The Baijin KTA China, (the event that almost did not happen due to the bad typhoon damage and flooding the region experienced only a few weeks before) turned into an absolute classic giving us……
The event all topped off with a cracking awards night and pool party, with even more fireworks!
The location for the second round of the KTA 10/11 was on the island of Hainan that sits off the south coast of mainland China, the only truly tropical part of the country - something much appreciated by us all, with palm trees and sun...... you can’t go too far wrong. With all stops being pulled out by the Hainan and Wenchang local governments in the wake of their recent flooding nightmares, they still somehow managed to fully support the Baijin KTA China making us the only event still allowed to run this side of the New Year.
Wenchang is a new kiteboard location discovery and what a perfect one it is too - long wide sandy beaches, a large flat water bay protected by a reef around 2km out to sea, wind all year round and the 5 Star Baijin Holiday Hotel backing it all up as the title sponsor for China. Although in reality the wind could have been kinder and did not quite reach the forecasted 20kts but the venue still provided us with competition each day.
Things began pre-competition with the Bruno Sroka race clinic, supported by KTA head judge Stephan Hertig and the IKA’s Markus Schwentner who gave the race rules and Olympic bid updates to kick things off. Then it was over to Bruno for the rest of the afternoon for a wide ranging clinic that took the riders not only through the practical on water race skills, but also race strategy and the preparation that goes into becoming a world champion racer. Sponsored by the KTA’s tile brand sponsor Cabrinha, Bruno also joined all the races as a non-scoring rider, showing the rest of the fleet the level they need to be aiming for. Perhaps not surprisingly Bruno did actually win each race.
The first day of competition began with a formal Chinese opening ceremony with speeches from the top government officials to welcome the KTA and wish everyone luck, watched and applauded by some 1000 spectators on the beach. Then with an explosion and a bang the air filled with multicolored smoke fireworks and the Baijin KTA China hit the water for the first racing of the event.
With the TT and race board classes together, both the men’s and women’s fleets raced at the same time. The current Asian and KTA tour champions Yo, Hill Siu and Kathrin Borgwardt were again to show that they were still on top of their game, but new faces also emerged into the top slots throughout the afternoon – Aya Oshima from Japan and Dennis Wong out of Hong Kong both making an impression in the TT class and showing the shape of things to come.
Day two opened with better wind so attention was turned to the men’s freestyle which began well, but a change in wind direction was to turn the heats into a rider and judge’s nightmare. After the successful opening heats we reached a point where Francios Bacquet and William Bourget must have thought they were in ‘Groundhog Day’ as three times their heat began and was then abandoned. Happily for them the head judge and race officer decided enough was enough and after a short break moved back into racing, which ended with a mass two-leg downwind race as the days wind finally dropped out – quite a spectacle was seen with 60 riders setting off from either the beach or the water, a start we know that our race team will not be forgetting quickly. Still in the end with all riders home safely the KTA headed into Wenchang town for a taste of the local nightlife and party magic, this all fired into action along with one of our tour sponsors, Maelstrom.
Into day three and the conditions finally allowed Francois and William to complete their heat that saw William coming out in front. Things then progressed smoothly as faces from past KTA events and new kids on the block fought it out in some spectacular rounds of freestyle as we moved towards the single eliminator finals. Yo (Narapichit Pudla - current Asian champion) this time struggling from injury, was to still battle it through to the finals against Nobile team rider Mike Blomvall. Hiro Nakano the 16 year old champion from Japan was also showing well as was Kin Nguyen ngoc from Vietnam. In the end Mike was to prove just a bit too experienced for the Asian riders and took himself into first place. In a smaller women’s field, Marielle Van De Riet from Holland, Nao Degawa and Aya Oshima from Japan where to give the current KTA champion Kathrin Borgwardt a hard run through to the finals. However this time it was to be Aya who pushed kathrin into an unusual second place.
With the freestylers resting, the race fleets took back to the water again in the mid-afternoon to also enjoy the stronger wind conditions and gave the local crowds new to the art of kiteboarding and for the judges some of the best racing action of the week.
Hopes were high then as we headed into the fourth and final day of competition to complete the freestyle double eliminators at the Baijin KTA China, but as you might know, when it comes to the wind gods, the best forecast for the week turned out in reality to be the worst. There was however enough in the end for some further racing to take place which thankfully brought the competition to its close in the way that it always should, out on the water.
In the fading light of the afternoon the riders, supporters, beach crowds and officials all gathered for the closing ceremony. Attended by the head of the Hainan province Communist Party, the dignitaries and government members thanked and toasted the riders and KTA for introducing them all to the new sports world of kiteboarding and pledge future support and welcome to kiteboarders from the world over for further competitions in the future. The results were then read and the winning riders brought to the stage to receive flowers, trophies and a great deal of clapping, giving the KTA a very official and different finish to an event.
However, as the night fell, the beach BBQs sprang into life and everyone gathered for the final prize giving award and party. This time more familiar to one and all and of course being a robe and pool party, the riders and locals saw out the end of the event in true KTA fashion. Much more could be said of course, but hey you should have been there……...........So don’t miss the next one. See you in Vietnam!