Foiling Into The Future
Published on July 31st, 2015
by Erik Simonson, PressureDrop.us
The gray overcast gave way to brilliant sunshine, which shone brightly on San Francisco Bay and the 74 competitors sailing in the third stop of the Kite Foil GoldCup (July 30-Aug 2). In its second season, the progression of not only the tour itself, but the equipment and riders who took to the water in winds reaching 30 knots at its peak combined with a 2.5 knot ebb tide, made for a challenging conditions all around.
The race committee had split the foilers into two groups and ran back to back to back heats. Three windward-leeward legs and an uphill finish near the Golden Gate Bridge. The goal to get off 5-6 races for each group utilizing a time limit formula. The bang-bang methodology provided a smooth and rapid progression throughout the day, and only due to a late afternoon wind die off did they not get off the sixth heat.
Organizers provided excellent boat and shore support and all contestants were required to check in and check out after each heat at a kiosk which would scan the provided RFID wristband to assure their whereabouts on and off the water. A fleet of RIB’s and whalers providing a security net as it were, and the radio communication when a rider would inevitably go down and struggle, prompting the eyes on the shore and on the water to respond in rapid fashion.
The class itself, continues to evolve and grow.
The kites, now primarily the high aspect RAM foil type, added yet another twist recently, with F-One kites introducing a third bridal that allows the riders to induce camber into the kite on downwind legs, effectively creating a more spinnaker-like configuration. It did not take riders on other kites long to quickly improvise the third bridal on their own rigs and stay in the ever changing game.
The push towards smaller and smaller boards continues, with many of the boards presenting an acute chine on the bottom two-thirds of the board. Its purpose, to reduce the rail drag when going to weather, allowing the board to bite harder and harder as the high aspect kites provide sailors with better and better VMG on the course.
But the foilboard has its limitations. “They’re great if you are foiling completely around the course, but if you spend time just planning on the board through turns, the more traditional surfboard design is actually more effective,” said two-time 505 World Champion Mike Martin, commenting on the drag of the foil.
As equipment progresses, so has the rider skill. The front of the fleet are in fact foiling completely around the course, with their coordination, balance, and muscle memory having improved so much across the board (pardon the pun) to show how that particular skill set is becoming more and more de rigueur.
The talent pool runs deep in this edition, Not only with the household names of Johnny and Erika Heineken, Joey Pasquali and Bryon Lake representing the SF Bay Area, but a new legion of Juniors has emerged, with the likes of Nicolai and Sebastian Sponholtz, Hayden Fisher and Daniela Moroz engaging and beating their much older peers with youthful enthusiasm and wreck less abandon.
“It’s really cool to watch these kids excel,” Martin explained. “They bounce back so fast from on-the-water explosions (crashes), get their rig resorted and then take off like rockets. Us older guys are a little more sensitive to the pain associated, and take longer to get back on the horse once we get bucked off.”