A 50 km annual foil race – New Zealand styles!
The King of Waitamata (KOW) for 2020 was postponed from Aprils Anzac Day (thanks Covid-19), then postponed from November due to light winds, and officially and successfully held on Sunday 13 December 2020.
The foil event is held by the Takapuna Yacht Club. Entrants for the 2020 KOW included 5 x ram-air race kiteboarders, 10 x inflatable LE kite-foilers, and 10 x Wing-foilers (all approximate numbers). An NZ foiling-windsurf event was on the same day, so no foiling-windsurfers entered the KOW.
Conditions: The wind direction came in from SSW @ 210 degrees, and the wind speeds from the Rangitoto Lighthouses ranged from 20-30knots, averaged 23-25knots. Low tide was around midday, race started 1.15pm.
The race: Circumnavigate Rangitoto and Motutapu Island in an anti-clockwise direction start/end from the rocks off Takapuna boat ramp.
The race was split into three sections being: Section 1 – Starboard reach. Section 2 – Down wind. Section 3 – Upwind back to Takapuna.
Section 1 – The fastest section of the race, low sea state, legs start to feel it after 30mins on same reach, other riders are close enough to talk to.
Section 2 – Upto 1m high breaking swell in the channel, ride DW or slightly off DW to keep wind in canopy. Section 2 is about 45mins, field starts to spread out. Most foil riders fell off around 10-12 times. When talking to others afterwards at the bar, this was about average.
Section 3 – Starts off on port tack, flat sea state, some glassy areas behind the island. Cut in as close to the island as possible without falling off the foil. You eventually end up in cleaner but nuking wind as your first reach is towards Long Bay. Section 3 is around 1hr 15mins of a grueling upwind slog with a moderate sea state. The field has completely spread out, you may not see anyone for 15-30mins. You feel pretty small on planet earth if your equipment, or your endurance levels, failed. Its about now that you may question your sanity, question your equipment, or question if your legs are up for the challenge.
Top riders finished the circumnavigation in 50km, and ranged to approx. 55-60km for other riders. There is a 3hr cut off limit, so if you fall behind, expect to be picked up.
For the KOW 2020, the only mandatory item was a PFD. For those who are considering future KOW, DWers, or other long haul distances, consider all the normal water safety stuff: check forecasts, tell a friend on land, ride with a buddy, carry water proof communication and flares. Double check your canopy for damage before departure, double check screws are tight, carry tools, water/food if you wish.
Specifically for Wing-foilers: Incase of a bladder rupture, ensure your LE bladder and strut bladder are not connected. ie, if you have a one-pump system ensure you have pipe clips that are a) installed b) work/tested c) pinched off before departing land. Know what pressures to inflate your wing to for the conditions. Being multiple km off shore, consider attaching the wrist leash to a stronger connections for this type of off shore journey. Lastly, preferably you are confident in switching stance so you can ride heel side on port/starboard reaches. Not a requirement by any means, but you will suffer on the upwind leg if you only ride toe side.
Boards: Consider going big (your weight + 10% in L is fine). The race in 2020 was won by Sam Thom on a 100L board (or there abouts). This is mainly an energy saving thing as the semi/sinkers will suck your energy. This is a personal selection that you should think carefully about depending on your ability and fitness. In saying this, Eric completed the KOW on a 55L board (he must be about 75kg) and was happy with his volume.
Masts: Longer is better. You will feel more comfortable on a mast 85cm or longer (85-100cm). Perhaps we will start to see 1.1-1.2m masts for rough sea states..?
This is an obvious comment, just to be clear: Ensure you have the right gear for the journey. You can’t change your foils/stab/shims or increase the PSI of your wing.
KOW 2020 Wing-Foil Results
1st/Sam Thom/Axis/Axis/Ozone/2hrs 10mins
2nd/Mike Raper/North/North/North/2hrs 32mins.
3rd/Stefan Cook/Axis/PPC/North/2hrs 35mins
4th/Jonno Begg/Armstrong/Carbon Art/Armstrong/2hrs 35mins 20sec.
4th/Eric Waijenberg/North/North/Fone/2hrs 35mins 20 secs.
Apologies, unsure of all other riders details, please post below if you know the results.
If you are still reading this then a) you are addicted to foiling and b) you would have noticed that after 2hrs 35mins of racing, three wingers crossed the line within 20secs of each other, and both Jonno and Eric (and the race director) don’t know who cross the line for 4th place. Considering they were all on different equipment, spread out during the race, it was pretty cool that it was only seconds in it.
On a personal level, I frequently have a wing session for 2-3hrs, I consider myself to have average fitness, work a 9-5er and get out when/where I can, Im no gym buff and stretch a yoga move at best. Although I knew I could wing-foil for this duration, I had not foiled on a reach for 45mins. After 30mins (Section 1) my legs would not respond as requested. I didn’t have cramp, my legs would just wobble when jumping around the board and I would fall off. Even during a simple gybe about 2hrs in, I kooked it and ended up swimming.
A special thanks to the race organisers from the Takapuna Yacht Club, also congratulations to all kite and wing foilers who not only set out to circumnavigate the islands in conditions that were a bit of a handful at times.
I believe the next KOW is scheduled for Anzac Day 25 April 2021. If you are considering entering, the wind direction plays a huge role in the skill level required. I understand KOW 2019 was a N-wind which was a more desirable direction. Also consider if you are in to win, or in for the ride. The DW swell riding was pretty epic and worth the journey in itself.
Words: Stefan Cook (Dec 2020)