EventsRacingFiona Wylde Wins 2024 Defi Wing on FreeWing AIR Team

Fiona Wylde Wins the DEFI WING! The first American to ever win a DEFI in its 22-year history!

Words by Fiona Wylde

Standing at the first Wingfoil briefing on Monday afternoon, I took a moment to exhale and look around. What I saw was more than 400 people standing in front of the stage, smiling in anticipation with enthusiasm and eagerness for what was to come. The DEFI Wind event is a long-standing 22 year old event that hosts over 1,500 windsurfers racing long distance races along the Mediterranean coast of France. When I was little, windsurfing was my family sport and I remember my dad showing me photos from an event in France where the sea turned into a windsurf paradise. It’s funny how life goes, because when you are 7 or 8 years old, France seems otherworldly and to come to this event seemed like the biggest dream come true, not a reality. Well, I had no way of knowing then that my life would become surrounded by long distance travels around the world and competitions. However, with all the events I have competed in, I still had not made it to the Defi.

Fiona Wylde Wins 2024 Defi Wing on FreeWing AIR Team Start line boat 2

DEFI Wing was introduced two years ago as a test event. Last year there were 250 competitors, and this year, about 400 Wingfoilers entered! Life sometimes goes full circle and it is so exciting to be part of a new sport debuting at such an iconic event. Most of all, I loved seeing people of all ages and ability levels eager to get on the water for the challenge ahead.

The DEFI is very unique because a wind called Tranomontana blows super strong in the offshore direction from the Pyrenees mountains. The course is parallel to the beach, creating the perfect opportunities for speed and long-distance racing. The start is a rabbit start which means at zero, the boat blasts at about 40 knots upwind and you have to pass behind the boat. The object of a good start is to pass right behind the boat at full speed… easier said than done when it’s blowing 30+ knots, there are 400 wingfoilers and the boat is moving super fast! The race courses were anywhere from 20-40km long and we did 7 races in total over three days. I entered this iconic event with zero expectations for my result because I just wanted to have fun and experience the DEFI!

Fiona Wylde Wins 2024 Defi Wing on AIR Team

I won race #1. That was a shocker! From there, it changed my perspective to be like, “oh wow… I guess I can be fast in a fleet, so now I know what I can do!”. Competition is funny though because as soon as you have a good result, you have a standard in which you think you can perform too. To be totally honest, I was very nervous for the second race. Then, in a crazy tight one-second difference between Maddelena Spano (2023 WingFoil Racing World Champion), I won race #2.

That was an incredible way to start the event! No matter what happened after that, I was so happy with my performance on the first day. On day two, the wind got stronger and I struggled a little bit. I was winning race 3 by a long ways and then I fell about 100m before the finish line and that cost me ten places overall, so I finished second in the women. I should mention that men and women were scored together, so the overall finish results really affected the women’s results. I was finishing in-between the mid 50-60s out of 400. On race 4, I had a really hard time with my blood sugar. Switching from SUP to Wing Foil Racing is not easy for my diabetes management. Adrenalin and high intensity muscle contractions raise blood sugar, so I was super high, like in the 300s for race 5. I couldn’t really focus and it was also super windy, so I was just hanging on for dear life to my 3.5m wing trying not to crash. I finished 5th in the women for that race. In the break, ahead of the third race of the day, I was able to get my blood sugars back in range and my focus clicked on again. I won race 5. This helped me increase my lead going into the last day of the event.

On the third and final day of the event, I woke up to a super strong 35-40 knot tranomontana wind. Before the first briefing, I went to a warm-up on my 3.0m FreeWing Air Team and was absolutely blown off the water. 2.5m was the wing of the day!

The organizers saved the longest race course of the last day of the event. The first race was an out and back of 10km, so 20km in total and the last race was an out and back times two, so that was about 40km in total. Absolutely exhausting, but also super fun to be pushed to max and trying to hold onto the top speed in control!

My FreeWing Teammate, Alexia Francelli was on fire on the final day! She had two phenomenal first place finishes and jumped the rankings from 4th to 2nd overall.

Crossing the finish line of the last race, all I could do was smile. I was exhausted, my body had been pushed to the max, but I had the DEFI experience I didn’t know I was going to get; Winning the DEFI Wing, racing in 35-40 knot conditions, enjoying the event environment, and most of all, sharing time with my teammates, colleagues and friends from Starboard, FreeWing, and Waterspeed.

To top it off, I learned that in the 22 years of the DEFI Wind events, I am the first American to ever win! It is hard to put the feelings into words, but I am honored to hold this accomplishment!

I am incredibly impressed and happy with how confident I felt on my equipment. I used the FreeWing Air Team, the AIR and my X-15 foilboard by Starboard. Unbelievably happy with how well my X-15 Class board performed in these extreme conditions! I look forward to racing this board at the World Cup coming up very soon.

I hope that more people join the DEFI Wing next year! It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thanks to every person who made it happen.

~ Fiona


PC: Defi Wing / Louis J Mchugh / Jean-Marc Cornu