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2022 Lepanto Open European Championship, Nafpaktos – Greece

2022 Lepanto Open European Championship, Nafpaktos – Greece

Nothing to lose and all to gain!

Guess what …?!? I drove down to Greece (!);  all the way through Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo…. After a year without kitefoiling, just briefly picked it up again a few weeks before the Europeans. A dusty foil and some far away left behind skills…Not remembering the last competition I did in kitefoiling. Not only the competition I forgot about.. also how to gybe. The first sessions I did this year,  I didn`t gybe – telling you without shame. Crashing the kite and not getting it, and yet in strong wind too scrared to gybe at all… My gear is not ready, I am not ready. But I felt ready to try, to just give it a go and give it my all, all I have and all I can give for now – with the dusty skills still left.

Nothing to lose and all to gain! I do have a lot of competition experience somewhere so why not…dig it out?!  I am participating the kitefoil Europeans again!

And, it is what they say to me at the event side, and they are right; “at least you are here”.  And that`s true I subscribed myself and I am right here, right now, living life and competing. Making the way all on my own. Responsible for my own subscription, van (house-storage-kitchen-lounge-vehicle), gear, performance, financials and all else you can think about. So there we go:

The 2022 Lepanto Open European Championship, Nafpaktos – Greece

After some weeks (3) in Greece, Nafpaktos, Drepano, Paros & Naxos. We made some long days on the foil, did some bridge passing, island visits, racing, line ups, scary launching. And we had fun! Especially with the small kites. Time to subscribe, register the equipment, a practise race and the opening of the event in the old port of Nafpaktos.

The first day of the regatta, race day 1 –  We all got a lovely warning from the Greece government: “Upcoming storm, stay inside, don’t travel if not needed”. Looking outside the window of the van. I  already know enough – seeing the dark sky (as I have never seen before here).

I could hear the skippersmeeting (from out of my bed): “Heavy rain and strong winds are about to arrive in Nafpaktos”. Yep.. and because of this storm we are grounded by the Greece authorities. “That means kiting is illegal today.  No cruising, no training, no racing, no fun?”.  Better safe than sorry. And especially on the difficult launching area we have here; tarmac (some launch pads – nets) and some stones on the way in. So we are grounded by the Greece authorities today.  It felt like a day of great kiting is taken from us, feeling the perfect wind – but having no clue what is behind the hill and what the dark clouds around the hills will bring us.

The only option today is to use the launching area for something different,  a new sport, wingskating! 😊 Which was a lot of fun. We made a track, some heats and did our own race. The whole day the weather didn`t seemed that bad, but in the night it was.  I could experience live from the spot sleeping in the van.

After a rough night with a lot of rain and wind, it seemed nothing happened the second first day of the regatta. It was super light wind, sunny… the girls went in first for 4 races. Difficult conditions, we started with 21m weather. The second race I couldn`t fight it anymore, the tip of my 21m kite folded and I got pulled out of the track just before reaching the upwind mark for the last downwind. I decided straight to change smaller. A bit of work if you are alone, pack one kite, unpack the other one and all in between races; “with a little help from my Greek friends”. I couldn’t even land the 21m without getting pulled over the launching area. Just after I went out again: the wind dropped a bit again (off course). First I had the downwind speed and angle, now it was the other way around, cause the other girls were mostly on the bigger kites and faster downwind. I ended up 11- 14 in my fleet, doing the x2 course (Which means, upwind and downwind  round x2).  Racing was super close and tight.

The moment the girls did a full round of 4 races, the guys had to go in. Right at this moment (offcourse) the wind started to become gusty, which made it hard to land & launch (we went all out with big kites). The guys went in with 23 and some 15 (around the same time we get out) .. it started to become shifty and super gusty, with big differences in wind speed. After two full round of the man. The situation on the shore became a bit scary. It was hard to launch the foil kites, kites flying away, three people holding one, every second it was getting more sketchy and.. the race director called it off for today – no more racing and launching of kites. It was getting to dangerous and wild – you only needed one minute at the beach for that, good decision after all.  To see kites taking off, people running to the far end of the launching area, flying kites everywhere…

The fourth day of the regatta – raceday 3, was a hard one.  The guys will go first today, after the girls – if there is time left (read; daylight and wind). The guys are behind in number of qualifying races, so they have to catch up some races.   Meanwhile the rain is passing in the morning, they (the machines) are fixing more space in the launching area.. to avoid the hectic day we had before and have a little more space to launch.

7 hours (!) later after the skippersmeeting, we (the girls), could do some stunning sunset racing. Two more races before the light wind became too light.. I went out with the 15m but after one race it became too light but, no time to change this race.  Just have to deal with it. We made it back on shore just before the wind died of completely. And with this the qualifiers are done. 

The fifth day was a looooong day again. We were waiting for the wind forever. It came and it dropped, it picked up and it dropped below the average of 6 (!) knots. Today we race in the bronze, silver and gold fleet. I became 29 so just not good enough for the goldfleet. Silverfleet it is once again! Good to know I am still on the same spot , balancing on the edge of silver and gold. Without a lot of  training.  First the both (man and woman) goldfleets had to race. It took super long before the wind became a little stable and after some races in the goldfleet, the wind died. There was no more day and wind left to finish the gold fleet races. Not even think about starting with the rest of the fleets.

The sixth day  the wind was perfectly ………offshore. Gusty on the beach, hard to make it outside through the stones, without breaking the foil or crashing the kite. After the gold fleet had some decent racing in good wind, the rest of the fleets was send out. I made it just on time,  straight into the race, perfect start – not touching the watch. The first race we had a lot of wind which was good, because we all went on 15meters.  You can guess already;  the other races it became gusty, shifty again. A bit of pumping was involved (because we all went out on the kites based on the wind of the race before – and no time or chance to change with the offshore conditions). After all, I found myself leading the fleet some parts of the race. Battling it out with just the three of us at the front of the fleet was fun. Ending up second and third.. without even thinking about the tactical decisions ( – my bad). And forgetting we did B2 after the whole week of a X2 course. That means a reach (straight ahead) before going downwind.  Note to self; check the start boat to see what track we are actually doing, before racing starts (how could I forget..). Well, it wouldn`t be me if I didn`t had a strange move in between…The last race involved some double tacking but it didn`t harm the outcome: 2nd 3rd 2nd and 3rd.  After our races we had a hard time coming back to the shore in this offshore conditions.

A formula kite competition without a wet kite wouldn`t be a competition right..? So just before I made it to the shore.. (I was still figuring out how to..? do that without crashing all into the stones) I dropped my kite in the water. Well, I have to practise my self-rescue at times too. Good thing I ended up on the beach with a nice place to dry and a shower 😉

The Last day of this regatta is all about the finals. The top 10 men an woman do the medal series and the rest of the participants do one last race – which counts double. So don`t you dare to leave! BUT it wouldn`t be Nafpaktos if the wind was strong again and … except the final riders, the rest got released (means set free for the day – no last race). Because launching a 100 kites in this conditions doesn’t make any sense for one last race. Too dangerous, and they were right. For watching the finals a perfect day!

Congratz to Max & Lauriane for winning the European title of 2022!! See you all the next season. For me it was the last foiling competition of the year, since the Netherlands didn`t use all the spots we had for the Worlds. They just got one spot and none for the Europeans. Here I could register myself, because the Netherlands was missing as country, for the Worlds I need to go on the waiting list – hoping for someone not showing up or being injured. That`s not something for me. Wish you all the best of luck and a lot of fun at the Worlds!

I could definitely say I had a great time in Greece! Seeinng the islands, training with all different groups, the rush of competing again. Bringing my van all the way round – going back by boat through venice (33 hours) and the fernpass once again this year (7th time). Thanks for racing and everyone for being my anqour in the strong wind, foil bringer whenever needed, kite catcher, kite launcher, you’re the Best!  😊

“Nothing to lose and all to gain!

Mariska Wildenberg

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