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2012/10/01 von CORE Kiteboarding

Speed is King

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UK CORE rider Gary Powell started at the World Speed Championships in the south of France. Here is what he experienced at his international contest debut.

Amongst the 20 pre-qualified riders list for the World Speed Championship in Salin-de-Giraud was current British champion and all time fastest British speed kitesurfer Dave Williams. Another British speed rider in contention to qualify was a kiteschool owner and CORE rider Gary Powell. Gary checked out the criteria and decided that a GPS track from a very successful speed session in Sept 2011 may be fast enough to qualify for the championships, this was the same session that saw Gary 2nd fastest in the UK for 2011.

The wait for Gary was torture as they would not announce the final qualified riders until 3 weeks prior to the event. In the meantime he rode nothing but his speed boards built by Mike Pacey in all conditions including the chop and swell of the Irish Sea just to condition his legs to the level needed for a high level event and adjusted his diet to include more protein to help repair and strengthen muscle. He used all wind conditions to learn the limits of the Core Riot XR2 which were pretty new to him having used them in the school for just 2 months. This trip would be a good test for the XR2 to see just how versatile they could be. After a long wait Gary received notification of qualification and after discussions

The course was in a Salin pond and had a maximum depth of 50cm and a salt concentration 10 times that of normal sea water

The first morning started with a wind-less visit to the event site, this was a 5 mile drive including 2 miles of dirt track and a stone slab restriction allowing the 2 British riders  van just 2” either side to get through, they had to park on a dry pond bed 2km from the actual speed course and were then ferried in 4wd pick-up trucks to the speed course. The course was within the Camargue national park in a Salin pond and had a maximum depth of 50cm and a salt concentration 10 times that of normal sea water.

The course was set out such that there was a large buoy that had to be tacked around at the upwind end of the course that led into a 200m conveyor area, this is where the riders were to enter slowly and begin to space themselves out by the end of the 200m to allow the rider in front to initiate his 100m run-in to the first camera line of the 500m course. There were a row of small orange buoys on the down-wind line getting slightly wider further down the 500m course then one yellow buoy marking the 500m camera at the end of the course and the score board on the shore. The event would not go ahead in much less than 20 knots of wind and it was announced that a round would not be valid unless at least 3 riders achieved average 500m speeds of 30 knots + twice.

On the first day it took a little longer than anticipated to shuttle 40 riders and equipment to the speed strip. Only 2 riders from the fleet had managed to exceed 30 knots within the 1.5 hour round so unfortunately the round didn’t count which was quite a bad thing for Gary as he had placed 12th using his 11m Core Riot XR2 to great effect against the larger kites and heavier riders. The British No 1 Dave Williams had a bad day mainly with kite size choice and only managed 20th place.

Shifting winds, inconsistent performances

During the competition the wind often switched more Westerly so “square” and increased meaning the bigger guys who ride powered gained the advantage over the lightweights once again. A pattern that started to emerge was that in marginal conditions Gary was getting better results, in more powered conditions and square course his results slipped.

When the wind switched more NW and slightly dropped it was 11m weather again for Gary. It was quite noticeable a lot of riders were underpowered with big lulls and wind switches but there were still loads of riders over 30 knots mostly on course boards which was pretty amazing with the depth of 50cm maximum. Things still didn’t click for Gary managing 24th in that round with Dave getting back into the groove ending up 10th in that round

Both riders proving age is no limit to ability with Dave being 39 and Gary 48

The last day. As the final 1.5 hour round started Dave as always was happy to stay powered and run square on his 12m. Gary set his 9m on the first pigtails with slack back lines to cope, this method seems to work well with the Riot XR2 as it still turns well in what would normally be overpowered conditions. Even on the last day the wind didn´t blew .

Dave ended up fulfilling his goal of a top 10 placing with a fastest 500m speed of 33.55 knots. Although at first Gary was disappointed at his 24th place with a top speed of 31.89 knots he soon realised he was just 4.54 knots slower than the winner Rob Douglas who’s top speed was 36.43 knots. He returned home very positive about his future in speed riding. Both riders proving age is no limit to ability with Dave being 39 and Gary 48 and that the UK can produce top class riders able to hold their own against the best in the world. The most important insight was that Gary sees high potential with the Riot XR2 for speed riding due to the ability to soak up gusts and cope well when de-powered to the extreme. This is quite a big ask from a kite that he also teaches on but it does seem to be doing both jobs well.