The Portuguese island of Madeira is home to the world's first natural swimming pool windsurfing regatta.
The innovative competitive format was launched in 2013 by the Olympic RS:X windsurfing veteran João Rodrigues and a team of sailing enthusiasts.
"The formula is very simple," explained Rodrigues.
"Two identical pieces of equipment - in this case, two boards that I used in the Olympic campaigns in Beijing, London, and Rio, the RS:X, which proved to be perfect for this purpose, and two identical rigs, adapted to each level: 4.0 for beginners, 5.5 for juniors and 6.6 for seniors and masters - very short regattas, lots of maneuvers and the public, literally, on top of the event!"
The 2024 Grande Prémio de Windsurf do Porto Moniz presents many challenges to the competitors.
The wind is fickle due to the proximity to land and natural obstacles, namely rocks.
The limited space available also requires lots of control over the equipment, and the noisy encouragement from the public puts extra pressure on windsurfers.
The icing on the cake is the waves overcoming the natural protection of the pools that transform the regatta field into a randomly unstable water basin.
"For the spectators, it was an opportunity to see the regattas as closely as possible and witness hilarious disputes. I believe it would only be closer if they were in the water," added Rodrigues.
The Tight Match-Racing Format
The Porto Moniz Windsurfing Grand Prix featured 44 sailors competing in a match-racing format, i.e., one-on-one matchups.
To make the event even more diverse and after an intense Saturday confined to a tiny regatta field, on Sunday, windsurfers competed in a long-distance race in open water but still, with a start and finish in the harbor, bringing back to the public many of the emotions that were previously inaccessible.
"There is a general feeling that we should repeat the event with this format and, who knows, perhaps expand it to outside sailors, whether national or foreign," concluded João Rodrigues.
"But the spirit must remain the same. It has to be an event that brings together the windsurfing community with the flexibility to think about outside-the-box events."
"The sporting component should undoubtedly be present, but a social environment is also fundamental."
"Can we only adopt this format to the natural pools of Porto Moniz? No. But this scenario is not replicable! The region's jagged coastline, rocks, waves, and water mirror are unparalleled."
"However, this does not mean that we cannot think of other iconic places and in other formats."
João Rodrigues represented Portugal in seven back-to-back Olympic Games from Barcelona 1992 to Rio 2016.
The windsurfer from Santa Cruz, Madeira, started his Olympic campaign on a Lechner A-390, moved to Mistral, and concluded his unprecedented ride in RS:X.
III Grande Prémio de Windsurf do Porto Moniz | Results
- Filip Vasconcelos
- Margarida Freitas
- Beatriz Freitas
- Matias Menezes
- Pedro Manso
- João Caires
- Bruno Fernandes
- Francisco Rosa
- Vítor Nóbrega
- Pedro Moura
- António Perestrelo
- João Rodrigues