by KTA China
It the 2013 KTA Chinal Finals, after the whirlwind start to the season that gave us rounds one to three in just six weeks, everyone had the chance to kick back for a month, repair and recover before psyching themselves up for the Finals in Pingtan, China.
Running from the eighth - twelve May the KTA finals marked the second visit to Pingtan Island for the tour in what is regarded as China’s windiest location. Regular wind speeds of over 30kts are recorded over the winter monsoon season here and it’s so windy in fact that all of the island’s old traditional style stone houses need to have rocks placed on top of their tiled roofs to keep them in place when it blows.
The island is being trust forward as one of China’s economic development zones, which in the case of Pingtan due to its location gives it a focus on being the gateway into China for Taiwan. Which means for this formally somewhat forgotten part of the country it is now at full speed in its rebirth, with construction taking place at every corner that will turn Pingtan into a slick hi-tech business and commerce location over the next five years, something which even in the space of one year we could all see is moving at quite a pace.
Our hosts and sponsors for the event were the Management Committee of Pingtan Comprehensive Experimental Zone (the local provincial government) who provided not only the richest cash prize package of the season for the KTA China round itself at USD30,000 but also free accommodation and food for all the riders. This combined with our regular tour support and sponsorship from Cabrinha that adds an equipment prize table of USD15,000 worth of kit made this the richest KTA event ever. So as you might imagine this combination with the finals attracted a healthy slice of attention from riders far and wide. For the first time the KTA hit its max registration limit with 120 riders from 30 countries signing up well before the deadline date.
The event began with a formal but spectacular opening ceremony with all the riders lined up behind their country flags Olympic style, which with 30 this year formed an impressive sight. Speeches then followed to the thousands of people crowded onto the beach from a stage filled with the provinces top government officials, surreal but an amazing experience for us all once again and all topped off by a blast of fireworks to signal the event was underway. Well sort of as unfortunately day one was not to see any wind as it turned out.
Luckily though it did not stay this way for the whole week, although it’s fair to say that the wind did not live up to expectations for the location and unfortunately made things touch frustrating for the riders and hard work for the competition team.
Day two though greeted us with warm sunshine and a steady cross-offshore wind of around 16kts. So a tricky day for the freestylers who stayed firmly on the beach, but a high speed flat water heaven for the racers, who headed out to show the gathering crowds how we race kite style. With riders from New Zealand, Australia, the USA, Canada and Europe joining the Asia crew it was the largest men and women’s combined raceboard (RB) fleet we have seen that led off proceedings with the first of the week’s back-to-back races.
All eyes were on the KTA tours top RB riders Yo Narapichit Pudla (THA) and Ken Nacor (PHL) in the men’s fleet and Kathrin Borgwardt and Fon Benyapa Jantawan (THA) on the women’s side, to see how they would compare to the big names joining this event – Katja Roose (HOL), Nura Goma (SPN), Torrin Bright (NZL) and Climent Hermandez Alejando (SPN) to name a few. Certainly for the women’s fleet Roose was showing her world class level and dominated those first races, as she was to continue to do over the rest of the competition also. Both Borgwardt and Jantawan pushed again and again, but could not find the extra edge to get them passed Roose.
For the guys though a different but familiar story as Yo (Narapichit Pudla, THA) blasted away from start line in most races leaving the rest of the fleet well and truly in his wake. Yo has dominated the Asian RB class all season and even with the rest of the world in town, he still showed that he too was now a world level player. He did not however quite achieve a straight line of ‘bullets’ as Roose did, with Nacor and Alejandro both taking races off him, but overall from the shape of the racing as it unfolded there was never going to be any doubt of who be standing on top of the podium at the end of the week.
With 66 men and nine women TT racers registered the KTA race team had elected for a staggered start with the women’s fleet leading off to add some control to the start line dash, for KTA’s most popular discipline. Chinese interest was high for the TT racing with two very local Pingtan and Xiamen riders in the mix. Both 13yrs old Jing Yue Chen and Xiao Cheng Deng had made quite an impact on their first appearance into the KTA during the second round of the season as they both took podium positions, which they then repeated in the third round. Chen was also the poster girl for the KTA China round so it was clear that all eyes in Pingtan were on her as she took to the water.
Although only racing one lap in comparison to the RB two lap races, TT is just as hard fought at every level. At the front of the fleet you will see riders dedicated to TT racing and every bit as competitive as the RB fleet, while a little further back you can witness the private battles of the new comers and the not so serious that make TT class racing the open door class for every kiter to be part of the KTA experience. At the top though for men the season’s battle royal continued with the Philippine, Norway, China mix as Jay Ortiz (PHL), Atte Kapel (NOR), Doque Delos Santos (PHL) and Xiao Cheng Deng (CHN) again locked horns. Unfortunately, for the TT class the wind that began its fade on their first day of racing was to in the end keep them off the water for the remainder of the event, leaving them to complete only for races – in those though Delos Santos was to take three wins and Kappel one, giving them the lead on the pack for this round.
For the women things faired a little better and being lighter they manage to pull out seven races in total for the week. Chen on home water came ‘into her own’ and began to control the girls TT racing. Her season’s rivals though were not to let her have it all her own way as Anny Barlow (USA) and Rebecka Maudal (NOR) both took wins from Chen. Also guesting in the TT mix for China was a familiar RB face Kathrin Borgwardt, who showed she was equally at home on the small board and also took a top slot during the week. In the end though despite her young years Chen kept a cool head and brought home the gold for Pingtan and China – certainly a rider then to be looking out for in the future.
Following an overnight storm the KTA woke to a complete wind shift for day three and freezing conditions. It did however mean with the wind was back blowing onshore and getting up to around 20kts, meaning the freestylers could finally break loose. The men’s freestyle in particular was eagerly awaited with the likes of Victor Borsuk (POL), Nicolas Gambier (FRA), Michaeal Khromykh (UKR) ready to face off with the top Asian’s Ken Nacor, Yo Narapichit Pulda, Japan’s Hironobu Nakano and Vietnam’s Long Nguyen Duc.
For the women the medal hunt was on between the season leader so far Kristin Oja (EST), the UK’s Polly Crathorne, Aya Oshima (JPN) and Rachel Baglin (AUS). It was the women who took first heats out onto water and things looked good with the girls landing their passes and nailing the switches, but it was soon to become evident that the forecast was going to be right as wind speed begun to slowly fade. Not before however Oja again demonstrated she is the force to be reckoned with this season as she powered her way through to the finals that should have seen her up against Oshima. Oshima who has been improving round by round as the tour as unfolded was looking for that first win of the season, but it was a final battle we were robbed of in the end as the wind fell below 10kts in the early afternoon.
For the men the story was the same wind wise of course. The riders though began with so much promise and the battles we all had hoped for started to emerge. In the early morning strong winds Khromykh and Borsuk were displaying great skill and power in their mobes and passes as they headed smoothly through towards the final rounds. The top Asian’s were also on fire with Nakano as consistent as ever, seeming landing every move with minimal effort and Yo as always pulling out an insane combination or five just when it was needed. Only Long seemed to be struggling a little with the cold conditions, missing passes he sticks a thousand times over as numb fingers refused to catch the bar. In end however the wind was the left the master of the games and left the guys high a dry before they could complete their final rounds.
So a little disappointing for all concern that we did not even make it through a full single eliminator for the freestylers, the first time this has ever happened on the Asian Tour. On the positive side of things a valid result had still been achieved as enough rounds in total had been completed, although it did leave the rather bizarre outcome of four guys in first place, with two of the girls on first and two in equal third.
The KTA competition team was determined as always to squeeze the most it could out the day and once again in lighting time set a new race course and managed to deliver another RB class race before the wind finally did disappeared completely. This meant once again the skills of the KTA rescue crews were back in action, something they had fine-tuned only the day earlier with a 40 TT rider rescue when the wind stopped completely in the space of 10 minutes during the final race of that day. The Pingtan finals where certainly proving to be a challenge to riders and race team alike, but everyone was meeting it fair and square and enjoying it to the max.
The last day for the KTA 12/13 Asian Tour, thankfully appeared with much warmer weather in tow, sadly though the wind was not choosing to come along with it. However, it did at least hold enough strength to allow a further blast of racing and thankfully with a Sunday beach crowd of thousands and a wind direction that allowed the race officer to set a ‘close to shore’ course, a great morning’s competition unfolded.
Both the RB and the women’s TT saw action, giving some riders the opportunity to consolidate their earlier positions, while others changed their fortunes and pulled themselves back up the rankings. For the RB men though it was still Pudla, Alejandro and Nacor who controlled the pack, while in the women’s fleet Roose remained dominant over Borgwardt and Jantawan. For TT though it was Chen all the way as she put in some crushing wins to seal the deal on a much loved local home win for China.
Still in the end this was Pingtan and what do you do in Pingtan when the sun is out and the wind has gone – the KTA is in town and thousands of people are crowded onto the waterfront to see the action? Well its easy you teach them how to dance!
Yes once again the KTA dance and this time crowd singing phenomena erupted and the atmosphere for day and for the whole event was left on a fantastic high with riders and locals joining together to enjoy an afternoon in the sun.
What an event then from bikini’s to snowboard jackets and back again. A challenging event to end an amazing KTA season, one with many new friends made who we all hope to see again next season for the KTA 13/14 Asia Tour – see you then ………