Saturday, August 1, 2015

2015 SF Kite Foil Gold Cup- Day1 and 2: paying my dues

By the start of the first race, I had already mathematically eliminated myself from qualifying into the final gold fleet. A rather disastrous start if there ever was one one but this race was was not for the winning, not even for the taking. This race was just about showing up, getting to the starting line and putting myself through the paces.

I'm in a league way over my head but I've got nothing to lose.
Day 1 at the Kite Foil Gold Cup in San Francisco actually began several months ago at the last Gold Cup event in La Ventana Mexico. That was the start of my kite foiling experience. Its been a rough road since then with almost 4 months & 30 days of learning foiling on the kite board. The experience has been very rewarding but very challenging, In all honesty I though Id be getting it by now but this is one tough nut to crack, Don't get me wrong- kite foiling in general is unbelievable fun- flying above the water with everything silent but when you add the racing element to it- you put yourself to the ultimate test. There will always be racers better than you and there lies the fun- how to catch up!

With 72 registered foilers, this is the biggest foil event in the US. Kite foilers from around the world have joined the local fleet for the 2nd stop in the Kite Foil Gold Cup- a series run by local PRO Robbie Dean, only its 2nd year but gaining a huge momentum with 3 stops in La Ventana Mexico, San Francisco, Ca and Townsville, Australia later this year.

Day 1 starts with lighter breeze but the shit hits the fan soon enough with the local sea breeze flooding through the golden gate mid afternoon, I take out my 10m Ozone edge and make it to the start of the first race for the yellow fleet in 12-16k of breeze. I start conservatively just behind the fleet as to avoid any tangles and stay out of trouble but just like that the fleet is off. I sail off to the far side of the course and just miss the windward mark on my approach and have to double tack. As I make it around, I struggle in the lighter winds at the top of the course and before I know it the fleet is back at the windward mark lapping me in the process. 

Downwind is still a struggle. My angles are just a bit deeper than a beam reach when it gets windy but improving as I learn to get the kite down and back in the window. I finally round the leeward gate but there's no time to make it back upwind and to the finish so I just stick around for the next start. 
Race 2- I cross the line with in 30s of the start just behind the fleet and make it upwind in good shape. Downwind is a complete disaster again taking up 80% of my time on the water, I complete the course but the next fleet has taken the course already and Ive been timed out- another DNF. 

I recompose myself on the beach mentally tackling the next challenge as the wind is now up to 20k+, my limit on the foil where things potentially get broken. I rig the 7m kite and head out like a hot mess exploding in epic fashion just trying to get downwind to the start. I never make it as the RC is banging off races in record time.  I sit out and watch my fleets final 2 races with the peanut gallery from the beach- trying to ease the pain with a cold beer.

Lessons of the day- you gotta make it to the starting line if you even want to even play the game.

The drone footage has been unbelievable.

And of course- if you want to watch Thursday's full racing- sit back and enjoy the full show via Jamie Donaldson:

Day 2 was poised to be golden with lighter wind forecast. I was in the blue fleet so we started 2nd after 2 yellow fleet races. I didn't even get 100' off the beach with the 10.0 before the shit hit the fan again. Gusty, sporadic, shifty and holey. Everything you could hope for in a kite launch. Imagine your whole rig just falling out of the sky. Inverted, twisted and tangled. Now to deal with it. I managed a relaunch but everything was inside out- a 1st time for everything but I swim 15 min in with the kite after hastily wrapping my kite lines up and missing the 1st race in the process.
I motivated for race 2 getting the 7.0 strung up with the 2nd bar as the 1st was a full birds nest that would have to be dealt with later.
The gust were now even more spastic with the 7.0 all together the wrong kite- either too small or way too big. It took me a while just to get down to the starting lines averaging a major catastrophic wipe out every 30 seconds but the fleet was off for their 2nd start. I was barely in control both up and downwind with more time in the water than upright. I follow the fleet to windward with multiple explosions but decide I've reached my limit with the 7m kite and head back in as the crashes are getting more painful.

I'm not sure I'm even participating in the same sport as the top of the fleet.
They look graceful floating around without effort at every transition while I stumble at every opportunity. I take for granted most of the fleet has been kiting for 10 years + leading the pack in the development of the sport while I'm jumping in fresh learning to kite and foil at the relatively same time.

Regardless kite foil racing is one of the tougher challenges I've faced. I've been at a plateau for the last 2 months trying to progress downwind. OMFG it's so frustrating not even being able to get to the starting line. I haven't even begun to think about transitions. I do however make a nice discovery when I jumped on the Zaijcek board and foil. The whole platform is way more stable and predictable. Not that it's doing me anyhow to get around the course but know someday its gonna be easier.
For the next hour- I untangle my lines from the 1st race that have been left gathered in a ball at the corner of the beach. 
Lessons of the day- sometimes its not even possible to get to the starting line. You've got to learn how to crawl before you can walk. Nonetheless learn how to fly.

 Onward and upward. 2 more days of the SF Kite Foil Gold Cup to prove to myself that I can do this. 
Here's the video to the raw footage form Friday's  racing via Jamie Donaldson:
Photo credit- Eric Simonson- Pressure Drop
More photos here

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