If Paola Albeau Green has been sharing Antoine Albeau's daily life for the past 10 years (see our article of November 19, 2022), his parents Marie-Claire and Jean-Marie Albeau know better than anyone else the FRA-192's career. Speaking to Windsurfjournal.com, the Albeau clan looks back at their son's extraordinary career...
Windsurfjournal.com : You are the ones who have followed Antoine Albeau's career from beginning to end, with his rise, his ups and downs, etc... What do you think is the secret of his longevity and his 30 years at the highest level?
Marie-Claire and Jean-Marie Albeau: Antoine was 1st at the first French Minimes Championship in 1986... We thought it was a stroke of luck. The following year, he was French Junior Champion, still without really believing it. But he believed in it and thought that he could express himself. After that, the years went by and Marie-Claire and I worked together to organize his life as a sportsman, his physical preparation, his logistics, the management of sponsors, his travel, etc. Later on, we considered his entry into Sports Studies Section in La Rochelle, but he was not admitted because his school results were average. He had 3 or 4 French Championship titles. Out of spite, he went to a public school! So he accumulated titles, he won everything. At the end of his school year, the Sports Studies Section came back to beg him to come back as he had become the number one French hopeful thanks to Claire Fountaine, the person in charge of this section. He was alone in windsurfing with a good trainer who taught him a lot of things, rigour among others and especially about his equipment (settings, etc...). We must not forget his physical trainer, Philippe Canto, who has been following him voluntarily for 30 years, his great friend. Then, while being in Sports Studies, the three of them got together to prepare the 1992 Olympic Games (with Franck David and Thomas Ruelland). But during these years, in full growth, Antoine grew a lot and put on weight. In light air races, he was no longer competitive due to the size of the sails. For him, Olympics were over. The only thing missing from his list of achievements. So he turned completely to funboarding, even more so. He went on to win a dozen French Championships and his first World Cup in 1992. Antoine is a boy who has an exemplary and irreproachable lifestyle (thanks to Philippe!), surely the result of his sporting longevity at the highest world level. It is also worth mentioning his great rigour in the management of his equipment, without fail. I taught him, among other things, that a competition is not over until the flag is lowered. And this has been confirmed on many occasions. Sometimes he has had a bad start to a competition and in the end he wins with his mental toughness. That's probably why some of his opponents (and friends) compare him to Fourcade, Federer or Nadal. After a bad set, he had the energy, and he would come back to win.
WJ: 25 world titles, hundreds of victories, if you had to remember only one highlight of his immense career, what would it be and why?
MCJMA: If we had to remember only one moment, but it's not possible, there were so many, it's his 1st title of French Minimes Champion in Port-Camargue. He didn't go there to win because at that time it was the Bretons or the southerners who had to win. Then, when he dominated the slalom in Aruba in front of all the best in the world. His nomination for Sailor of the Year in 2010 in front of all the great ocean sailors. And finally his last World Champion title in Noumea where he won the last slalom.
WJ: The question of "retirement" is always a special moment. Did he talk to you about it beforehand, how did he envisage it as the seasons went by?
MCJMA: For his "retirement", it was already well-prepared, it was the sailing school of La Couarde-sur-Mer that we created with Marie-Claire in 1970 and that we managed for 51 years. He worked there every summer according to his availability. We talked about it of course, but it happened very quickly, too quickly. Now it's done, he's leaving with his head held high at 50. He is happy and will be able to be with his little wife and two beautiful children more often. We were very surprised, when announcing his retirement from the PWA tour, to read all the congratulations from his friends and competitors and in particular from Robby Naish and Bjorn Dunkerbeck that they qualified him as the 3rd legend of world windsurfing...
Source: Marie-Claire and Jean-Marie Albeau
Photos: Carter/Pwaworldtour.com - Albeau family - Eric Bellande/Airwaves_NDC