year's PWA results?

"I have the Formula Windsurfing South Americans in two weeks time here in Buenos Aires. So I'll be sailing back on my FW gear.

For the 2014 PWA season, I will start training in January full power. I need to take a break of two or three weeks to give my body a rest. After that, I will get a bit stronger in the gym in January and February and then I will head to Isla Margarita (PWA Venezuela) early to tune all my gear.

For me, '13 was a transition year with new boards and sails. Now I feel more solid and confident on my stuff and I will enter the events with a different mindset. I was close some podiums finishes this year in Korea and Turkey so I know I am on the right path!"

Starboard: They say the first trick to go faster in slalom is to remove the uphaul to be more aerodynamic. Do you think shaving your afro would make you faster?

"HAHAHA!! Actually, the story of the uphaul came out when we were in Tarifa doing some development for NP and we were going in circles until we realized one boom had an uphaul and the other didn't! When we removed the uphaud, all made sense and we did gain some speed! So removing the afro can be something I will consider!"

Starboard: What advice can you give aspiring racers wanting to join Formula Windsurfing or PWA?

"I think the FE class gives a great taste of what we feel when we race in FW or PWA. It is a great entry-level class and I see it becoming very popular in a couple of years with a lot of kids between 16 and 20 years old. From there, you can easily jump to FW and then another step into PWA. It will open the eyes of many people. The FW and PWA racing is the fastest out there and it's a lot of fun, you should give it a try if you can!"

Starboard: Thank you Gonzalo for finding the time to answer our questions. Once again, congratulations on the World Title and good luck for the winter training. We hope to see you on many more podiums next year!

- Pictures by Rémi Vila and Didado Azambuja -