The first ever Kitesurf World Slalom Championships was held at Mar Menor in Spain, I traveled down there to represent the U.K at the event and to find out what this discipline was all about having not really done it before!
Slalom racing is normally a very fast downwind race; everyone starts on the water with a timed start over an imaginary line between the committee start boat and a buoy. The racers then precede around 4 buoys changing direction at each buoy then race across the finish line. If you cross over the start line before the green flag goes up then you are disqualified and when you change direction on a buoy can get interesting with kite tangles.
The forecast was for extremely light winds so I packed only 2 kites, a 14m and 10m brand new F-One bandit 5’s which I had never flown before and for boards I took my Course race board and my freestyle twin tip, the plan was to use my Race board for light wind and my twin tip in case the wind got up, little did I know that the twin tip would not even get wet.
I arrived at Murcia airport to some excellent weather, Spain had a high pressure stuck over it so I welcomed the 30’C temperature but not the lack of wind that goes with it. A 10 minute taxi journey and I was at the competition hotel which was a 150m stroll from the beach, all in all a very nice close location.
Registration and practice day saw a few of us go out on our largest equipment; everyone was on Course race boards as this is the only equipment that goes in sub 10 knot weather. The wind picked up to about 7 knots for 45 minutes in which I took full advantage and had a blast up and down then I felt it dropping slightly and came in as Damien Leroy and Bruno Sroka went out, the next thing you know the wind went all together and they returned via the safety boat!
The first day of competition had no wind in the morning but in the afternoon picked up to a mighty 7 knots in which they started to run the first rounds. The normal format of Slalom is to run 4 man heats with the first 2 riders across the finish line proceeding through to the next round and the last 2 riders being eliminated. My 1st heat was up against world champion Bruno Sroka and Spanish Champion Pedro, alas I did not make it through! They ran a few more rounds but then the wind dropped completely and they did not manage to finish the racing but would start the next day from that point.
The 2nd day of racing brought slightly more wind, maybe topping out at 8 knots and we ran more racing, they finished the first full race with Damien Leroy from America taking the win, the plan was to run 4 full races a day and then with all the points added together to produce the official ranking.
The race crew then went straight into the next race, again I had a tough heat with Damien and the other top American sailor Bryan Lake and sadly I got eliminated again and had to sit out the rest of the race. This time Bryan Lake took the win. For the last race of the day they ran 8 man heats which took a few of us by surprise and thought it might be a tad unsafe but actually turned out fine and meant we got more races completed but with a higher chance of kite tangles.
I did a lot better in these heats making the finals each time but often found that I just could not go as fast as everyone else on the reach’s, my biggest kite was a 14m which is normally all I need but most people were on 16m, 18m and even 21m kites so they had a bit more ummph than me.
The next day of racing had the strongest wind which maxed out at an amazing 9 knots and they ran full fleet races a couple of times in which we saw a few kite tangles, one especially bad one which involved the German ‘Gunnar Biniasch’ and saw his kite lines snap under the strain, he was ok except for his pride was a bit dented.
The last day produced no wind and so in the final rankings I came in at 8th place, my goal before I left the U.K was to be in the top 10 and I made that so I am pleased, with hindsight I would have taken a bigger kite and board but that’s the way the game plays!
1st Damien Leroy, USA
2nd Bryan Lake, USA
3rd Bruno Sroka, FRA
1st Caroline Adrien, FRA
2nd Kristin Boese, GER
3rd Elena Anton, ESP