Saturday, 19 May 2012

Everything you wanted to know about Kiteboarding!

As you've heard by now, kiteboarding has been voted into the Olympics for 2016. This decision was reached partly based on the testing done this year in Santander in March this year.

There are two reports available from that evaluation, both can be downloaded from the ISAF site:
Kiteboarding Evaluation Report en Kiteboarding Technical Report.

A few key phrases:
  • There are no race management or event organization issues. Kiteboarding could be immediately included in major ISAF events and the Olympic Sailing Regatta.
  • The rules are well developed and follow the standard Racing Rules of Sailing with some discipline specific changes. No rule 42.
  • Racing is close to the shore with an easy to follow competition format. Kiteboarding is colorful, attractive to spectators and media and especially appealing to youth.
  • Equipment is readily available with worldwide distribution channels, production controlled and at a low price (cheapest entry into Olympic Sailing for emerging nations). 
  • The class is growing fast. App. 60000 persons start kiteboarding every year. App. 180000 kites and 75000 hulls are sold every year with a yearly growth of 10%.
  • Currently 14 builders are producing hulls and 19 builders produce kites. This competition between builders guarantees high quality at a low prize.
  • Equipment is high-performance over a wide wind range (5 till 18 knots during the test event using one hull and one kite only).
  • Equipment has a wide weight band – competitors from 55 to 90 kg used the same hulls in the test event and chose the kite size by body weight.
  • Biggest growth rates are currently in Asia. Emerging nations can reach international competition level within a few months.
  • Flexibility: Equipment is light weight (hull, kite and rigging less than 12 kg) and can be taken as standard luggage on planes. During the test event, the complete equipment of 17 competitors fit into one mini bus to shuttle to a nearby beach.
  • Storage: Equipment Storage is minimized, complete equipment of 17 competitors easily fits into 50sqm with no additional requirements for storage facilities. Kiteboards are completely rigged and de-rigged every day (it takes 5 minutes to pump up the kite).
  • Kiteboards are physically and technically challenging to sail, but not destructive to the body (no pumping, always trapezing).
  • Youth Pathway: youth and junior competitors use the same hulls and only smaller kite sizes depending on the body weight.
  • The competition format developed during the test event allows for short event duration, head to head competition and the winner of the final medal race winning the first place. Races are between 12 minutes (fleet race) and 4 minutes (medal race elimination)
  • Identification of Sailors needs to be improved, e.g. by adding nationality flags to the kites
  • There have been safety issues in the past which have been overcome since app. eight years. Safety standards are constantly improved in cooperation between class and national governments

With my limited experience I would agree with most of these evaluation points. but 5 knots as a lower wind limit is low, too low for some places. It depends on the place kiteboarders have to launch from. If the beach the big waves can be very challenging to overcome if you don't have power in your kite. Gradient and current is also a factor. The criteria should involve a lot more factors.

As for safety. Kiteboarders cannot paddle!. The newest generation kites do float but it is not easy to relaunch once they are in the water. If the conditions become unfavorable every kiteboarder has to be picket up and brought in. There is no way they can get back without help if they can't 'sail'

And please don't limit the riders in forcing them to choose only one size kite! The range is from 6 to 17, 18 m2, with many kites in between: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17 m2., depending on the brand.


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