It should have become a demonstration of what kiteboarding has to offer to the Olympic Games - but if there is no wind, there is no wind...
Some of the fastest kite racers in the world came to Miami to participate in the kiteboarding demonstration for the Olympic Racing Classes Regatta on the final weekend of the Regatta.
The Regatta included over 700 sailors representing 58 countries. The kiters headed out to do the demonstration in an amazingly light wind forecast with their best low end gear. Winds were around 2 to 10 kts., averaging around 2 to 8 kts. with extended lulls in the actual race area.
As there was no chance to get permission to launch from Hobie Beach, competitors where shuttled to a nearby spoil island to get on the water.
It turned out to be possible to load competitors that would represent a full medal race fleet into one boat and bring them to the designated race area.
As winds were really light, with extended lulls of almost nothing (less than 2 knots), it was clear that trying to run a kiteboard race would be anything than easy, however the racecommittee in agreement with the competitors decided to give it a try and to showcase what kiteboarding could be to the race officials at the OCR event.
It should be noted that ISAFs race management policies require a stable 6 knots breeze in the racing area for boards which surely was not given in the area the kiteboard race was meant to take place. Apart from the lulls the average wind strength would never have been considered to be suitable to start a valid race, but for a demonstration event it was at least worth trying.
In fact, it was not only the kitebaorders that suffered from the light conditions, sailboats and windsurfers needed to be towed out of the harbour as well, respectively shuttled to the racing area. If we are talking about showcasing the sport to a wider audience than to sailors it feels questionable if races should be run in such conditions, when the boats can not even leave the harbour without outside help. One should think about downhill skiing, where competitions are cancelled when there is no snow, or ski jumping when competition is postponed when there is too much wind. Shouldnt we consider racing around a race course only if the conditions are there ? And doesnt this actually mean having some reasonable wind ?
Apart from these problems that all sailing classes had to face, the demonstration went pretty well. Once the wind decided to cooperate, the kites were up and planning immediately and showed better performance and low end speed than any other sailing class.
Most of the racers were way to the east just to the west of Key Biscayne. The winds were funneling down Bear Cut and being amplified off the western shore of Key Biscayne. As a result a wide variety of sailing craft were being ferried to the race area via powerboat. It would make sense to do the same thing for kiters and/or to do boat launch near the actual racing area in light conditions. Once the wind reaches a stable 5 knots breeze racing can already commence as an action packed spectacle
One can tell how light the breeze is from Damo's short wake, no whitecaps, lightwind riding !
Larger efficient kites that can develop good apparent wind, longer lines, constantly evolving raceboards and fins and a good deal of wind sense and tactics allow for riding in fewer wind from day to day.
Surely not everyone in the race was fairly light. Patrick at 6'2" weighs 175 lbs. but despite that was hauling butt in the light breeze.
One of the main advantages of kiteboarding is the insensitivity regarding competitors size and weight, making the discipline accessible to any type of athlete while providing a level playing field. Another advantage is that men, women, youth and juniors all compete on the same equipment, further reducing equipment costs.
Some of the competitors attended the awards ceremony of the Miami OCR after this interesting light wind testing day.
Kent and Patrick both touched on the economics of Olympic sailing competition. Large vessel racing is primarily confined to the more affluent countries. Smaller countries may pursue more realistic sports like kiteboarding, windsurfing, Lasers and the like. Many of these countries have Olympic team training programs in place, starting with kids and moving up to team membership in time. Kent indicated that the relative low cost and mobility of kiting gear gave the sport some distinct advantages.
In which other class can you load a fleet of racers including their equipment in a boat and shuttle to a suitable location...
Taking into account the given wind situation in the designated kite racing area which would have never been suitable for racing under "competition conditions" we still have to consider this as a quite successful test. It has shown the strengths and weaknesses of kiteboarding as an Olympic Discipline, but these weaknesses can be easily overcome by organizational means. As this was not an officially scheduled race, competition was not taking place in the best wind area of the bay and the race committee was not able to act as they would have done in a "fully recognized race".
Give us the time and give us the place, and sailing in the Olympics will have a new attraction !