St. Francis Yacht Club, April 18, 2013
by Eric W. Due
Thursday, 4/18/2013, kicks off the first race of the season for the STFYC Lagunitas Kite Course Racing Series held in San Francisco, CA, USA. The first scheduled night of 4/4/2013 turned out to be a teaser. The course was set, some kiters left the beach, but Mother Nature wasn’t quite ready. It became a practice night for the race committee. This Thursday shapes up to be a classic Crissy Field race night with good wind to start and racers ready to start the season strong.
World ranked racers back from the African Kite Racing Continental Championships are out in force including Johnny Heineken, Adam Koch, Erika Heineken, Bryan Lake and Brian Kender. All the locals are out in force and excited about kicking off the first night of racing this season. On the Cressy start boat we have Lynda as official score keeper and the Brown duo with dad Chris taking aim on the start gun and the official air horn blaster son Dylan keeping everyone in line. Most importantly a special thanks to the ever competent Master Robbie Dean from the STFYC Racing Office for heading up the race coordination effort. Kiters are on the water as Dylan blows the first heat ready horn.
The idyllic bay conditions brings out a couple of the AC45 Americas Cup boats. They mix it up with the starting kiters as they practice on the bay. The speed and angles achieved on a kite race board are put into perspective by these cutting edge racing catamarans and their crews that are foiling and speeding through maneuvers on the bay.
Bang! Heat one goes off in classic style with the fleet starting on Starboard. The current is flooding hard at four plus knots as kiters rip off the start line. The weather mark sees Johnny Heineken rounding first with Bryan Lake, Adam Koch and Brian Kender rounding in that order. Brian Kender is coming on strong as he passes Koch on the downwind leg. Johnny keeps his lead rounding the leeward mark with Bryan Lake close behind. Kender rounds with Koch staying close. It’s Johnny, Lake, and Kender just taking Koch with a photo finish. Chip Wasson takes fifth and World Champion Erika Heineken takes sixth overall in the heat and first for the women.
The wind lightens for the second heat with some kiters swapping to bigger kites from the beach. Bang! Heat two starts off similar to heat one with mostly starboard starters and a small group on port. The windward mark sees Bryan Lake flying past with Johnny, Kender and Koch following. Lake has a commanding lead on the downwind run but gets smacked by infamous Crissy swell and goes down just before the leeward gate. Johnny takes advantage and rounds leeward with Lake, Kender and Koch chasing. The finish of heat two is once again Johnny, Lake, Kender and Koch. Viljoen edges out Wasson by inches with a photo finish for fifth and sixth.
All throughout heat two the start boat was tossing around the idea of four heats for the night. The winds were looking good, until the end of heat two. Classic early spring Crissy winds keep us guessing right up to the start of the third heat. It is still flooding hard as the gun goes off for heat three and the wind drops. And we mean drop, to almost nothing at the start line. Port starters are Johnny, Kender, Lake, Koch, Erika and Stefaans Viljoen. This proves to be the tactical decision of the night. An inside puff at the port buoy carries the port starters off the line and out into the bay where winds are better. The fan shuts off for the rest of the fleet and the flood smacks all the starboard starters into the water. Literally. Not a single starboard starter gets across the line. While the rest of the fleet struggles, Kender puts in a strong showing and rounds the weather mark first, followed by Koch, Lake, Johnny, Erika and Viljoen. Kender is on fire and rounds the leeward mark still first. The race to the finish feels like the world was put on slow motion. Kender crosses first with Johnny having made up ground to cross second. Lake comes in strong but gets pulled away from the windless finish line by the flood tide. Erika comes in on an errant puff to take third. As Lakerecovers to line up for the finish, Koch comes in and battles for fourth. In an all time slowest finish, Koch edges Lake out by inches to take fourth and Lake takes fifth. Viljoen struggles to find a puff from the outside and manages sixth. The top six finishers are done as the starboard fleet is still helpless in battling the flood and lack of wind to even start.
Johnny takes first for the night while riding a Mike’s Lab production race board, showing the production quality and design by Mike Zajicek. Ozone kites continue a strong showing with the new Cabrinha Velocity kites being ridden by Kender and Lake as well as the ASV kites ridden by Koch and Viljoen giving strong competition.
The overall standings for the night are Johnny, Kender, Lake, Koch, Erika. See the link below for complete results. Thanks go out to all the volunteers, the St. Francis Yacht Club, all the racers, and to the new title sponsor Lagunitas Brewing Company for making the series happen.
Next Race: May 2nd, 2013
Lagunitas Brewing: http://lagunitas.com/
St. Francis Yacht Club Race Results: Lagunitas Kite Race Series Results
African Kite Racing Continental Championships: http://www.kiteafricans.com/