Slow start, but not for the kiteboards
A vital ingredient for a EUROSAF High Performance Grand Prix is wind and on the Murcia’s land locked sea, the Mar Menor, this was late coming for this the first day of competition. It was only at 4pm (local) that the southwesterly sea breeze finally won out over the early afternoon easterly and the classes were able to compete in winds of 5-10 knots.
For the kiteboards, sailing their Kite Cross World Championship slalom course immediately off the beach by the Centro de Alto Rendimento – Infanta Cristina, the Mar Menor’s giant sailing centre, both men’s and women’s divisions were able to complete one elimination round, the boarders taking on the course four at a time. Among the men, star performers among the 24 competitors were Americans Damien Leroy and Bryan Lake, France’s Bruno Sroka and German Gunnar Biniash.
“It was a pretty easy first heat,” said Biniash. “We were the only two out front and I got into the lead at the third buoy and finished one leg ahead.”
While this is kiteboarding’s first ever slalom World Championship, Biniash, a German from Frankfurt but now based in the Canary Islands, was enthusing about the competition today despite the light wind. “It is brilliant. Even today, the bottom limit of where kites work, my GPS was showing 35 km/h [19 knots], which was pretty good in 6 knots of wind and we were still gybing pretty well.”
Stand-out competitors in the women’s line-up were Germany’s Kristin Boese, France’s Caroline Adrien and San Francisco-based Bulgarian competitor Eugenia Gueorguieva. The Canadian women’s kiteboarding champion, Jessica Sickinger, said she didn’t have the best of days. “I didn’t have quite a big enough kite. It was averaging 6 knots, so it was the low end of what we could sail in and unfortunately I didn’t pack the right set of gear.” Sickinger, who holds down a job as a barrister in her native Toronto, has only started competing on her kiteboard this year.
“The slalom is tons of fun, especially when it is really windy, because then everyone is really close together and you are bumping kites and you are really fighting and everyone is on top of one another which makes it more interesting for the spectators and [for the competitors] you can reach out and touch the person beside you,” she says.
While at present there is no clear leader in the Kite Cross World Championship, for the 29erXXs three windward-leewards races were held and at the end of day one the French mixed pairing of Kevin Fischer-Guillou and Marion Lepruni are tied on six points with one of the two Danish crews from Aarhus Sailing Club taking part - Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard Olse.
“It was a bit light, but it was fun,” said Torm of today’s competition. Torm, 19, and Olse, 18, are leading the all-female competition at the EUROSAF High Performance Grand Prix, but this comes as no surprise. They have been sailing the 29erXX for a year now, and previously sailed the standard rig 29er for five. For the last three consecutive years they have been the top all-female crew to finish at the 29er World Championship.
“I think we are good in almost all conditions,” says Torm, who is taking time out from school to be at this regatta. “We don’t have our special weather - we like different conditions.” However she warns that the form book may be thrown out of the window for this regatta. “It is going to be different, because we are using different rules and will be sailing a slalom course and a speed run. The slalom we did a little bit in Amsterdam at a show regatta last year, but we don’t know how the speed sailing will go.” Winner of the Seiko Speed Challenge will go home with US$500 in prize money.
Despite the light conditions today, both Torm and Olse are pleased to be in Murcia in mid-October. “It is warm! In Denmark I was freezing before I left – it was so cold. I had my winter coat and shoes on.”
In the Formula 18 class Mitch Booth and his Spanish crew, Miguel Perez from the Canary Islands, are leading, but after three races they are tied on points with Spain’s Marc Verdaguer and Alberto Torne, Booth and Perez ahead due to their two bullets to Verdaguer and Torne’s one. The F18s were competing on the east side of the Mar Menor today where there was fractional more breeze, enough to fly their windward hulls.
Tomorrow marginally more breeze is forecast on the Mar Menor and the EUROSAF High Performance Grand Prix will be joined by the singlehanded A-Class catamarans and the foiling Moth competitors.