Francesca Vincenti was born on July 1st, 1965 in Mosta, the middle child amongst nine children. She is often referred to as No.5 by her family and friends.
Within only two weeks of stepping on a board and intense goal oriented self training, she participated in her first windsurfing race, the National Championships (Ten Cate) July 1981 to place 2nd behind the then leading Lady in the Sport, Sue Camilleri. That same year she participated in all races locally and continuously placed 2nd and 3rd in the various Divisions/Class National Championships of the Olympic Windglider, Mistral and Ten Cate (the original ‘windsurfer’ ) Classes.
By 1982, she became a source to be reckoned with not only in the Ladies division, but also in the Men’s Lightweight classes. She went on to win her first National title in the National Championships while securing either first or second placings at all other local regattas and national class events.
In 1983, Francesca went on to win all National Championships Titles in the Open Class Division and, the first ever prestigious Wishbone International Championships. This was the year that she entered her first international world championship, the Olympic Class Windglider, a tough choice when one considers the strict conditions imposed upon this Class design entering the Olympics as a Sport for the first time. One large board was allowed and one large 6.8 meter sail, with no harnesses allowed either. While Francesca knew that the Class entrants for the Olympic Division was restricted only to men for the 1984 Olympics, she preferred to champion on participating in the Class to obtain valuable experience in international racing, especially when racers sometimes numbered over 300 on the start line.
This was the year that a new design Sailboard was also being promoted locally and internationally. Francesca was quickly snatched up by the Sailboard agents who saw potential in her determination and obvious talent. They became her main sponsors for all Open Class and One Design events under this Brand. She participated in the Sailboard World Championships in Italy to place 6th out of 37 women.
That year, Francesca again set her sights on the Windglider Class European championship in Helsinki, Finland. She was up against some tough conditions and ended up with a serious back injury (fractured transverse process of the spine) while fighting for 3rd place. The accident pushed her down to 10th position and leaving her with the possibility of never being able to participate in this Sport again. However, with dedicated monitoring and physiotherapy by her Sports Physiotherapist Alan Zammit, Francesca beat all odds in time to participate with undeniable success at the Giro D’italia where she secured 3rd place overall. This two week course, slalom and long distance event had competitors travelling around the coast of Italy, exhausted and blistered in all conditions with competitors from all over Europe. Admirably, she went on to win the ladies trophy for Windsurfer of the Year (Malta), a well deserved title considering her tenacity.
1984 again saw Francesca win most National Championship Titles in all classes (Open Class, Windglider, Mistral, Sailboard), together with the Ghadira Sailing Club Spring Series and Summer Series, as well as dominating most of all the local various Club races around the Islands.
She also continued with her international conquests through participation at World, European and Pre-Olympic events. She in fact was one of only five women that raced against 150 Olympic hopeful men in Carnac, France at the Windglider Open European Championships that year, in air temperatures dwindling between 0 celsius and 5 degrees. She was accompanied by her former team-mate and good friend Joanna Pace (sadly deceased 2007), who also participated for the first time in this Class. Francesca placed 35th in the fleet.
Determined to leave her mark in this Olympic Class, Francesca travelled to Bermuda to compete in the last World Championship before the actual Olympics for this Class. Bermuda became the Women’s unofficial Olympics, since there would be no Class division for them in Los Angelos that year. Francesca impressed rival teams, coaches and journalists by claiming 3rd place in the Bermuda Windglider Cup and 5th in the Championship.
In late October of that year, Francesca participated in the Mistral World Championships in Tunisia where she placed a remarkable 6th place competing in a Class where women were numbering up to 50 and 60 in this Division. This was her next logical move since Mistral (Malta) had offered her a sponsorship placement on the local team for the next three years.
The beginning of 1985 saw Francesca nominated by the Malta Yachting Federation (as it was called then) for the local “Sportivi Tas’ Sena” title for achievements throughout 1984. She was voted as Runner Up. She had, by now, caught the keen attention of sports journalists. As the year went on she again won Maltese National Championship Titles and secured her reign as Malta’s top lady in all classes. Her top local achievement at the Wishbone International Championships was immortalised by her outstanding performance in fighting off Britains’ Olympic hopeful Penny Way and other international women who travelled to the Islands to win the prestigious title. Francesca’s stamina and reputation as a well rounded all-weather condition competitor as well her expertise in international Rules and Regulations won her the admiration of all local yachting and windsurfing enthusiasts.
Of notable mention as one of the best results ever achieved by Francesca is her Title as Holland’s National Champion in 1985. Sponsored by former Gold Medallist Stephan Van Den Berg and sailing on equipment designed by Ron VD Berg, with sails especially designed in Malta by Action Sails (Zammit & Cachia), Francesca left an immortal impression in the history of Malta’s top windsurfing results by winning the Gold Medal and National Sash. Her outstanding tactics that led to her winning this Open Class pre-Olympic event remains impressed in the memory of international Dutch Sport Journalists and the Netherlands Yachting Federation till this day.
Francesca, deservedly, was again nominated by the MYF for the “Sportivi Tas’ Sena” for 1985. She won the title and National Honour hands down for her role as Malta’s Ambassador with positive results in the Sporting World.
She travelled to France for the Women’s Worlds later that year and placed 6th place, despite her recurring back problems.
Once more, Francesca was nominated for the “Sportivi Tas Sena” for 1986. She scored a double-whammy by winning the prestigious honour for the second time in a row.
After a short sabbatical following the death of her mother in 1987 and with the support of her foremost and greatest fan, her father (he himself a former sportsman and past national record holder for Discus and Athletics in the 1930’), she participated in the 1988 Malta-Sicily long distance race. The 60 mile long distance race across the Mediterranean Sea was one that required exceptional determination & stamina. Competitors faced anything from extreme variations in sea & weather conditions to unforgiving international marine traffic. The record remains that of 5hrs 56sec claimed by another accomplished Maltese boardsailor, Jean Paul Fleri Soler, in 1984.
A couple of years later Francesca moved to the USA where she continued to participate with great success in the Mistral events there. She was ranked number 1 on the East Coast Regional Class and won 5th place in the National United States Championships between 1991 and 1995. Although the USA team was hopeful that Francesca would consider racing to represent America, she remained true to her Island and country and in 1995, she participated in the Mistral Worlds Pre-Olympic Championships in the UK, to finally win the 3rd place overall, flying the Maltese Colours.
It is important to note that Francesca featured heavily in the early years of the Sport when windsurfing was only just starting to be considered as an Olympic sailing sport. At that time, the class was only open for men. In fact, most of her racing years where spent challenging her male compatriots on a local and international level. She has contributed to the growth of the Sport by talks that she has been invited to over the years, with schools and associations around the island.
Francesca returned to Malta permanently in 1998 and retired from competitive windsurfing. She remains actively involved in this extreme sport for leisure only but still features in the promotion of Malta as an ideal destination for this activity and all outdoor sport such as climbing, kayaking and trekking through her profession in the Tourism Industry. She is regularly invited to give her technical opinion on television, radio & interviews during high profile events. Francesca Vincenti is also a talented pianist, singer and actress. She has been cast in several plays or television mini-series on local television.
Her long term goals include assisting her peers in setting up the Malta Windsurfing Association in order to promote local talent, provide information and possibilities for up and coming youngsters in order for them to experience & prepare for local races while possibly coaching talented sportspersons for overseas competition. Francesca, believes that her experience, combined with that of several die-hard local windsurfers, is a valuable asset which cannot go to waste.
Francesca is the mother of two beautiful girls, Rebecca (20yrs) and Hannah (17yrs) and can often be seen on the water regularly practicing her favorite sport at Ghallis, Mellieha Bay, Armier or in Gozo. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.