KTA AsiaPacific Hydrofoil Series at the Samui Regatta 2018

It was a new experience for the KTA riders as they journeyed to Thailand to be part of the 17th Samui Regatta. The regatta was kindly providing the KTA with the opportunity to launch its new KTA AsiaPacific Hydrofoil Series.

 

Samui Regatta is one of the regions most respected and established sailing events. Attracting many international crews each year, who descend on Koh Samui for this prestigious regatta that also acts as the final stop on the Asian Yachting Grand Prix Championship. The Asian Yachting Grand Prix is a yearlong series that takes the sailors across Asia in a 13 event challenge, before crowning its champion in Samui. The winners of the championship this year were already known and a highly popular win it appeared to be to, as after 15 years of competing in the Grand Prix,  ‘Mandrake’ was finally donning the winners blazers.

 

For the kiters the week was a unique experience, integrating with the sailors and young dinghy racers, in an amazing action packed week on the water.

Procedures kicked off with the Youth Dinghy Challenge on the first weekend. This pitted 38 young hopefuls against each other in some closely fought racing, in Optimists, Laser and Fareast 11 classes.  It was a perfect opening for the regatta as the dinghies raced close enough to shore at Chaweng, to allow parents, coaches and supporters to cheer the young sailors on. This connected the regatta perfectly with the Centara Grand Beach Resort, who have hosted the regatta since the beginning and act as the regatta’s HQ throughout.

 
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Certainly talking with resort guests during that opening weekend, they loved the sight of the young sailors giving their all just off the beachfront, adding an unexpected and exciting bonus to their holiday break.

Following the official opening party at the Centara, the regatta then moved into open water and the big boat fleet racing.

The Samui Regatta boasts both keel and multihull fleets, broken down into IRC Zero, TP52 Division, IRC One Performance Cruising and multihull classes.  For the next 3 days the hardworking crews would battle things out around the beautiful island setting of Samui, in a series of windward/leeward courses and passage races. This was no mean feat given the ever changing wind and weather conditions, being generate in a mix bag of fronts coming off of the nearby storm systems.

 

This is though is what it’s all about for the sailors, the chance to not only pit themselves against each other, but also the elements and it was captivating to listen to the race reviews and dramas of the day with the crews each evening at the Regatta Tavern. A big thank you here in particular to the Aussie crew of Fujin, who took time out each night to enlighten us kiters about the days sailing action.

Mid-week the regatta takes a well-earned lay day. It’s a chance to recover and repair for the boats and to make ready for the deciding clashes of the week. For the kiters though, it was the launch day for the KTA AsiaPacific Hydrofoil Series. Unfortunately though the weather had other ideas and chose the day to provide the worst conditions of the week. So with a storm raging overhead at the kite beach at Mae Nam, the race officer called it for the day – it really was rain stops play!

However, what a difference a day makes as they say and next day it was all change. Blue skies and building NW winds greeted the kiters as they assembled for the mornings skippers meeting, so it was happy faces all round.

 

The KTA AsiaPacific Hydrofoil Series was finally underway. The first two races of the day were set on windward/leeward courses to give the fleet a chance to warm-up and settle into the location before Kite RO David Brookes, would send them off on a 32km long distance race between Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.

 
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Those first two races though would see some very tight racing throughout, as the AsiaPacific Hydrofoil fleet got the measure of each other. The races, which were being run over a two lap course, would see Malaysian rider Daniel Leow and Thai rider Rachan Taktin exchanging the first two bullets between them. Close behind them in their wake however was one of the fleet’s youngest riders, Max Maeder at just 11yrs old from Singapore. Max would hold his own with riders many years his senior throughout the day, claiming 3rd position in all 6 races – most appropriate it would seem with a race number of 03. Japan’s Kazumasa Sugihara was also making his mark in the top 3, showing what truly international field the KTA had attracted to its first hydrofoil outing.

 

Then without the riders returning to shore, the mid-session long distance race was a go. This would be a first for the KTA and despite two riders unfortunately missing marks during the course, all the riders made the 32km in good time. It would be Daniel Leow crossing the line in first place, with a finishing time of 38.12 mins to take the honors.  The riders were recorded reaching speeds of up to 26kts during the race, off of wind speeds that had now stepped up to between 14 – 16kts over the course.

After a short lunch break, the riders where back out on the water again for their afternoon session, to make the most of the perfect wind conditions.

Back on the windward/leewards, the battles recommenced again between Leow and Taktin for superiority, with the lead changing back and forth the over the 3 races. On the final race of the day it looked like Taktin had made a tactical blunder that would cost him his day’s ranking, as he came off the starting line in last position. However, with some masterful sailing over the upwind legs, he chose the lines that would him right back in contention and even back into 2nd slot, as he pipped the young Singaporean on the final finish line dash.

 

With 6 races now in the bag, the kiter’s scoresheet was open and everyone left the beach in high spirits to join the evening celebrations with the rest of the sailors from the Samui Regatta over at the evening awards in the Centara Grand Beach Resort.  And a tough day it had been indeed for the boat crews, many of whom had sailed hard for hours in their own long distance passage race. At one point this had brought them around the North of the island insight of the kiters, creating quite a visual spectacle in the ‘grandstand’ bay between Samui and Phangan.

 

June 2nd would be the final day, both for the Samui Regatta and the KTA AsiaPacific Hydrofoil Series.

The KTA riders were met with much lighter winds at Mae Man Beach, the breeze building more slowly to around 8/9 kts for the start of the first race at 11am.

There had been much talk overnight about the sizzling performance of the young Singaporean, Max Maeder and there was now great interest on the beach to see if he could hold his form today against the adult racers.  The dual between the top 3, was also being well debated, how would this play out in today’s lighter air?

The first race kicked off with a clean start and some close racing to the top mark. Then slowly three riders began to pull away and open up a gap that the rest of the fleet would not be able close again. Then, to everyone’s excitement on the beach as Malaysia’s Leow tacked early on the second beat, Maeder held his line and it proved to be the winning move – leaving him uncatchable as he rounded the top mark for the second time and tore off towards the finish line to take his first ever bullet.

 

However, in races two and three Leow reasserted his authority and returned flawless performances, to put himself back in top position once again. He was helped though early in race two, as Maeder drop a tact and had to re-start himself, giving Leow the break he needed to push ahead.

 

Yesterday’s other top rider Rachan Taktin, could not however repeat his top 3 finishing positions and was this time push out by Japan’s Sugihara, who proved more adept than the Thai rider in the lighter winds.

Sadly as race 3 was drawing to a close, the steady breeze the racers had been enjoying began to drop way. Unluckily for one or two of the back markers this would mean a ride home on the rescue boat, but everyone else made it to land safely under their own steam. That however was that for the day and for the first round of the KTA AsiaPacific Hydrofoil Series, as the wind refused to put back in an appearance in the afternoon.

Still with nine races in the bag in total, it was judged a successful event by one and all and a great start to the new KTA series.

For the sailors also it had been a hard fought day as they consolidated their respective class positions, from the almost untouchable THA72 winning 8 out its 9 races, to Sudu Red taking the Multihull class, Mandrake defending its Samui Regatta title on top of its Grand Prix win and our adopted Aussie crew pulling off their first bullets of the week.

 

Given all this on the final day, it was no surprise that spirits were high as the kiters and sailors came together for the finale Grand Gala dinner and awards night at the Centara Grand. With 500 guests, bands playing, race stories being swapped and photo and video footage running on giant backdrop screen, the awards for the week’s endeavours were delivered. Ending the 17th Samui Regatta and 1st KTA AsiaPacific Hydrofoil round in style.

The Samui Regatta was also joined by the team from Desaru Coast and JS Concert, who following the conclusion of the awards signed a contract for the Malaysia round of the KTA AsiaPacific Hydrofoil Series – this is set to take place later this year in November at Desaru Coast, in Johor. An area of 3,900 acres along a pristine 17km unspoiled beachfront, the location offers perfect conditions for the KTA to bring international kiteboarding competition to Malaysia for the first time.

 

For the Samui Regatta the kiters had received a great welcome from the sailors, making them very much a full part of the regatta family for the week and the kiters are already now looking forward to repeat the experince again next year. Many people and sponsors are of course involved to make a large event like this a success, but all respect to Samui Regattas Race Director Simon James and the KTA’s Willy Kerr for taking the step to bring the sports together – great result gents!

 

 
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Photo Credits – KTA Media and Chris Whitmore

Key kiteboard sponsors: Surf Spot Huahin, Iconic Studios, Moose Cider and the Kiteboard Association Thailand.

Key regatta sponsors: Centara Grand Beach Resort, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Amari, Ozo Chaweng Samui, Budget and Mount Gay.

Grahame Booker