PKRA MONDIAL DU VENT, LEUCATE: 12-18 APRIL 2008
WORDS - Steph Bridge / www.edgewatersports.com
We arrived in Leucate, south of France, with a 50knot mistral wind blowing, rain and not the most pleasant weather to get out and get some practice in. Wishing I had packed the 5mm wetsuit, it was decided that we needed to slowly put the boards together with Dirk Hannel (North International production manager) who had just flown from Australia with four new race boards and some proto fins which were just perfect. The wind had dropped by the afternoon to nothing, so we kept the suits dry for the firstt event day tomorrow.
Hadlow misses out on top spot
It was an early start with 8am briefing on the beach ready to go. The wind was getting up and the freestyle event kicked off at 09.30am with the trials. Keeping warm in between heats and getting the right size kite for a gusty offshore wind was pretty crucial. The freestyle completed all of the single elimination in an increasing north wind and plenty of sunshine to enjoy. The crowds were out and the beach scene was buzzing with a the sky full of kites and the most amazing backdrop with the snow covered Pyrenees. We were definitely in the south of France now!
In the men's the singles was won by Kevin Langeree with Aaron Hadlow in second. This was a clear win for Kevin who consistently landed all his tricks cleanly in super challenging conditions. For the Brits, Lewis Crathem got through three rounds of singles and Tom Court got to the quarter finals before getting knocked out. Sam Light and Ali Barrett also sailed well in a couple of rounds before their demise.
The girl's singles was won by Bruna Kajiya with Gisela Pulido in second. Jo Wilson had bad luck with a lack of communication as she did her heat which should have been the heat after. By the time she had realised and got back on the water she'd missed three minutes of her heat. Gutting.
Hustle and bustle on a packed grid
Since there was a chance to compete in one of most famous French watersports events, 'The Mondial DuVent' I had decided to give this a go. Fresh with a long distance rashie, a flare and a quick call to chairman Rich Gowers to confirm that I had BKSA insurance, I arrive at the startline with over 70 kitesurfers. I made a good clean start first off the line but then soon realised that my course race board which I had been working so hard to sail closer upwind was now needing to take me across the wind (fetching or reaching) super fast. Rafael Salles and the F-One team clearly had the edge in what was a slalom race with each leg being approximately two miles long and a leg burner from hell! After the first long distance race I swore I would never do it again, but after I came in finishing in the top 10 ( I think 8th) I decided to have a another go. The whole thing became more challenging with the course set even more downwind. It was a good experience and it gave me some big start practice and it was great to be part of such a big race.
By 5pm the first course race began. This was downwind of the long distance and took place in front of the event site using a triangle course. We had two races which I got a first and a second result. I was happy, although had been leading the second race and got caught out on a windshift on the last thirrd of the upwind leg. I was lit on the 9m Rhino 08 with the Prisoner board and felt very quick upwind. It is a constant process of development, I am still not going as well as Sean farley who was clearly had an edge over all the men's fleet. He secured a first and sixth with Charles Deleau scoring first and second. Denzil Williams from the UK was going well in his second year of course racing and secured a couple of top 10 results.
After a long day in a wetsuit it was time for the opening ceremony back at the tent with fresh oysters and a free bar - what a great way to finish the day!
Carnage at the marker
A fantastic sunny morning with a freshening southerly wind that built to produce a superb afternoon of course and long distance racing. The three races took place with an exciting start off the beach where plenty of spectators littered the beach and cliff tops. In the men's, all three races were won by Sean Farley and in the ladies, I secured second, first, first with Gina Esteva close behind with a first and two seconds. By the end of the afternoon's racing all of the competitors were exhausted and feeling every ligament in their lower legs. Johara Sykes-Davies from the UK persevered and gained better results during the day on her new North Phantom. Jo Wilson decided to see what all this racing was about and got herself a directional board to ride but had legs on fire after race 1, so decided to get back on the North Phantom! which is proving to be the race board of choice. With the long distance race going on at the same time as course racing, competitiors had to make a decision on which to focus on. It seems that F-One dominated the long distance with Alex Caizergues in the lead and team mate and boss, Raphael Salles, taking part in the course racing. The sea was a spectacle of coloured kites and it was fantastic to be surrounded by so much activity. Tomorrow is forecast for 40 knots from the north so should make for a fun freestyle double elimination!
A morning briefing at 8am was had in a bitter north mistral wind with the sun low in the sky and the last thing most people wanted to do was climb into a wet 5mm wettie! The double elimination was the order of the day until 4pm when the course racing would begin. It was 5 or 7m weather and it was all about timing the squalls with the right kite size. Not a lot different to the Uk really!
In the ladies, Johara went through to her third heat and Jo Wilson got through two heats before getting knocked out even after landing an aerial handle-pass. Gisela went on to win undeniably with powered kite loops, slims and doing everything more powered than Bruna.
In the men's, it was Kevin that took the PKRA title in France with more tricks in his heat than Aaron. Kevin had been clever to have an extra kite
in the air ready to go if the wind dropped so with the bigger kite he was able put on a blinding show. Another one getting the crowds going though was Ruben Lenten, free-riding with the biggest kite loop we had EVER EVER seen. Forget watching these on video, to see Len10's mega loops in the flesh is just amazing. Done in a white wetsuit with a spin of the bar in mid-air along with a tweaked grab, Ruben definitely kept the crowds happy today.
By 4pm the course racing began in a strengthening mistral. Sean Farley continued to dominate the men's with Sami close behind in second. In the women's I secured a first and second place on a kite and board that all of the men were over-powered on. During the evening Mr Franz Olry was to be seen sporting his new kite and pulling off tricks that Robby Naish would be proud of, but also showing us that he can do ALL the new school stuff too. This guy is one of the sport's true legends.
Tomorrow is more racing with a freestyle day off.
PKRA Day 5-8
The PKRA course racing continued with three or four races each day. The course varied and many of the competitors not doing so well started to drop out with fatigue! Men and women raced together with the most exciting day on the Thursday with 30 knots of wind and a breaking swell that seemed to build out of nowhere. The buoys became buried and it was all about survival. This was my best day, finishing fourth overall, just behind Sean! I won the ladies racing with nine points, in second was Gina from Spain on 24 points and Fabienne D'Ortoli from France with 26points. After seven days of racing everyone was ready to leave with thoughts and ideas on how to win at the next PKRA which will be held in Portimao, Portugal in July.
On the Saturday after the event we headed to the cable park just near Port Leucate. Aaron had informed the boys he would be there along with the cable world champion! A bright sunny day and this place was just insane. We had a great deal at €10 for however long we wanted and the kids went for just €5. We watched Aaron for a while who was landing sick moves with huge pop, making it look SOOO easy. He was by far the best rider out. The boys got onto the platform with no fear.
It was a boardies over wettie day for sure and we realised very soon it was all a bit more tricky than it looked. The whole cable experience was awesome and I would recommend it to any kitesurfer or freestylist wanting to improve.
By the time we got to the beach in the afternoon the wind was 25 knots from the south - this place is just windy all the time! It's either blowing hard mistral or from the south and the forecast is always showing less wind than there actually is!
For more info on the PKRA tour, visit their website: www.pkra.info
Steph Bridge is sponsored by North Kiteboarding and runs Edge Watersports in Exmouth, Devon, UK. www.edgewatersports.com