Kite Racing: Increasing the Altitude

Published on May 19th, 2015

Ever since USA siblings John and Erika Heineken won the Kiteboard Course Racing World Championships in 2012, with kiteboarding then nearly selected as an event at the 2016 Olympic Games, this segment of the sport has continued to gain prominence.

The development of equipment has not stood still either, and while significant sail design advances have made the game easier, it is hard not to notice the new altitude of the elite racers. Foiling is in, big time!

Now referred to as either Formula Kite (low) or KiteFoil (high) racing, the International Kiteboarding Association is charged with managing these quickly evolving forms of kite course competition.

The KiteFoil Gold Cup Tour was launched in 2014 to give the foilers an international schedule to share and test ideas, which this year takes the field of top professional racers to Mexico, USA, and Australia, with a cash purse totaling $10,000 USD at each event.

With the second event to be held in San Francisco on July 29-August 2, Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck gets this update from the stage one winner, 19-year old French sailor Nicolas Parlier…

I began sailing in an Optimist when I was 5 years old and then moved to catamarans. By age 8, I learned how to kite with a little trainer kite. I made the transition to kitefoiling in 2011, and since 2013 I’ve witnessed a total explosion in this sport. A lot of riders love the feeling of foiling, and many people have learned very quickly.

In my opinion, anyone in only one or two hours can learn to kiteboard with a good trainer kite like the Ozone Ignition 3 line trainer, assuming they have clean winds at a park or on the beach. The next stage is to book a lesson with a professional kiteboarding school, which typically run courses over 5-7 days.

What I’ve learned from teaching friends to kiteboard is if someone is coming from a sailing background, they tend to learn very quickly. Once you can kite proficiently with a normal board like a surfboard or a twin tip (looks like a wakeboard), which might take 1 to 3 months depending on the person’s ability and commitment, the transition to a foilboard can be attempted.

Entering the world of kite foiling is straightforward. Four kite sizes are needed to cover the wind range and a Hydrofoil mast/wing/board can all be purchased with ease.

Kitefoiling isn’t just fast on the water; it’s fast to get on the water too. I can be ready to race in less than 10 minutes from arriving at the beach. All the Kitefoil gear (with all your 4 sizes of kite, harness, board foil, wetsuits) weighs around 30kg and will fit in a surf style bag and is easily carried on the plane.

I find that I can kite foil pretty much every single day if I wish to, as the wind range is from 4 to 45 knots. If I only have one hour in the day to go sailing, than I know I can do so with a Kitefoil.

Without needing a crane or ramp to launch a boat or a trailer to move it, access to sailing is available to everyone. Plus the simplicity of the gear keeps me on the water and not dealing with maintenance.

With only about $8000 US, the highest performance equipment like Ozone Kites or the SPOTZ Hydrofoil can be bought from good kite shops globally or online. The equipment is all production equipment so it is not an elitist sport and can be practiced on lakes or beaches around the whole world with ease.

During the 1st round of the KITE FOIL GOLD CUP Championship Tour in Mexico, we found sailing speed upwind to be 15.5 knots VMG and downwind to be 23.5 knots VMG … all in only 8-10 knots of wind speed. In 25 knots of wind, I reached the top speed of 42.8 knots. With this level of performance, Kitefoiling is the fastest solo sail class boat in the world.

This is all with production equipment anyone can purchase, which is amazing in my opinion. After looking at all the sailing classes, in my opinion Kite-foiling is the sailing sport with the best Ratio: Price/Performance/Simplicity/Sensation/Fun

I’m currently working with Spotz the leading Hydrofoil brand and my father Yves Parlier on new designs to try to go even faster in the future. Also I’m a team rider for Ozone, and I give them some feedback to help them continue to innovate and lead the industry with their amazing kite designs.

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