Foil kites that have transformed the face of course board racing were given a reprieve when kiting’s governing body dismissed a mooted ban, instead opting for two sail classes in the Formula discipline for the coming season.
The International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) decided on Tuesday (Nov 4) that Formula will have both foil and tube kite division from January, to the relief of racers who switched to the new generation of kites that left Leading Edge Inflatables (LEI) off the pace.
Details have yet to be worked out on how organizers will cope with two separate podiums and the split of the prize money. But the IKA’s annual general meeting envisaged that the tube kite class would be more relevant to “bronze” fleet and entry-level riders, encouraging new entrants to racing.
Some delegates at the in Palma de Mallorca conclave argued the foil kite revolution was a key reason for the steep decline in entries to world and continental championships. Riders wrong-footed by the innovation either chose not to join events flying uncompetitive tube kites, or had difficulty obtaining new generation foil kite quivers as just two manufacturers – Ozone and Elf – had put resources into their development.
Markus Schwendtner, IKA CEO, foresees that the Formula kite dual class is a stop-gap measure ahead of a fresh product cycle in September 2015, though it could become long term. With the move the IKA now hopes other manufacturers will join the foil-kite fray.
Already three kite makers, including Flysurfer and StarKites, have requested specifications for foil kites from the IKA for the up-coming product cycle. St Petersburg-based Elf kites has also said North Kiteboarding (NKB) may make a version of its highly-successful Joker 5 foil under licence for the new registration window after it helped NKB team riders Steph Bridge and Maxim Nocher clinch the men’s and women’s 2014 world course board titles.
Ozone Kites, whose Chrono foil so took the race scene by storm this season, is already working on refinements for its next iteration and will likely see the IKA decision as a big endorsement of its ground-breaking strategy.
“This decision was a clear message that we want to keep foil kites,” said Schwendtner. “There is simply no way to go back with the performance that foil kites afford, especially in light winds.”
In another effort to ensure the progress of Formula kite – especially among local fleets seen as a feeder pathway – the IKA established a working group on a “one-design” White Board Concept that would see riders competing on identical equipment.
The measure, aimed primarily at club level racing by keeping entry costs down, won quite a lot of support from delegates.IKA officials will meet industry representatives in February to gauge the level of interest for the plan whereby manufacturers would produce a single design of course board, kite, and fin set – each of which could be given the maker’s own branding – under licence. A meeting of the IKA working party is set for 1 April.
In another effort to keep down escalating costs and avoid an “arm’s race” it was also decided that Formula kite fins should be made only of glass / epoxy (G10 / G11 or a generic material) as moulded carbon fibre fins can become prohibitively expensive.
Writer: Ian MacKinnon
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