Historic Day At CalCup As The Kiteboarders Break Through For Victory!
San Francisco Bay Area kiters and windsurfers have been on the cutting edge of many trends and Saturday June 19th's Cal Cup race in Berkeley was no exception. Cal Cup number 4 went off with big winds and big happenings.
For the past few races some of the world's top Kiteboarders have been racing alongside the Cal Cup Formula Fleet. While some of the kiters have come tantalizingly close to winning a race it took two of the worlds best to finally draw first blood.
With Andrew Koch (Ozone Kites, Aguera Boards), Johnny Heineken (RRD Kites, Mike's Lab Boards) and the current world champion Adam Koch (Ozone Kites, Aguera Boards),in attendance the tension was palpable at the skippers meeting with the Formula Fleet knowing today might be the day a Kiter finally breaks through for a bullet in a race. All three kiteboarders are part of Team Fluid. Winning the day wasn't really feared by the windsurfers- but it should have been.
While the Cal Cup Formula Fleet is not sailing at the level of the World's top Formula sailors there are still some tough competitors in the fleet. With multiple national championship results and countless race wins under their belts the fleet is one of the best amateur fleets in the world and probably the best amateur fleet when its stonking windy like it was today. Most of the Formula fleet were on their 9.0s with a few of the larger riders choosing 10.0s. The course featured a shortened windward mark setting, with the A fleet doing 2 laps.
Race one and the kiters were on best behavior on the starting line. Just taking the sterns of the boards at the gun it was pretty evident that the Formula board still out performs the kiteboard upwind. However two very different styles were apparent amongst the kiters. Adam Koch was sailing significantly higher angle up wind than Johnny Heineken. Koch was pretty much holding the same angle as the Formula Boards but was just slightly off their pace with board speed. Meanwhile Johnny had significantly more board speed than anyone on the course while sailing a lower line, but was it enough to overcome his lack of upwind angle?
4 boards (the gap is pictured above) made the windward mark before Heineken was able to make the mark followed closely by Koch. The separation was about 15 seconds between the first boards and the kites. Adam and Johnny then both put the hammer down on the downwind leg and were absolutely flying. Then the hammer came back to smack them. In a spectacular cloud of spray Koch goes down in the very definition of a yard sale. Heineken also takes a fall but is able to avoid the sever wipeout of Koch. As we know swimming is slow and with a shortened course a single mistake will take you out of contention as it did this race allowing Steve Sylvester to take the win. In a sign of things to come Heineken put himself together to recover for second place with Chris Radkowski on Formula gear in third.
Race 2 saw the kites feeling a little more comfortable on the line and pushing in to the fleet to get legit starts albeit still on the sterns of the windsurfers. Koch was still holding line with the Formula Boards while Heineken was again footing for speed (You can see this quite clearly in the pictures below). Steve Sylvester makes the windward mark first with an 8 second lead over Johnny. 3 boards and Adam Koch round about 10 seconds behind the two leaders. As they come to the leeward mark Johnny has used his speed to overtake Sylvester and has taken the lead.(full photo sequence). After the leeward mark Johnny has not only made up the deficit he is now 13 seconds (in full disclosure it was 13 alligators) ahead of Sylvester. As they round the mark you can see the two lines being sailed are totally different with Johnny going low and fast and Sylvester holding the high line. As they get back to the windward mark for the second time Sylvester has cut in to Johnny's lead and is now only 7 seconds behind and both have extended to a good 30 second lead over the following pack. As they round Heineken is laser focused and is not going to let this one slip away. By the time he gets to the leeward mark he has extended again over Sylvester to an 18 second delta. As he tacks to port to go for the line he clears Sylvester and the race is his. History made. The first legit win by a Kiteboard in a fair Formula Race. Sylvester finishes 13 seconds back. The next 3 boards and Heineken all finish within 45 seconds of the two leaders. The most notable impression I was left with was that this was fair racing and the two craft amazingly similar with respect to total performance around the course. What happened then? The better sailor won. NICE WORK JOHNNY!
Full Photo gallery and complete results