Please select your home edition
Edition
Mackay Boats

Olympic double medalist on Kite Boarding in the Olympics

by Bruce Kendall on 3 May 2011
Brett Sellers (helm) and Bruce Kendall (NZL) sailing in the Tornado in the Breitling Regatta Breitling Regatta http://www.breitlingregatta.org

Olympic Gold and Bronze medalist, and multiple World Windsurfing Champion, Bruce Kendall writes on the topic of whether Kiteboarding is too dangerous for inclusion in the Olympic Events Regatta.

Kendall's background a credentials are set out at the end of the letter. As well as his windsurfing expertise, he has been kiteboarding since 1997 and says it is now his main recreational sport.

He writes:

I have been surprised and shocked by many 'experts' regarding kite-boarding being in the Olympics.

In a recent article, the 'ex – pope' of yachting encouraging the decision makers to 'have courage and have a leap of faith and replace windsurfing with kite surfing' tops the lot.

They may have been seduced by the high numbers of recreational kite boarders around or kite boarders’ impressive speeds and jumps.

In my opinion anyone supporting kite surfing in the Olympic Games is ignoring a number of serious issues relating to the sport.

Rigging, Launching and Landing

This is the most dangerous part of the sport.

Kite boarding requires a lot of space. The lines are normally 25 to 30 meters long and the kites 6 to 16 meters square. The Rigging, launching and landing area should be clear of obstacles and the wind should not be gusty.

The rigging, launching or landing areas should have steady clean wind, should not be too small, too crowded, or have too many obstacles such as trees, structures such as signs, poles, power lines, buildings fences etc or be too close to a busy road, airport, cliffs etc.

Launching and landing a kite normally requires assistance of a most preferably experienced person to hold the kite while the 'Kite Boarder' controls its flight.

Nearly every kite boarder has had a launching or landing 'Kite Mare' or 'near death' experience. Some have died or been seriously injured.

Seriously dangerous
Kite boarding is closer to wake boarding and para gliding off cliffs and mountains than it is to sailing.

I upgrade my equipment every few years. The safety systems have improved a lot and the wind range and depower systems have also advanced.

Kite boarding requires one to be strapped to a large kite and harness the wind -which as every sailor knows, can be unpredictable. Sudden wind changes can happen quicker than any reaction time and put the rider and those around in danger. Once one is moving at very high speed or more than a few meters in the air, it can be difficult to have the presence of mind to make the right decision to eject or it could be physically difficult due to injury or 'G' forces.

Persons that may get hit by the kite or tangled in the control bar or lines may also suffer serious injury.

In the past 10 years in NZL there have been two deaths from Kites and well over 20 serious injuries requiring major corrective surgery.

In Almanarre France during the last 10 years, there have been 4 deaths.
http://www.kitebeaches.com/kitesurf/loc/l__almanarre.html

In the last ten years, it has been reported that globally there have been 121 deaths due to kite boarding.

I can find no statistics for those being seriously injured, but would expect them to be significant.

Statistically, Kite boarding is clearly the most dangerous sailing sport.

Conditions Required for Kite Boarding / Sea Worthiness

A common rule for most kite boarders is 'don’t go further away from land than you are prepared to swim.' Off shore winds can be dangerous.

Most kite boarding equipment cannot get up wind in below 10 knots of wind.

Gusty, shifty and unstable conditions are extremely difficult and potentially dangerous, especially if there are up draughts, very large gusts or storm cells. There is some pretty impressive footage on YouTube with kite boarders landing a long way inland, or amongst buildings, [not always ending up in good condition.]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4J9mHbJIgo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZ7irhS1l04&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kw76CYPqizY&feature=related

Static build up in the air, such as before electrical storms, builds up an electrical charge in the kite and lines and when the 'pilot' lands from a jump, they experience an often unpleasant and some times very large electrical shock. Most kite boarders will not stay out long in those conditions.

Danger summary.
Kite boarding requires a lot of space on and off the water.
Kite boarding requires trained assistance to launch and land the kites.
Kite boarding requires stable cross-shore or on shore wind conditions of more than 10 knots or a security vessel.

Kite boarding must be treated with the same respect one needs for Paragliding off mountains & cliffs.

Common kite boarding competitions.
Free style.
Hang time
Course racing / marathons
Speed sailing

Freestyle
This is the most common and interesting to watch.
Competitions involve a small number of competitors going out at the same time in the same area and are judged by a panel of judges on the execution of free style tricks.
As with any 'judged sport' the decisions are not always considered fair and correct.
This event requires more than 12 knots to be of interest.

Hang Time
This is involves timing how long one stays in the air.
It is often run in conjunction with free style events as the equipment is similar or the same.
This event requires more than 15 knots to be of much interest.

Course racing / Marathons
These are run the same way as a sailing race.
This is the most attractive event for older windsurfers and kite surfers.
The board designs are very different and are often the deciding factor.
Evolution of the equipment is very fast at this time.
The rules are not well established globally, the numbers of events and number of competitors globally are low.
The required logistics are often too specialized to have an event with racing every day for a 5 or 7-day series.

Speed sailing:
Unless there is more than 25 knots of wind, this is a non-event.
Records can only be made in above 30 knots of wind.

Kite surfing competition summary:
Judged / subjective sports are not that suitable for yachting.

Apart from free style and hang time events, the equipment is specialized to the point where the equipment and conditions often make the biggest difference, not the skills of the rider.

The evolution of equipment is still happening very quickly and a one-design format is too early to establish.

In summary:

Kite boarding is currently not suitable as an Olympic Sailing Sport.
It is too early to establish if it ever will be.
At best, it could be a 'demonstration event' separate from the Olympic Venues and without official Olympic Class status as the windsurfer class was in 1984.
Kite surfing should be welcomed to be part of the ISAF World Cup tour to help establish if and how it could fit into the Olympic Sailing arena.

Bruce Kendall’s background credentials on this subject.

Bruce has been closely involved with windsurfing as an Olympic sport from the moment it was made Olympic and has not left the sport since.

- Won the Olympic Bronze Boardsailing Medal in 1984, the Gold in 1988 and fourth in 1992.
- Won the Olympic Class World Championships in 1993 and second in 1994.

- Helped his sister Barbara Kendall win her Olympic Gold medal in 1992 and her silver medal in 1996, Nickos Kaklamanakis’s Olympic Sliver medal and has worked with and coached Aaron McIntosh, JP Tobin, Tom Ashley and the HKG and Chinese Windsurfing teams.

- Currently coaching the HKG RSX team and intends to retire from coaching as his main vocation after the 2012 Olympics due to family reasons.

- Coached Sharon Ferris & her team to second in the 2003 World Yngling Championships.

Kendall clearly has a good understanding of Olympic Yachting in Windsurfing and kiteboarding and the regatta format generally and what would and would not work.

He started kite boarding in 1997 and it has become his main recreational sport when conditions allow. He has judged in the 2001 New Zealand Red Bull Kite Boarding Championships.

Kendall believe that he could coach kite boarding as he could any other form of sailing.
Southern Spars - 100Mackay BoatsProtector - 660 x 82

Related Articles

A Q&A with Charles Pessler, the regatta director of the legendary STIR
I corresponded with Charles Pessler, STIR’s regatta director, to learn about the event’s recent changes and evolutions. I recently corresponded via email with Charles “Chuck” Pessler, who is serving as the regatta director of the legendary STIR, to learn more about the changes and evolutions that have taken place at the event since my 2010 trip to racing paradise.
Posted on 22 Mar
New Pacific 52 class makes its debut in San Francisco
The first of two new-build Pacific 52's from Auckland's Cookson Boats is now sailing in San Francisco. The first of two new-build Pacific 52's from Auckland's Cookson Boats is now sailing in San Francisco. Invisible Hand for San Francisco's Frank Slootman replaces his earlier RP63 of the same name. She will soon be joined by a second Cookson build, Bad Pack (Tom Holthus) from the same moulds. A third, RIO 52 is for RIO 100 supermaxi owner Manouch Moshayedi.
Posted on 18 Mar
A Q&A with Chris Woolsey, regatta chair of the Miami to Havana Race
I talked with Chris Woolsey, regatta chair of the Miami to Havana Race, to learn more about this exciting race to Cuba. The 2017 Miami to Havana Race is set to begin on March 15 and promises high adventure-both sailing-related and cultural-for the sailors lucky enough to be participating in this historical-and for now legal-race. I talked with Chris Woolsey, regatta chair of the Miami to Havana Race and SORC race chairman, to learn more about this exciting race to Cuba.
Posted on 13 Mar
Gladwell's Line - Of Carnage, Characters and Colour
About this time of an America's Cup season, the sap begins rising as new boats are launched About this time of an America's Cup season, the sap begins rising as new boats are launched, and Cup fans get their first sight of the various team designers' response to the latest America's Cup Class rule. In the monohull days, of course, we initially only got a partial glimpse thanks to the shrouding practices adopted by all teams to hide the nether regions of their America's Cupper
Posted on 13 Mar
Caleb Paine on winning a US Sailing Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Award
I talked with Caleb Paine about his recent US Sailing Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Award and about his Olympic plans. On August 16, Caleb Paine broke the longest-running medal ceremony dry spell for American-flagged Olympic sailors since the 1930s when he captured a bronze medal in the Finn class at the Rio 2016 Olympics. I recently caught up with Paine on the phone to talk about his proud US Sailing Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Award and about his future sailing plans.
Posted on 10 Mar
A Q&A with Lloyd Thornburg about his love of fast boats and racing
I recently caught up with Thornburg to learn more about his program, and to gain insight into racing MOD70s offshore. Not too many world-class sailors hail from the high deserts of Santa Fe, New Mexico, but Lloyd Thornburg isn’t your average sailor. The 37-year old investor flies the New York Yacht Club’s burgee from his fleet of raceboats that have included a Gunboat 66, a MOD70, and a Farr 280. I recently caught up with Thornburg to learn more about his program, and to gain insight into racing MOD70s offshore.
Posted on 8 Mar
So what’s it really like?
For ages now, these editorials have talked about multihull this, record that, outrageous boat speed and 24-hour runs For ages now, well it seems like that anyway, these editorials have talked about multihull this, record that, outrageous boat speed and incredible 24-hour runs. In their own very unique way they totally represent the technical avant-garde, and thank God for that. Where would we be without their impressive shapes, wonderful rigs, and now of course, foiling magic.
Posted on 6 Mar
JJ Giltinan 18ft - Kiwi Champion the subject of two protests in Sydney
Overall series leader Yamaha will have her position put on the line in a series of protest hearings on Friday Overall series leader Yamaha will have her position put on the line in a series of protest hearings Friday morning in Sydney. She faces two claims - both from Appliancesonline (David Witt). The first is an attempt to re-open the Hearing held on Wednesday morning after Yamaha was suffered damage in Race 3 as a result of a collision with a give way yacht, and Yamaha received redress of average
Posted on 3 Mar
A Q&A with US Sailing’s Malcolm Page about the Sailing World Cup Miami
I spoke with Malcolm Page, US Sailing’s Olympic chief, about the team’s performance at the 2017 Sailing World Cup Miami I talked with Malcolm Page (AUS), a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the Men’s 470 class and the chief of Olympic sailing at US Sailing, to get his pulse on the team’s performance at the 2017 Sailing World Cup Miami and discuss some recent coaching changes within the Olympic-sailing program.
Posted on 20 Feb
America's Cup - Emirates Team NZ give first look at the pedaling AC50
Emirates Team New Zealand formally christened their new AC50 America's Cup Challenger on a rainy Auckland afternoon. Emirates Team New Zealand formally christened their new AC50 America's Cup Challenger on a rainy Auckland afternoon. The team has been sailing for the previous two days making news headlines after it was revealed in Sail-World.com that the AC50 would become only the second yacht in America's Cup history to use pedal power.
Posted on 16 Feb