wind gods

Day 1 of the North American Kite boarding Course Racing Championship kicked off on the San Francisco Bay on Tuesday but you wouldn’t know it looking at this fleet. It might as well be the World Championships with 74 top ranked international sailors vying for their chance to move through the qualifying rounds and onto the gold fleet and finally into the top 10 for the final days of racing later this week.

8 races were run on the first day of racing in 12-18k of breeze with the each fleet getting off 4 starts on a double windward leeward course finishing with a tight reach just in front of crissy field- where the kiters are staged and an announcer keeps the crowds abreast of all the action.

Local San Francisco favorite and current two time World Champ, Johnny Heineken took form control grabbing the first 2 bullets in the yellow fleet while US sailors Adam Koch and Brian Kendal had to settle for the top 3. In the blue fleet, Riccardo “Ricki- Bob” Leccese from Columbia showed his dominance as well in front of socal’s, Bernie Lake and the top European sailor form Poland, Tomek Janiak who rounded out the top group. It’s as close as it gets with 12 points separating the top 10 racers after the 1st day of racing. The women are racing with the men in the mixed split fleet and current world women’s champion- Erika Heineken leads sitting in 28th place overall in front of Catherine Dufour from France and Nuria Goma from Spain.

The fleet had their share of challenges with a big tangle at the start of the 2nd yellow fleet race (1:55 in the video) and a multitude of obstacles on the course from incoming freighters, commuter ferries, the local fishing trawlers and finally the U.S.S Potomac steaming their way through the middle of the course and splitting the fleet in half! While this might spell trouble for any notice racers, the fleet displayed a huge level of professionalism and the race officials were quick to help detangle lines and get racers safely out of harms way.

There’s a huge effort to bring the event to a wider audience with live streaming and commentary from the St. Francis YC race deck, racer interviews, live tweeting from mark roundings and finishes and up the the minute scoring.

You might catch some of the AC72s on the course as well as several members of the AC after-guards have joined the kite racing crowd but unfortunately did not enter the event. Apparently they’re training for something bigger later this summer but with 74 competitors from 18 countries- this might just be the event of the year!

Racing continues on Wednesday June 5th and runs through Friday June 7th.¬†On June 8-9th, the kiters will join the Formula Windsurfing fleet for the San Francisco Classic and Ultra Nectar Challenge taking riders on a 40 mile + long distance marathon around the Bay. Stay tuned… – Steve Bodner.