Royal Air Force Association Round UP


The Royal Air Force Power Kiting Association has had a busy summer season which has seen it travel to Poole to link up with King of Watersports, Cyprus for the annual novice training camp, a Run To The Sun down at Portreath, a venture across the English Channel for Kite For Heroes and the RAF Champs held up at Tiree for the first time.

Getting the summer season off to a bang down at Poole Harbour in June, members made the journey down in the eager anticipation of getting on the water again in earnest. Although the wind was pretty inconsistent, most got wet on the Saturday, albeit mainly on a Stand Up Paddle board. Despite the still air, the event was a success and allowed the RPKA and King of Watersports to put faces to names and saw most members leaving with either a shiny new longboard or equipment bags to haul their copious amounts of gear around in! Thanks again to Charlie et al. Following the meet, a few of us headed up to Angelsey to conduct a Royal Yachting Association Power Boat Level 2 course on the Menai Straights, courtesy of the chaps down at JSMTC. They laid on a professional and fun course and were most generous in letting us play with their brand new RIB which is capable of moving at a very rapid rate of knots! 43kts was the unofficial record for the week…

After last year’s recce, the July Cyprus training camp is now well established, and saw four novices trained from scratch in the two weeks we were there. It also offered intermediates the chance to go out and hone their skills in shorts and rash vests, rather than the obligatory steamer wetsuits in the UK. With the warm sun to bask in, last year’s ‘Class of 09’ is coming along quite nicely too, venturing into jumping territory and linking transitions smoothly. Slowly but surely, the ranks of kitesurfers is growing within the association, and with the intention to have more members instructor qualified in the near future, these numbers will continue to swell. For an insight into the Cyprus learning process, have a look at the Autumn issue of RAF Active and the article “Wind Beneath My Wings”.

Returning from Cyprus and heading back to work was never going to be easy, but the members knuckled down and got on with things safe in the knowledge that the Run to The Sun improvers camp was just around the corner. Unfortunately, the wind was slow to make an appearance but that didn’t stop members participating in the inaugural ‘tarp-surfing’ event on the runway. Surely a must at future meets.

On then, to the hugely ambitious plan to kitesurf the Channel for Help For Heroes in August. No slight undertaking, this has been attempted on occasions by others resulting in failure, largely due to the numerous hazards presented by the world’s busiest shipping lane. High seas, inconsistent winds, and enormous ships were guaranteed, however with the extra challenge of RIB and equipment issues, the 70 mile journey became long and drawn out. In the end, the RAF came in third, behind the Army and Navy, but a large sum of money was raised for charity and that was the whole aim of the exercise. Job done!

And finally to the RAF Champs at Tiree in September, and the culmination of a season’s training. For most members, the slog up to the west coast of Scotland was a long and tiring one. Nevertheless, whether by rail, road, ferry or flight, the association gathered on the island and said hello to a few new faces. Being an isolated island off the coast, wind was guaranteed surely? Not so, as the wind gods are capricious in nature and provide wind only when it suits them. For the best part of a week we had either no wind or wind that was too strong to stand up in, let alone fly a kite while strapped to a buggy or board. However, for a few days we got conditions that were ‘just so’ down at Gott Bay: flat, turquoise water, white sands and brilliant sunshine – it could’ve been the Caribbean. On those few occasions the association made hay and the beach was awash with all kinds of kites and equipment in preparation for The Champs! And what a champs they were…

The landboarding was taken care of on one of the lighter-wind days with first place awarded to our very own Chief Instructor, Flt Lt Chris Roberts. Next up came the buggying which was contested over two slack days. The rivalry was fierce and the competition strong, but the prize was eventually taken by Flt Lt Jim Field who fought to the bitter end in the final. Many years of buggying experience saw him through, although he faces stiff competition from some of the younger members in the future.

And finally, the kitesurfing competition was put off and put off until the conditions were just right – the day before we left. Reigning champ, Sgt Glen Cromar had held the crown up to now, much to the ire of Chf Tech Ian ‘Sav’ Savage, the association’s kitesurfing instructor. Here was a case of the irresistible force versus the immovable object, if there ever was one. Sensing he was about to be overthrown, and perhaps wishing to bow out gracefully, Glen relinquished his place in the final which was filled by arguably our most exciting upcoming kitesurfer, SAC Tech Stu ‘The Proposal’ Saul. Although Sav is an old dog, he knows many a trick, and, perhaps aware of the size of the challenge, Stu knew he had to pull something special out of the bag. With the sun shining and the rest of the association members lined up on the shore to watch the duel of the knights, the final came down to moments of pure brilliance. The voting ebbed and flowed as Stu kept it tidy over some kickers, transitioning this way and that while nailing a few graps. Further downwind, Sav appeared to struggle with some of his uber-moves before showboating with the odd Darkslide in the shallow surf right in front of awestruck onlookers. Then, in a moment of genius, Stu transitioned in front of the crowd, but slipped his back foot out of its strap. The mistake was surely going to result in an embarrassing fall for all to see but no; Stu dropped his rear knee onto his board, took stock and, realising he wasn’t sinking in the shallows, proceeded to grin as he raised a cheeky thumb continuing his progress in a perfect knee-down, proposal stance never before seen. And so a new move was born… Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to overthrow Sav’s dominance and the more accomplished kitesurfer won the day with Sav finally being crowned RAF Champ. But he’d better watch over his shoulder from now on, the competition’s up and coming.

With the winter rapidly approaching, all that’s left of the season is the Tri-Service Champs, where the competition looks strong, and the Winter Warmer in November. And with winter comes planning for next year, although events for the 2011 season have already been decided. Things are looking up with the association planning not one but two overseas excursions to Cyprus and Turkey. There really has never been a better time to be a member!

Until next time, fair winds,

Lars Bjonness

RPKA Public Relations Officer