Kites to compete at the King's Cup
ISAF has decided to include kiteboarding course racing as an evaluation sport for the Rio 2016 Olympics. As a result this year, the 25th Phuket King's Cup Regatta, the largest sailing event in Asia, will include a kiteboarding division, which will be run with the cooperation of Kiteboard Tour Asia.
Kevin Whitcraft, President of the Phuket King's Cup Regatta Organising Committee said: "We're delighted to welcome the kiteboarders. We are broadening the Regatta, and we hope this new element will have very strong appeal to kiteboarding enthusiasts and a younger sailing audience"
Willy Kerr is the Phuket based KTA Tour Director, who added: "This year's Phuket King's Cup Regatta will feature a kiteboarding division. It's a historic step for Asian sailing but quite a logical one as the sport has a strong following in Thailand with Hua Hin playing host to the Kiteboarding World Tour for the last two seasons and Pranburi being the Thailand stop on Kiteboard Tour Asia.
"The KTA is an ISAF-sanctioned continental tour. The current KTA champion is Thai sailor Narapichit ‘Yo' Pudla, twice Asian champion in freestyle and course racing and in the Philippines last year he was close behind the World Champion, so we are expecting great things of him in the future.
"We have been inundated with people wanting to join. We did invite 20 of the top riders to come and join the Phuket King's Cup event this year but next year I probably see it being an Open division.
"Among this year's sailors we have Aya Oshima, two-time Asia Freestyle/ Race Champion and two-time Japanese Freestyle Champion and Ken Nacor who is the Philippines Champion and Asia number 2. Beijing Olympics windsurfing Silver medalist Ho Chi Ho will be competing, as will Turkish KTA Champion and Turkish Freestyle Champion Taner Aykurt and Kathryn Bogwardt, the 2010 and 2011 KTA Ladies Champion.
"We really need eight knots to race. We will launch from the beach and ride out and we're aiming for three races per day. We have a 45 minute time limit on our races which are very similar in format to traditional sailing, but there are some important differences."
Neil Godbold, KTA founding Director and head of training explained: "Kiteboarders follow the same overall sailing rules. However, the kite adds a third dimension. We have a set of rules for when an upwind kite and a downwind kite are passing each other and if boats are on closing tacks. Basically it is upwind- kite up, downwind- kite down.
"It sounds easy when you say it but when there are 50 or 60 people around you on the start line starting on different tacks, then it becomes interesting. The distance of the kite from the board can vary; in strong winds as little as 27 metres, in soft conditions up to 40 metres.
"Some sailors are trying to run along the start line with their kite high because they are trying not to cross the line early and sailors who are on timed runs and coming from the back (of the fleet) will have their kites low. As the start flag goes those from the back will come charging through, the guys in the front row will be trying to drop their kites down to power up quicker than those behind them. If everyone is on starboard tack off the line its fine, but port tack starters have to deal with the priority rule on the water surface and the priority rules with the kites at the same time.
"The Phuket King's Cup will be one of the first major regattas with a kite board class. For us to be competing for King's Cup awards is very exciting."
Willy Kerr summed up saying: "The King's Cup organising committee is certainly proving to be forward looking. Up the track at Olympic level, there is a big opportunity for lightweight Asian sailors. Our Kite Board Tour Asia events are open to Europeans also, so we have found in the light wind spots the Asians are finishing on top quite a lot. Their lightness, their small bodies and agility - it really does help. They have an advantage there and just as has been happening in windsurfing, we expect to see Asian kiteboarders winning Olympic medals in the future."
Speaking for the kiteboarders Narapichit ‘Yo' Pudla said this afternoon: "We are all pretty excited. Its great to be here at the Phuket King's Cup with all the other sailors from around the world and we are looking forward to a great event."