In a great weekend of racing action, we witnessed the Aussie powerhouse Michael Booth paddling away from the pack to victory in the 2019 Azur Paddle Days race that took place in France this past weekend, with a super inspiring teammate, Fiona Wylde who took the win in the challenging Women’s field.
The Azur Paddle Days is the 2nd stop on the popular EuroTour and an unmissable stand up paddling event in the Mediterranean. On May 4th and 5th, 2019, paddleboard racers from across the world came to enjoy the summer of SUP in the picturesque Villefranche-sur-Mer, France. The event was organised by local French SUP racer Martin Letourneur and his awesome event crew which saw over 110 racers on the start line. The Starboard duo of Michael Booth and Fiona Wylde both put in superb performances to take the wins in their respective categories.
“Winning in the South of France at the Azur Paddle Games was a perfect start to the European season. The location is amazing, the paddlers were world class and it really set the scene for what would be an intense race at the front.“
~ Michael Booth
“The Azur Paddle Days was pretty spectacular, Martin Letourneur, a racer himself and a really good friend of mine, organised the event along with the event crew – it’s great to see someone so passionate about the sport and they are giving back so much. It was a 10-kilometre course in the beautiful bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer, France, with a really impressive turnout – there were about 4o women on the start line for the women’s race and an equally impressive turnout for the men’s field with about 70 boards on the start line.”
~ Fiona Wylde
«After Carolina, I was pretty exhausted, it was a tough race and a long time on the water and that led to fatigue very quickly. Add a full day of travel to that and I arrived into Nice spaced out and barely functioning. Before the race, we checked out Monaco and drove the race track, saw Cannes and pretended I was a movie star before visiting Freeride and getting my Starboard sprint for the event.
I did a little paddling in my spare time and by the time race day came around, it felt like I raced in Carolina the day before. I warmed up early as I didn’t feel very strong before the race start. I was tired and fatigued but I know I can still race well in that state. The horn sounded just after 11 am and I charged to the first can, turning in front and was able to set the pace early. However, with Titouan, Ty and myself sharing leads there was no time to relax, it was game on! I couldn’t get away on the way out as the boys were too strong and I had to hope that on the turn I would be able to attack. On the turn, I had my standard race fall, not sure how I manage to do that in most races!
As we came back toward shore there was a little swell and light wind at our backs. There were lots of wash around and we all took advantage of what we could get. Titouan snuck away from the rest of us and I had to grind him down in the final stages of the race. I just got there in the end and I was very happy to take the victory. It was even better to have family here with Kristi and our parents here for support!»
~ Michael Booth
«It was a really fast race for the women, Susak Molinero (Spain) and Oliva Piana (France) were both incredibly fast off the start which I was expecting. So it was a battle the whole race between the three of us at the front of the rance, changing places and pulling each other. Once we rounded the buoy that was furthermost out, I found some bumps coming back and manage to accelerate past the two girls, but Susak managed to catch back up and we were side by side for a while. I then pulled in behind her for a short bit before coming into the last kilometre which I knew was going to be a big push to the finish line. It came down to an all-out sprint which I managed to win!»
~ Fiona Wylde
What you don’t see off the water is that Fiona is also busy completing her school mid-terms, which is really impressive and inspiring that one can compete at the highest level but still find time to take care of the ‘other’ important things life:
“It’s been interesting finding the time to study and compete and travel, but I really enjoy having to balance everything. To get a win on my first EuroTour stop is huge and I am really excited about the season head”
~ Fiona Wylde
Pic Credits: Kristi Dreibergs