Foiling and kites: could this crazy fast combination be the best spectacle in the Sailing World Cup?

A new event for foiling kiteboards has been made for the first time in this year’s ISAF Sailing World Cup. It looks the perfect side of crazy and some are already saying this could be the future of the sport of kiteboarding.

The event will be held in Melbourne from 7-14 December and is in an important event in crews’ preparations for the Olympics, and the addition of kiteboarding classes gives sailors points towards their world ranking and a chance to check in with the best in the world.

With all ISAF Sailing World Cup events having 200 ISAF ranking points on offer, Melbourne has already attracted kiters from Germany, New Zealand, Croatia, Italy, Russia and the host nation

The main difference between kiteboards and their foiling kin is speed. Ben Morrison-Jack is both a sailor and converted foiling kiter.  He says: “A formula race board can do 17 knots upwind and high 20s downwind whereas kite foils do 19-20 knots upwind and 28-31 downwind. And that’s in 15 knots of breeze.

“The sport’s only been around for a couple of years; it’s going to be off the charts before you know it,” he foretells.

There is less drag and therefore extra speed propelling the sport’s exploding numbers; but less banging on the legs also means riding foils is gentler on the body.

The concept of foiling kiteboards isn’t new but it’s been popularised in the market in recent years and is seen by many as the sport’s future. Early models were awkward and involved ski boots and a wakeboard. Now it’s flying the same kites on the same courses, but instead riding a specialised hydrofoil board.

Queensland’s Lisa Hickman is one of a handful of Australian women kiters competing at the international level.  She’s new to foiling and may battle it out in this exhibition event at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Melbourne, as well as in the open formula competition, where she’s taking on French champion Ariane Imbert.

“The open competition is super competitive and that lifts everyone,” says the Queenslander. “It’s a very exciting time in the sport,” Hickman agrees. “A lot of equipment has come online and it’s been hard for the racers to decide which equipment to use and specialise in.”

An average of 30 kiters usually make up the division at the world cup in Melbourne.  At this time of transition it’s difficult to predict final entries say those involved.

Host club Sandringham Yacht Club has embraced kite racing and made the kiters feel so welcome and very much part of the event Hickman continues, “SYC race officer Steve Aulich has travelled the world to upskill and this has made a massive difference to the professional organisation of kiting events for our community.”