Sunday, August 6, 2017

Day 2-3 hydrofoil pro tour- all good things in all good time

Its hard to imagine having a no wind day on the SF Bay August, but we got skunked. Day 2 of the Hydrofoil pro tour was a wash out of rain showers, a healthy marine layer but no wind and no races on the score sheet. 
Racers woke up for day 3 with a bit more optimism as a light teen breeze was filling through the golden gate but more important- an afternoon seabreeze for the long distance race.  3 morning races were held in light conditions with the majority of the fleet on 15-17m kites. The euros still have an advantage in these light conditions as the local fleet doesnt get much time on the water in sub 14k conditions.

The sure awesomeness and level of sailing athleticism and talent is truly amazing when watching Saturdays racing. I am still in awe how the foiling fleet has turned maneuvers like tacking into a pirouetted dance of elegance. There's hardly a moment when the top racers arent getting 110% out of their foils and going upwind at 25k and downwind close to 40k.
My bromance with the foil kites is growing stronger by the day as I get more time on the water with these efficient  machines. As wonderful as they are flying through the air, it becomes a whole another story when you the kite goes down on the water. Saturday's endeavor only lasted a few brief minutes for me as I was scuttled with the 13m kite. My kite went down like a wet noodle in the sub 10k lulls as I tried to make my way around the course. I got my first foil kite self rescue, having to pack the kite up on the water and then deal with the aftermath of untangling a wet sloppy, twisted  mess back on the beach. It wasn't as bad as I though but the 13m kite was out of commission and I missed the remaining 2 course races of the morning.

The fleet got a good 90 min break as the fog lifted and breeze filled in the course. With the windsurfing fleet joining the kiters, the next race would be an all out sprint to Berkeley and back. The SF Bay Challenge has been a tradition in the board fleet for 25+ years with each edition slowly chipping off the elapsed time. This year however, almost 15 min were shaved off the overall time with Nico Parlier finishing in just over 30'.

I had other goal- just to make it around the course for the 1st time on a foil board and foil kite.
I had done the race at least 15x on the windsurfer, winning a few on the way but this was a different game.

I rigged the new 9m ozone hyperlink which had plenty of power for the 25 mile+ tour of the Bay. I got off to a late start but was happily on my way downwind in 15-20k of breeze, happily foiling past Alcatraz before things started to get pretty heady. The swells were such that if you didn't stay on your toes and adjust the ride height of the foil, you would fly right out of the water in the troughs. I had more than a few wipe outs as I had to adjust my riding style to a less deep and aggrieve approach to a omfg survival mode. The downwind haul past Alcatraz gets a bit monotonous but there's always another kite or 2 to keep you focused. I rounded the leeward mark off the Berkeley pier and immediately headed back upwind for the beat back to the finish at the St.FYC.
Even with a 9m kite, I thread the fine line of piching and staying on the foil just to survive the 25-30 westerlies coming down the Bay. I though I might find some relief below Alcatraz coming back upwind but immediately got yarded in some squirrely puffs.  I lost my board for a few min as the swell picked it up and blew it a few hundred yards down wind.
2 steps backward, 1 step forward.
I regrouped and realized there's no easy way out of this but I had to get to the finish line.
Sure enough in just over an hour and change, I crossed the finish line and made it around the course for the 1st time on a kite.  Im just 1 of 3 sailors who was done this race on both a windsurfer and a kite.

Despite being in the back of the fleet, it's the small victories like this and figuring out the foil kites that keep me on my toes and coming back for more. After almost 30 years of competitive racing, you begin to realize the real challenge is how far you can push your own limit not necessarily the scores at the end of the day.  For me its all about persistence. I may not be the fastest but I'm not going to give up. eventually, I'll get there but enjoying the ride along the way.
1 more day of racing and Im stoked to get back out on the 9m foil kite and try to make the time limit.
All good things in all good time

Friday, August 4, 2017

2017 hydrofoil pro tour day 1 report

 It started off with good intentions as all sailing ambitions do but by the end of the 1st day of the 2017 Hydrofoil Pro Tour kite regatta I was already deflated but definitely not defeated.

I achieved at least one goal by getting some numbers on the score sheet in lieu of the usual DNF's  (by default of not finishing within the time limit) but the day was trying to say the least.
An unusual August weather pattern has light and variable breeze inside the San Francisco bay in lieu of the normal raging summer seabreeze. This caught most of guard, including myself as I would have to break out the big kites. I upped by game this regatta to include a quiver of all foil kites. I'd flown a few foil kites before but it was time to step up and race the full program.

With a variable 10-16k breeze at the 1pm start, I took out the 13m chrono2 foil kite and oh my- what a treat. I can see how all the transitions are so much easier on a foil kite with all that lift. I had my hands full in the puffs and certainly not quite enough in the lulls but managed to find my way around the course without any major catastrophes. In race 1- I just missed the time limit. Bummer
Race 2 started in 14-16k but soon faded to just 8-10k at the top mark. I got out of dodge quickly by gybing after the top mark and getting back to the wind line. I stayed out of trouble and got around the course, finishing in the back of the pack but within the time limit. 

Whoo hoo! Getting on the scoreboard is a small step but a major victory for this grom kiteboarder.
The afternoon session didnt go exactly as planned as I never made it too far off the beach before the shit hit the fan. With a super sketchy bubble at the beach, most of the fleet struggled to get their kites up and flying without falling out of the sky. 
Its a sad state of affairs when the foil kites fall out of the sky like limp under cooked noodles but its all part of racing. With the kite twisted, bowtied and sinking like a sea anchor, I decided to save face and swim in. The boiling cauldron of lines and bridles found themselves in a hot sandy mess as I dragged the wet noodle back to the beach. It took a few extra hands and plenty of patience to untangle the mess but did get everything sorted again but alas- not quite enough wind to make it to the starting line for the last race of the day.
I spend the next 20 min flying the kite on the beach, learning some finer points of backing the kite down in the window and clearing the sand and moisture from internal cells . It's definitely a more complicated beast but more efficient to say the least. 
I remind myself that the struggle is all part of the journey and if you can overcome adversity, you make it through to the other side as a stronger individual. 
At the top of the fleet, its the young euros who are showing their strength in the light breeze. With a fleet of 46 kiters, its split down the middle with 23 locals and 23 visiting racers. After day 1, only Johnny and Joey sit in the top 10 with the rest filled in by the visiting European and South American fleet. Its a 4 day regatta so hopeful we will get a decent sea breeze at some point.

Official 2017 HFPT results: here