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My first wingfoil race ever : The Wingfoil Racing World Cup & Europeans 2022 #Kookoftheday

Back to beginner…. My first wingfoil race ever! A bit of a change; Instead of jumping, spinning around in the sky, flying or racing around with huge kites and a race foil, I will be racing around with the “tiny” wing. A few months ago I finally had a board with straps and made my first jumps and real rides again. Nothing special, I never expected I would like the “winging thing” like this. So, yes it was a bit of a spontaneous decision. But already driving a lot of kilometres the past weeks and days, this was a piece of cake. From Greece to Lago di Resia and back again to Lago di Garda before going back home once again.

It`s always fun to try something new, to learn more about different things. And if not now, when..? The only way to improve is to try different things…

So I went checking out the wingfoil racing discipline. My first wingfoil race ever: Back on the place I dived head first into my first ever kitefoilrace & Kitefoil Europeans some years ago – still a lifetime adventure. The start of my adventures racing career on foils next to all other “things”  & freestyle disciplines – back at: Lake Garda.

My first wingfoil race ever : The Wingfoil Racing World Cup & Europeans 2022

Without any knowledge or look at the race formats, jumping into the deep. Same I did during the kitefoiling Europeans. A lot has changed since then. I think the same will happen in wing foiling as it is exploding the past years. It is great to be a part of it and experience it first handed. To see what the wingfoil racing is all about and more important if I can do it & if it is really fun. I remember the kitefoiling was pretty impressive for me with all teams around and on the other side just me – myself and I. Well, nothing changed in that, but I got more confident, in developing myself into the best athlete I can be without a team.

“If I let go who I am, I become what I might be”

As you can guess these days there exist a lot of “first times”, even more moments;  “I should have a” , the usual:  “next time I bring” and the.. “I should have trained”.    The biggest surprise I had was the moment I realized… when I arrived the foils outside connected to race (kitefoil) foils, were for winging, not for kitefoil racing (Why did Nobody told me that..?). I have my kite racefoil in the car, unfortunately no board to attach it to for wingfoiling….but if I only had known…..

For me it even was the first time winging with a “race wing foil”. I always used the 1280 ( a big front wing), but for this event I used for the first time a 850 frontwing. Which I thought a foil is a foil, clearly not. This smaller one had way less lift  (duhhh) and with my small sinking board, it wasn’t easy to get out or I needed a fairly big wing to pull me out. Let`s not talk about my tacks & Gybes.  It is what it is, the only wing equipment I have for now.  A shorts mast, small front wing and a big wing, no harnas… : Kook of the day and ready to race! 😊

Kook / kook/ “A kook is a nut or a weirdo – in other words a crazy or eccentric person”

The first day of racing:  We started with a long distance course with a rabbit start. Which means that at the end of the countdown a boat with a rabbit (floating banana thing) behind will pass over the starting line. The moment it passes you, you’re allowed to pass the line and start racing.  We went all 65 together at the same time. It’s a long race, with a reaching start around the mark, a upwind mark, a reach and back downwind to the finish boat. To the opposite of the lake and back. The first race we tried the island as upwind/reach mark, that didn`t work (something with no wind behind the island).  This race we had to re – sail with an upwind mark slightly before the island.

I had to get used to the starting, because the wingfoil is slower than a racefoil. Don`t mention the riding that much upwind ( and going that slow).  After a few meters, not even reaching the first mark – yet, didn`t know what I had started. I almost did regret it… I never sailed that much upwind with my wing and never that far, that mark seems to disappear further and further. My hands, arms and shoulders were slowly falling apart; “Am I really moving upwind..?!”. During this I realized why they were harnesses (discovery of the day..), at least I had a great bicep workout this day..

With the usual splashing, pumping, restarting, wingfilppin`and crashing ( that damn wingtip of the wing), I finally made it to the mark and still had the reach so I still had to hold on the full power of the big wing. And finally we could go downwind.. I was a bit too enthusiastic, went that fast (- not used to going fast and a short mast) the frontwing came out on a wave (reminder to myself- the mast is a tiny bit shorter as my foil mast…). And another crash, some pumping and straight to the finish line were I still could overtake some. Ending up 4th.

The races after were difficult for me with a huge windhole at the first mark. Just at the moment I came and had to turn (offcourse). Yup I went collecting my:  deep Lake fishing scores with my sinking board and small frontwing (dnc – did not compete) … I never made it to the starting line being locked into my own windhole on the bottom of the lake. Twice….At least one race the wind was gone for everyone.  Time to wait for the wind to change direction.

That’s the typical Garda – wind. The wind of lake Garda is thermal,  There are two typical winds around: Pelèr, the northerly morning wind, and Ora, the wind from the South, which usually starts after the Pelèr drops down. And tends to be a slightly lighter breeze.

Second day of racing: We did a downwind slalom, because of the lighter winds. An early start of 9AM (!). During this fun little races I kept on dragging the wingtip in the water and crashing. While after the start until the last mark I was on a 4th position.  Might be because I was also pushing it too hard to go faster and faster. But it was so much fun! … Better a big oops than a what if, at least that’s what I think.

It took me forever upwind to get back to the starting line where I just made it in time – straight into the starting sequence of the next race. My arms had another heavy day. I discovered a lot this day. Were we (as kitefoilers) go for pressure they  (as wingfoilers) go for pumping . Were we sink, struggle and swim to keep the kite flying, they just chill and float around! Or pump like crazy and try to get back up the foil… At least no wet foil kite this event… I still  remember the gras in front of the hotel filled up with 70 foil kites after the wind switched off at the Kitefoil Europeans.  So today, I had some 5-6 -8 scores. The last race I went deep Lake fishing scores with my sinking board (dnc)…That scores I never made it to the starting line being locked into my own windhole on the bottom of the lake.

The afternoon wind kept on teasing us and never became strong enough for wingfoiling – Although I am pretty sure with Kitefoiling the jury would have send us out…. to just try…

Third day of racing:  never happened. The wind never showed up for real.

Fourth day of racing: Was al about upwind starts and not the usual reaching starts. And a upwind parcourse for a change.  Unfortunately the day started with a lot of rain, no wind at all. Later the wind came with the rain (because why not..?). Super Strong wind gusts, “waves”  … The first start attempt we couldn’t see a thing, just rain, rain and rain and we were send in again. To be honest the rest got send in.. I never went in at the first place. After a bit more of the waiting game it was time:  Go big or… go home is becoming a statement this year I guess….since I had only one big wing to go with.

After 4 upwind start races in strong wind…. And the flag of the starting sequence goes up agaaaaain… my arms are still hanging on there. This one was actually fun!

Note to self: stop dragging the wingtip around and into the water, it will safe some splashing before the marks or a minimum of 2 crashes every single (!) race … Blame the short arms, the one and only big wing I brought or the 75cm mast . After all I had some decent scores 4-5-5-6, and..yet also the opposite some 9 -11 & DNC.`s

Definitely a lot of fun & surprising to do something different in the racing discipline! Still a lot to learn.. 1000 crashes, 1 tack and an 8th place at the end of the WingFoil Racing world cup & Europeans, my first wing foiling race ever…and a little bit less of a “kook”

……Next time I come with a bit more prepared race skills Thanks for the racing,  fun and ….on to the next one!   The expert in anything was once a beginner after all!  

Mariska Wildenberg
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