“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

RONSTAN Bay Challenge – Kite Class: A good time had by all

Posted by direwolff on June 1, 2008

The Kite Class of the RONSTAN Bay Challenge was very exciting. There’s also a Formula Windsurfing Class, but as a participant in the kitesurfing race, it’s tough to keep up with the windsurfing action since they start the race 5 minutes before us and go much faster. Special thanks shout out to both the St. Francis Yacht Club race committee for managing this event and all of the volunteers who participated in the effort. Also, thanks to RONSTAN for their long time support of such a great event.

The event is broken down into two days, with the first being the long distance race which goes from Crissy Field, west towards the Golden Gate Bridge approximately a half mile to a windward mark, then back down wind (east) all the way to Berkeley for the leeward mark, then back up the St. Francis Yacht Club for the finish. The weather was very uncooperative with light winds under 20 kts for the down wind leg, and foggy skies the whole race. The upwind leg showed signs of life with winds ranging up to the low 20 kts.

There were lots of choices to be made in terms of how best to reach Berkeley and the different strategies paid off in different ways. The top three racers split at Alcatraz with one of the favorites, Shawn Richman, staying close to Angel Island the whole way down, while Chip Wasson and Anthony Chavez stayed on the city front side. Shawn’s down wind strategy paid off in spades giving him what seemed like an early 1 to 2 mile lead by the time he crossed the Berkeley marker. Nils Stolzlechner and John Gomes like Shawn, also went down on the north side of Alcatraz and were eventually joined by Chip and Anthony rounding the leeward mark. At this point, Shawn’s board became a hindrance and Chip, Nils and John were all able to catch him on the up wind leg between Berkeley and the St. Francis Yacht Club finish line to claim 1st, 2nd and 3rd place ahead of Shawn’s 4th place and Anthony’s close 5th place finish. The standings for Saturday’s race are as follows:

Position Skipper Finish Time
1. Chip Wasson 14:22:32.0
2. Nils Stolzlechner 14:25:24.0
3. John Gomes 14:27:07.0
4. Shawn Richman 14:30:57.0
5. Anthony Chavez 14:32:34.0
6. Chris Brown 14:37:29.0
7. Pierre Wolff (me) 14:41:00.0
8. Bret Herscher 14:45:03.0
9. Steve Gibson 14:45:14.0
10. Gabe Brown 14:56:41.0
11. Vlad Moroz 15:06:47.0
12. Tim Jackson 15:21:23.0
DNF Bill Kiriakis
DNS Raymond Dieter

Start Time was 13:10:00.0
DNF = Did Not Finish
DNS = Did Not Start

Bill Kiriakis who got a DNF had actually passed both Chris Brown and I on the upwind leg but suffered a fallen kite incident from which he could not recover as we passed by him. Sadly, he was only 4 reaches away from the finish line. Also noteworthy is that the top 3 finishers were all using boards designed and built by Nils.

While I had been advised that we might get strong winds on the way back up wind, I still elected to ride the Eclipse 14m Thruster and didn’t regret it one bit. It was nicely powered on the way back only requiring me to sheet in 1/3 of the way a couple of times, and provided plenty of kick on the down wind leg to even pass a couple of the racers around me.

Sunday brought the course racing legs of the RONSTAN Bay Challenge. This consisted of three races encompassing two laps each with markers that went from Crissy Field to approximately a quarter mile from the Golden Gate Bridge. Starting position is key to doing well in this race and it’s very tricky timing. This is similar to the Thursday Night Cabrinha Race Series most of us also participate in, so the riders were all experienced racers.

This event was dominated by the three favorites, Shawn Richman (19 year old kitesurfing prodigy who moved from Maui to attend U.C. Santa Cruz), Anthony Chavez and Chip Wasson. These three riders took turns at coming in 1st, 2nd or 3rd, with Shawn getting two wins and a 2nd place to win the overall event, Anthony taking 2nd, 3rd and 1st place finishes, while Chip took in 3rd, 2nd and 3rd place finishes. It certainly seemed like Shawn was riding with a mission after having been caught from behind in the previous day’s long distance event.

The Standings for Sunday’s course races were as follows:

Position Skipper Race 1 | Race 2 | Race 3
1. Shawn Richman 1 | 1 | 2
2. Anthony Chavez 2 | 3 | 1
3. Chip Wasson 3 | 2 | 3
4. John Gomes 6 | 5 | 4
5. Nils Stolzlechner 4 | 6 | 7
6. Bill Kiriakis 5 | 7 | 5
7. Pierre Wolff (me) 10 | 4 | 6
8. Bret Herscher 9 | 8 | 9
9. Steve Gibson 8 | 9 | 10
10. Geoff Headington 7 | DNF | 8
11. Tim Jackson 12 | 10 | 11
12. Raymond Dieter 11 | 11 | 12

The winds were howling at 25-27 kts accompanied by an ebb tide which made for perfect racing conditions. General strategy on where to make jibes played a major role in these races as well as the impact of small mistakes like falling off one’s board during a jibe, or spacing out and missing the location of the finish line altogether, as happened to me in the first race in what led to my 10th place finish…d’oh! Where some riders dominated on the up wind legs, others had a clear advantage on the down wind legs. When all is said and done, everyone had an enjoyable time racing under sunny skies.

For this race, I tried to go with the Eclipse 12m Thruster, but the winds were just too overpowering and since my 10m has yet to arrive, I settled into my 10m Best Bularoo which worked like a charm in what was sometimes very gusty conditions. Something about the nice long throw on the Bularoo bar which really opens up the range of this kite.

After the races, Bill our other friend Charlie, who unfortunately couldn’t race due to an arm injury that he’s allowing himself to heal from, and I went out under the Golden Gate Bridge to catch shoulder high swell. Steady rollers going from the top of the south tower down to the east side of the north tower. Amazingly well shaped swell. We lasted about 45 minutes before yelling “uncle” as our legs were mush from close to two hours of racing followed by this surfing session. Nice way to end the weekend :)

*** Update 6/2/08 @ 9:05am: There was a photographer on the start boat named Sergei Zavarin who took a bunch of pictures of the event. Unfortunately, because they’re for sale I can’t link to them, but you can view them for free on his SmugMug page at


4 Responses to “RONSTAN Bay Challenge – Kite Class: A good time had by all”

  1. Jonathan Buys said

    Well done Pierre, sounds like a great weekend, and loved reading the race summary, very insightful. Wish I was with you guys but was out in Martha’s Vineyard for the week/weekend, and am in New York for the week, BUT, back Saturday so lets ride!

  2. p-air said

    Jono, you were definitely missed. At least if you were going to miss this race you made it to a beautiful location.

  3. srq kiter said

    Why was shawn’s board a hinderence. WHat kind of board was he using? Looks like he was using the a Kafka directional similar to most of the other boards in the race..

    “Shawn’s board became a hindrance and Chip, Nils and John were all able to catch him on the up wind leg….”

  4. p-air said

    Shawn was using some tri-fin directional, not a Kafka board, and wasn’t able to cut upwind very well. Hence, why he lost his huge lead to Chip, Nils & Johnny, and almost lost it to Ant too.

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