The Kitefoil Gold Cup in South Korea has come to a close. A week of firsts for us all, and it certainly was not an event without it’s challenges. The first day on the beach brought enough wind to just about pull off two races. However due to the super light conditions, the funny wind direction and wind shadows, the course was full of holes which meant a fair few kites going for a swim. It wasn’t long before the conditions were deemed too unstable, and racing was called off for the rest of the day.
The wind played mind games with us all week, creeping up to the minimum 6 knot threshold just long enough to put the AP flag up and down in the air a few times, but never enough to actually start the race. Those who had come to ride were growing increasingly impatient, while those on the event side searched about for something to keep us all occupied and…well…. Distracted!
We got in a few pretty cool activities despite the absence of racing. Daecheon has quite a lot to offer for such a small town- think ziplining, paragliding, trail hiking, and wakeboarding to name a few. South Korea is a fairly pricey place to spend your time, so no cheapo beer spots. A can of the cheapest stuff is going to cost $2.50 minimum around here. Oh, but did I mention soju? It’s a rice wine, and by far and above the most popular alcoholic drink in South Korea. One bottle of 13-21% stuff costs about $1.50, and has a rocket fuel effect. We were fans, naturally.
One night we ventured into the town with a bunch of riders to check out a local seafood BBQ spots (not so many other food choices in this town). Along with some sashimi, clams, scallops, the usual…we were also dished up a plate of roasted mystery bugs, and dismembered octopus legs that were still wriggling. Well, when in Rome and all that!
We were fooled into a false sense of hope halfway through the week, when the wind briefly filled in long enough for everyone to gear up and hit the water. However the wind was fickle, and while some riders managed to catch a lucky gust to get off the beach and up on the foil, others were not able to make it past the shoreline before dropping the kite. According Leccese, it’s a combination of luck and skill that decides who makes it out onto the water in those conditions. It seemed almost unbelievable that he could be out on the water alongside fellow podium contesters Florian Gruber, Maxime Nocher, Theo Lhotis and Benjamin Petit- boosting 5 to 10 meters in the air, putting on a full on foil expression session in sub 6 knots.
Finally our wind frustrations were relieved on the very last day, when the wind reader showed 8 stable knots across the entire course. 4 races brought a clear result in the men’s division, with defending World Champion Maxime Nocher holding his prime position in every race. Riccardo Leccese of Italy kept the pressure on Nocher all the way, ending up in second place overall. “It really comes down to equipment in such light conditions” said Leccese.
In the Master’s division it was Ejder Ginyol from Turkey who came out as number one. He gave us a great interview this week where he detailed the strict diet and physical training he undergoes before each and every event.
The women’s fleet was 4 strong this time, with Kirstyn O’Brien (USA), Bitna Kim (S. Korea), Alexia Fancelli (Fr) and Anais Mai Desjardins (Fr). Alexia put on a stunning performance on both racing days, holding her position in first place right until the end, until the challenging conditions got the better of her and she found herself in a tangle. 16 year old Desjardins, having been hot on her trail throughout the competition shot ahead giving her sufficient lead to bag herself the number one podium position.
Unfortunately the wind remained too light to hold any twin tip racing this week, but by the end of the competition we were counting ourselves lucky to even have had enough to foil! That’s it for us in South Korea for this season, and although the next couple of months are somewhat up in the air event wise there are still plenty of exciting cats left to come out of the KTA bag over the next few months. It’s certainly not going to be long before you see us back on another beach catching up with more of the cutting edge action from the Asian kiteboarding scene.