Airborne in the bay of Douarnenez
The Kitesurfing version of the Grand Prix Petit Navire 2009 began today with the European Championship in the discipline. It’s an event which continues to attract a vast number of riders to the bay of Douarnenez, the latter being equipped with a wealth of assets for the sport as Ronan Jollé, the race director, explains: “This bay is really very beautiful: there is no immediate danger, no current, no rocks. The beaches have no cause to be jealous of those in Hawaii as here the beaches span around ten kilometres and there’s plenty of room for manœuvre. The bay is swept by the prevailing winds and a small swell, which the riders greatly appreciate.”
First big date of the season
This Grand Prix Petit Navire, the world’s top large meet for the sport, is also an opportunity for the riders to measure themselves against the competition and to test out their material, as Alex Caizergues, the fastest man across the water explains: “Douarnenez is a spot I love and I’ve been coming here for the past four years. The Grand Prix is an opportunity to gauge your performance in relation to your adversaries… The standard of competition here over a long distance is fantastic. You generally have very good conditions here and there are a lot of races. It’s a real buzz…” World, European and French Champion in ‘speed-crossing’, Bruno Sroka, shares this view: “Douarnenez is home to me! As a Breton, you have to come along. Added to that it’s the first big date, the point where you can test everything out under real conditions: the evolution of the gear, physical preparation and the strategic and technical aspect. Furthermore the level is very high. All the top names in Europe are here.”
Douarnenez a precursor
“Today, the Grand Prix Petit Navire has become an unmissable event on the circuit, stresses Ronan Jollé. The sport has grown with the Grand Prix. We’ve always been the precursor in terms of long distance and racing. I remember during the first Grand Prix that we wondered how we could make it work with 20 to 25 riders on the line; today, we set 100 off at the same time.”
As such Douarnenez has always been the driving force of a sport which is constantly evolving, as Bruno Sroka confirms: “We’ve integrated the ISAF, the International Sailing Federation, which enables us to gain recognition for our events. It’s a massive development, as is the case with the material. We’re finding various ways to develop the sport on a technical level, which will enable us to make advances in the discipline. In my view, in the space of ten years, we’ve really gone from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Era, and that’s just the beginning!”
It is worth noting that this year Douarnenez has even obtained the IKA label which means that the event also counts towards the world ranking with some new, original rules in France.
Day 1 validated
For this initial day of competition, it was the Pentrez spot which was retained by the organisation. The wind took it’s time to kick in but finally, at around 1600 hours, race management launched hostilities in a steady wind of between 11 and 15 knots. 40 riders on the first leg and then over 80 riders on the 2nd leg were able to power up, which is always a staggering spectacle. Tomorrow’s weather conditions promise a bit of heat and the start of the 2nd round is due to set off at 1030 hours.
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