Some of the fastest kite racers in the world came to Miami to participate in the kiteboarding demonstration for the Olympic Racing Classes Regatta. The Regatta included over 700 sailors representing 58 countries. The kiters headed out to do the demonstration in an amazingly light wind forecast with their best low end gear. Winds were around 2 to 10 kts. averaging around 2 to 8 kts. with extended lulls in the actual race area. The demonstration was organized by our own Kent Marinkovic, John Goems and Kevin from the St. Francis Yacht Club from San Francisco, http://www.stfyc.com/. We met at Shake-A-Leg for the Captains Meeting and to take a boat out to a nearby spoil island to rig up and launch.
The starting point at the Shake-A-Leg facility in Coral Gables, FL. Lots of varied sailing craft running all over for the Regatta including some high speed and maneuverable 49'ers like this one. They tried to acquire a permit to hold the demonstration off Hobie Beach but the antics of some kiters ruined that option for these world class racers.
Here is a list of the riders who came to compete.
Loading up an impressive quantity of cargo on the Carolina Skiff for a short run to a nearby spoil island.
Damo Leroy helps out carrying down Garry Menk's latest kite racing creation. A novel three fin raceboard.
Patrick Rynne opted to bypass the boat trip and SUP out directly. This got him on the water almost a half hour earlier than the next rider. The winds were light and fitful so the early start helped. Nice looking Jimmy Lewis Slice raceboard!
After a very short trip, the riders off load the gear and stroll over to the next island to windward.
Kent and Paula move out along with John Heineken, perhaps the fastest kite racer anywhere in these early days of the sport.
Almost like walking on water, almost. A very convenient land bridge connected the windward island at low tide.
Patrick is pumped up and ready to go as folks walk up.
I headed out with John Goems on the boat being utilized to setup the race markers and then transfered to the Committee Boat run by Kevin. Here comes Patrick on a 16 m Crossbow on longer than stock lines and a raceboard. I thought everyone in the race was fairly light, but was wrong. Patrick at 6'2" weighs 175 lbs. but despite that was hauling butt in the light breeze around 5 to 8 kts.
More sailboats head out to the race area. I could use some help with the identification of some of these sailboat classes knowing little about this subject.
Another couple of kites are up. Breaking out further offshore into slightly stronger breeze will prove to be very daunting. Extended lulls, the kite drops to the water or forces the kiters to tack trying to find favorable wind to make it out. Very few were that fortunate, with lots of swimming going on that day.
The 49'ers are pretty incredible lightwind machines.
Kent attended the awards ceremony for the Regatta. He said there were 716 sailors representing 58 countries. A total of 38 metals were earned during the Regatta with Great Britain winning 14 of them.
He described a wide range of sailing craft in the competition, many of which I hadn't heard of before. The 49'ers, Lasers, RSX windsurfers, 2.4 Disabled, 470, FIN, SCUD Disabled and Sonar Disabled.
When I said it was light, it actually dropped below this at times. If it dropped too far into the low single digits, so would the kites. Water relaunching usually requires wind around 7 to 8 kts without something to stop the kiter from drifting. It would gust that high at times but rarely stay above stall speed long enough for guys to make it out into the bay for slightly stronger breeze.
More kites are up and down in the hole near the launch. It would make sense to travel beyond the shoreside vagaries of wind shadow and lower wind speeds out to the cleaner winds offshore for competitions in the future if light conditions were on.
Kent and Patrick both touched on the economics of Olympic sailing competition. Large vessel racing is primarily confined to the more affluent countries. Smaller countries may pursue more realistic sports like windsurfing, Lasers and the like. Many of these countries have Olympic team training programs in place, starting with kids and moving up to team membership in time. Kent indicated that the relative low cost and mobility of kiting gear gave the sport some distinct advantages.
Eventually Patrick was lulled out. Unfortunately, he was taken into shore by the chase boat to really light and unstable winds once a direction shift occurred.
More sailboats being ferried out to the race area. Between boats being pulled out, fast and coaches running into shore, there were a lot of powerboats moving around.
Michael (Gebi) Gebhardt of Florida and Victor Fredianelli of Brazil break out. Gebi was on the USA windsurfing Olympic team and has been a successful International coach in that discipline for many years.
Unfortunately, the wind lulled out in a big way soon. Cameron Biehl by intent or good fortune chose to be become becalmed within swimming distance of the Committee Boat, twice! This allowed him to breeze wait away from the nearshore land windshadow and lower wind speeds. Most of the riders were stuck in poorer conditions at the launch island which made a critical difference in access to the riding area. Perhaps having buoys, individual support boats to secure the kites to while wind waiting in the riding area would make sense for races in similar venues in light wind conditions.
Cameron breeze waiting on the stern. Being in the right place, (out of wind shadow), at the right time (when an extended puff comes through) can be everything at the low end.
Victor is riding nicely in a good puff.
Look at all the whitecaps. This was a gust by comparison to lighter conditions for much of the day. Probably hitting close to 8 kts.
Cameron rounds the marks for the course after the second lull but before the third and final one of the day.
Damo makes for a mark.
Getting some lift off those big fins in a puff.
Most of the racers were way to the east just to the west of Key Biscayne. The winds were funneling down Bear Cut and being amplified off the western shore of Key Biscayne. As a result a wide variety of sailing craft were being ferried to the race area via powerboat. It would make sense to do the same thing for kiters and/or to do boat launch near the actual racing area in light conditions.
Gebi took a page out of the book of some of the other sailing classes and hitched a ride out.
Lasers being hauled back to the dock after their race.
Victor moves in on a mark.
Damo is shredding in a puff.
A video summarizing some of the classes racing in this regatta.
Gebi readies to round a mark.
RSX one design windsurfing rigs being transported out to their race area off Bear Cut. The Olympics are considering the entry of one new sailing craft to the Summer Games. The choice is between kiting and RSX. RSX is distinguished by a large wind range but with a lower end above that which can be realized by kiteboarding. One of the purposes of this demonstration was to allow committee members a chance to observe a kite race in light wind conditions.
You can tell how light the breeze is from Damo's short wake, no whitecaps, lightwind riding! These Pros use a lot of different tactics for light wind racing. Larger efficient kites that can develop good apparent wind, longer lines, constantly evolving raceboards and fins and a good deal of wind sense and tactics. Back in the day we would double lines, take two sets of 30 m lines and make a 60 m set for two line kites. This increases your moment arm or stroke distance when sining the kite. This should allow more force to be conveyed to the kiter over a longer interval than shorter lines. Trouble is at some point the line air drag becomes a factor.
Damo and Gebi race along.
Damo does a ride by of the Committee Boat.
Gebi confronts a pair of lasers.
More RSX's are ferried out to the race area.
So, see you from the OCR in Miami. This was a first effort to show off kiting to the folks in the Olympics. Conditions were quite adverse but despite that some were able to make it out through prolonged lulls and wind shadowed areas. Even out there the wind would drop to 2 kts. or so for an extended period pulling the kites out of the sky. Still, we did run in lower than 6 kts. at times, the wind minimum for the RSX class. What does the future hold, we'll see. It would be good to read some perspectives from the folks that were out there that day.