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The HTC Atlantic Kite Challenge

23 Dec

Tuesday December 17th The Arrival

In Uncategorized by allard / December 23, 2013 / 1 Comment

By sunrise, land was visible in the distance on the horizon. What so many believed to be impossible, was now a reality! We headed to the coordinates on the north side of the island, where we were scheduled to meet someone from the Big Blue Unlimited team to give us some additional equipment, in order for all six of us to ride in at the same time together.

As two boats pulled up, we all gathered on deck. “Look there are people” Camilla shouts, as we see new faces for the first time in weeks. One boat with the gear, and another following behind it with our families! Everyone jumping and shouting across the water as we had a first glimpse of being reunited. With loved ones in sight, everyone was motivated to get the procedures going, and make landfall. We waited for a rain cloud to pass, and the wind to restore, and started launching kites. Usually a launch requires at least 4 team members, so getting us all out was gong to be tricky, but with the help of the sailing crew, who had watched it done countless times, we went for it.

Dennis first, myself second, Camilla third, then Filippo, Ike, and finally Max. As I tacked back and forth around the Double A, waiting for the rest of the team to join, I began to see kites on land raise into the air. One by one, they started to line the beach. The local riders were all coming out on the water to ride with us in for the final stretch!  Timing worked out perfect that Max hit the water at the same moment the group of kites reached us, and we all set off in the direction of the island together. With the help of the local riders, we checked off the final leg of our trip. Once we got as close to the island as possible, we loaded onto the yachts, as girlfriends jumped into the water unable to wait until land to give their welcome home kisses.

As we pulled up to the Blue Haven Resort, music was blasting and lights were flashing, flares in hand, as everyone stood cheering us on at the dock. We signed a few necessary customs forms, and hoped off of the yacht and onto the long awaited dry land! A moment filled with so much joy, still difficult to step off of our safe haven the Double A, we have all been so happy to come to know as home. With a brief moment to share some much needed hugs and tears with our friends and family that came to support us, we were escorted to the stage by the Governor and Premier of the Island!

The energy and excitement of the incredibly warm welcome was everything we could have imagined and more. Truly a night of celebration!! After the welcoming ceremony, where we were honored with trophy’s, ribbons, the Turks and Caicos official flag, and congratulations of all types, we pulled off our wetsuits and equipment vests for the final time of the journey, and got ready for a party we’ll never forget. Champagne and celebration were in order to share the last part of this experience with all of the people that gave us the time and ability to be here in the first place.

The people of the Turks and Caicos, and the Blue Haven Resort and Marina are absolutely amazing. We couldn’t have picked a better place to arrive and realize the dream that has driven each of us for so long now. Although in so many ways we never wanted it to end, the completion of this adventure was worth every bit of hard work and dedication that it took to get here.

Over these last 27 days, we learned to work together as a team, and push the boundaries of not just adventure kiteboarding, but also overcoming obstacles and struggles against all odds. We learned from each other, shared our joys, as well as our fears as we conquered them together. We learned to trust one another, save one another, and challenge one another, proving if you never give up, anything is possible. We chased the sunsets for over 6000km’s, into the dark of night, and back again to the beauty of the morning sun. We experienced the deep blue water, and the wildlife that gets to call it home. We got a feel for how small each of us are in this amazing world we live in, yet also felt how connected we all can be within it, working together for one purpose. We confirmed what we set out to do from the beginning, if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go as a team.

Thank you all for sharing and being a part of this journey with us, and we look forward to the next chapters, both with Enable Passion, and in each individual journey. Not just for each of us on this crossing, but all of the dreams that will be chased and new stories that will be lived and told throughout you all. If only one person is inspired to go for that thing in life, that gives you a spark in your eye, then we achieved our goal in every way. Chase your dreams, never give up, do it with unstoppable passion, and make our world a better place!

By Eric

17 Dec

December 14th, 15th, and 16th 7784 km’s

In Uncategorized by allard / December 17, 2013 / 1 Comment

As we get further and further into the Caribbean, everyone is wearing their wetsuits less and less. The temperature is hot, in and of the water, even at night. The final days between our distance goal, and the white sandy beaches of the Blue Haven, have continued to be testing ones. Considering we only planned provisions for being at sea for 21 days, and now are at day 27, our rations are depleting fast. We finished off the end of our milk and juice two days ago, and the last bottle of water yesterday. The only drinkable liquids left is the tap water supplied by the water maker. It doesn’t taste the best, but we are making due.

Our equipment is seeing the wear and tear as well. We had another kite explode due to having a GoPro attached to the leading edge. We also lost our favorite board of the trip as Ike did a backroll kiteloop, came down too hard, and broke it nearly in two. We are almost out of batteries, and have only enough to power the few lights we have left to continue riding at night. Our VHF’s have been failing, leaving us just enough to keep operations going, and have lost function of all of our dog trackers, making watch much more intense not having a way to locate a rider if visual is lost.

Even the wetsuits and vests are looking faded after being in the sun and salt water for so long. Our bodies have been holding up well, but the wear and tear is showing on us too. Filippo and I both have been going without wetsuits the longest, and have bloody bandaged up sides to prove it. As you look around each of us seem to gain a bandage or a bruise each time you look.

We have faced some intense night time weather systems, with squalls causing the wind to range from 11-38kt’s and back again. During one launch procedure, Dennis got hooked onto the dinghy, and was drug underwater underneath it, facing the real chance of being drowned, if it wasn’t for our amazing Captain Erik Van Vuuren who knew how to react fast enough in order to get the tension off, and return him to the surface before it was too late. What a scary feeling it is to see your teammate disappear underwater. On another night session I down looped the kite to shoot down a large wave and got too much slack in the lines, dropped the kite, inverted it, and caused the entire team to have to stop dinner in order to turn around and rescue me as I lay again in the dark open water in strong winds and large swell.

We have all had to face fears and challenges out here in so many ways. For me a large one was being left sitting in the water, and it felt amazing to be able to have one more chance to test myself and being able to keep a calm mind. It is only by facing your fears, that you overcome them. At other times it has been wildlife, others going out into the darkness with lightning flashes and squalls around. For each of us the test has been different, yet as a team, were facing them all together. As we all took one of our final night rides underneath the almost full moon, we soaked up every second of it. The moon stayed bright all through the night giving each of us the chance to appreciate mother nature in all of her might and beauty. Sometimes it looks like you are staring downhill in the moonlight as far as you can see, then again in an instant it appears you are looking uphill just as far. I had the gift of the moonset to sunrise session, as I entered the water with the bright round orange moon nearing the horizon, while at the same time the sun beginning to rise behind me.

Afterwards while back on board, watching Camilla close out her personal 1000km’s, we had yet another test of how easily thing can go wrong out on the open water. Ike went to the back of the boat to scoop out a bucket of sea water, and in a instant was pulled into the ocean and out of the boat. MOB. Thankfully Captain Erik just happened to be looking back as it happened, and managed to make a quick rescue, turning the yacht around, and going back to pick him up. Yet another reality check, because when Ike does sleep, which isn’t very often, he typically disappears for a couple of hours at time. Had Captain Erik not looked back when he did, it could have been very easy to find out much later, “wheres Ike” and by then could be a search and rescue with the odds against us.

With everyone back on board, we continue to recognize once again how lucky we are to have made it this far. Ike and Max are still taking every session to battle each other as the untouchable race record holders. Ike today set it at 72.99, only for Max to follow up with a 74km. Each always pushing it just a little harder. With less than a day left at sea, before the final goal of this mission is accomplished, Turks and Caicos is looking very close on the map. We anticipate setting foot on the other side soon, all of us!

17 Dec

Friday December 13th 6350 km’s

In Uncategorized by allard / December 17, 2013 / 0 Comments

Friday the 13th. Ike and Max again made big numbers during the night brining us within reach of the goal hours sooner than expected. Dennis also contributed a great morning session, so by the time Camilla hit the water, the km’s stood at 5890km’s. The day couldn’t be more perfect as the sun was shining bright, music is playing, and the wind was blowing a steady 19kts. As I was getting ready to go out on the dinghy and make the switch, I did the math not knowing exactly what Camilla would do, and said to Filippo who would be following, “ I’m going to go tee it up for you brother, I should be able to get us close, so you can bring us over the 6000km.” “ Or you could go as hard as you can and save me the trouble of having to get in the water today” he said back with a smile.

Camilla rode hard for her entire two hours and checked off another 44km’s, bringing us to a total of 5938. As we made the exchange, Dennis came over the VHF, “you have to do 62 km’s to hit the 6000, dude. Go for it”. My personal best thus far was 47km’s, so I really didn’t think it was possible. However with the encouragement of the team, I decided to make a solid run for it. Back foot out of the strap, board bouncing as I skipped over the waves, making the most distance I possibly could. It wasn’t until I hit the hour mark, and Camilla let me know my average speed was up and I had over 30km down, that I really knew I could do it. At times I felt like my knees would explode if I took a wave the wrong way, the waves height during this time were recorded up to four meters high. A half hour away, and I was still 15km’s out. “ Filippo came over the radio, “ Mr Pequeno, will you have the 62km’s completed within your two hour session. “I’ll give it all I can bro, I’m trying my best”. However with less than 10 minutes to go, Camilla said over the radio, “Filippo is getting in the dinghy, charge as hard as you can your last few minutes and we will let you know when its time to approach.

As I upwinded my way to the Double A, I could tell it was going to be close. I made my pass and went for the jibe I made my final entrance to the dinghy and hopped in. “Filippo, look” I shouted, as I held out my watch to see the distance, ” 61.99, and at that moment we both watched it turn to 62.01! Such an amazing feeling sharing that moment together. As the team pulled me in, Filippo took the kite out and went for a victory lap. “Guys, we just did 6000km of open ocean kiteboarding across the Atlantic ocean! Seeing the Double A, the dinghy dragging behind, all of you on board, I’m just so proud” he said. It is truly euphoric being a part of something so special. So much hard work, dedication, and sacrifice, from everyone involved, riders and sailors alike, to complete this goal we set out to accomplish. High fives, hugs, and congratulations all around. As Filippo came back on board and landed the kite, it was time to crack the champagne and candy. This couldn’t have happened without the passion of so many individuals all drawn together by this one dream. Everyone single person on this trip, but also everyone who has been involved at some level and contributed along the way. Life has a beautiful way of making dreams come true if you really follow them.

As soon as the last glass was drunk, Ike started, “what kite are we going to put up next? Seriously guys, lets get back on the water” I think everyone else was alright with taking some time, to enjoy the moment, but quickly agreed we should continue what we came here to do in the first place, kite. Once you hit a goal, it’s important to set a new one right away. So although we have reached the Caribbean completing our 6000km’s, lets see how many more we can rack up as we continue our course to the Blue Haven Resort in the Turks and Caicos.

17 Dec

Thursday December 12th 5702km’s

In Uncategorized by allard / December 17, 2013 / 0 Comments

As we get closer and closer to the Turk’s and Caicos, it’s a bittersweet feeling. The wind has come down a bit, making the attitude all a little more relaxed giving each of us the time to turn our energy a little more inwards for some reflection. We are all so proud to be coming close to achieving the goal, and the feelings of accomplishment are already starting to feel amazing. Yet I don’t believe any of us are ready for this adventure to be over.

I have been threatening to make a run for it on one of my session for days. “ What are you doing Eric, upwinding to Florida”, Captain Erik says over the VHF. “ Just taking a little detour, we’re getting there too quick, come and chase me” I reply. In the slightly lighter conditions, we pumped up a 12m for day use, and I had a chance to cruise around with Camilla on the water for a moment, before she went in to land the 10m. It’s so cool to see the procedures from the water perspective. We are all feeling stronger, capable, and more prepared, everyday. By the time we get there, we will truly have this perfected.

As my session was coming to a close, I had my first chance this trip to kite with some dolphins. Camilla now on watch, let me know they were all over the Double A, so I kited right back to it, and as I got close, I saw them jumping on all sides of it. When I made my jibe to ride next to the team, three dolphins swam directly underneath me to check me out before returning over to the front of the yacht with the rest of their pod. So many absolutely beautiful experiences this crossing has gifted us with. As much as we all loved the 20kt + and huge seas we have had the last few days, the team all continued to make big strides toward the goal with the 12m during the day, and switching to the larger 14m during the night.

We also were again spoiled by our master chef’s as Dennis and Filippo made up a ginger chicken recipe that was superb! As the bright moon gave us a light highway in the direction of our travel, we were very thankful for the larger 14m we had chosen as the wind continued to decrease. During Filippo’s session, the wind dropped to 11-13kts, and even fell to 9kt’s for a minute, although he did an amazing job of keeping it going working forward with the goal within reach. Although if it wasn’t for the friends and family waiting for us at the Blue Haven, I have a feeling we would all just keep sailing west. “What do you say Arne, through the Panama canal, and across the Pacific” Ike suggests. Without hesitation, Arne, the owner of our vessel reaches his hand out for a shake.

By Eric

16 Dec

Wednesday December 11th 5237km’s

In Uncategorized by allard / December 16, 2013 / 0 Comments

“We need a medic”, Ike yelled. Sophie our Medic/ Sailor looked to the back of the yacht to see Max was coming in, with blood all over his face. Our board change procedure, consists of the current rider bringing their board with them in the dinghy, as the new rider grabs the kite and hops into the water, and someone on board throws out the new board, for the new rider to body drag to it. As Max exchanged the kite with Dennis, and was tossing and turning in the dinghy on the way back to the Double A in the still huge swell, a combination of wind and waves picked up his surfboard, and slammed the nose directly in his face! Sophie grabbed her medical kit and immediately began to look Max over. Thankfully it appeared she could tape it together, rather than have to suture it.

“Being so close to the eye, a suture would very likely cause scarring, and scarring there, would most likely change the shape of Max’s eye permanently” Sophie explains. I could hear the relief in her voice that she didn’t have to responsibility of stitching him up, on the bouncing yacht, taking the chance on Max’s good looks. As solid as it hit, Max said “I’m just happy it hit where it did, and didn’t blind me, or knock out any teeth.

As Dennis wrapped up his two hours, he met Camilla again in the dinghy. The still very large waves, and strong winds makes the dinghy ride very risky, so our change ups need to be quick and efficient. They swapped out in record time, and as Camilla jumped in the water, Dennis came with her! The board leash had wrapped around him, and yanked him clear out of the dinghy and into the water too! Our first true MOB, with someone in the water without even a kite or board, as well as Dennis’s first time having to swim. Max told Camilla over the VHF,  “go ahead and start kiting, the Double A needs all of the space around Dennis to be able to pick him up”. Now that the team is getting good at this, his pick up was a fast one.

Two mishaps already before sunrise, the tough conditions, make such a difference out here in every procedure. At the morning briefing session, Captain Erik announced that we were less that 1000 nautical miles from the Turks and Caicos and the countdown is beginning! He also let us know, that we were just about out of water on board! The extra days at sea are starting to show as we are beginning to run low on some supplies, providing another reason we need to keep making fast work on our way to the Blue Haven, and be very conscious of our consumption. Today was again another day we could make up some big distance. The wind screamed 20-30 kts nonstop, causing the seas to continue to roar, and allowing us to tear it up another day with the playful 10m Rally. I can’t begin to put into words how amazing the Atlantic is when it’s showing off like it has been. To be out in the middle of this is everything I had imagined it would be, and yet so much more. As we all charged through the day, soaking up every second on the water, everyone again had another kite session that will not soon be forgotten.

Jumping around, slashing waves, just having an all around great time. Ike even pulled out some big air old school one footers as he flew high in the air above the crest of the waves. All of this hard work getting here has been worth every second of it. As the sun set, and we put up the lights on the kite, Captain Erik updated us that again squall’s were in the forecast, and could hit us at any point throughout the night.

Camilla had the first ride after sunset, and the squalls began to show up on the horizon right away. Thankfully for her, they held off for her two hours, but the first raindrops started to hit my face as she approached the dinghy. Not knowing what the wind was going to do, we made sure to make our exchange as fast as possible. The moon is getting brighter and brighter each day, making it very easy to see what the cloud systems are doing. A huge dark squall was coming in fast. The wind was varying up and down from 14-25 kts, but as the cloud and rain were upon us, it nuked a solid 30-32kts!

Very thankful I didn’t talk the team into a larger kite tonight, the 10m was perfect! I never would have thought coming into this challenge, that by the end of it we would be comfortable out at night, in the open water, riding storm cloud to storm cloud, just as long as they didn’t show lightning. This realization became ever so apparent as the cloud passed, and the wind dropped, and I looked over my shoulder excited for the next one to come in and bring back more wind. The shapes and sights in the night sky are images I hope I can save in my mind for the rest of my life.

As I passed the kite over to Filippo, he continued to have the same conditions to take the night away in. “I feel like I’m white water rafting with a kite” he yelled over the VHF as a 30kt+ system passed through. He even had the coordination to grab one of the lights at full speed, as he watched it fall from the kite and had only one pass to get it out of the water. The level we are all getting at out here, is beyond exciting. In some ways it would have been great to start the challenge as well trained as we are now, but I think getting here together is a major part of what makes this all so special.

By Eric

 

16 Dec

Ike’s Night Kite Session

In Uncategorized by allard / December 16, 2013 / 0 Comments

The night kiting is the real challenge (“day time is play time”). Eric wakes me up 45 minutes before it’s my time to do the change with Filippo. I wake up, and it’s dark outside. Knowing that you have to go out kiting in pitch darkness makes you wake up fast. When I look out my small window, I see nothing. I’m standing in the light, and it looks even darker outside. I go to the outside dining table, where I get all of my gear together. First, everything on the kitchen counter, the vest with VHF, dog tracker and wetsuit, and then my helmet. All this while still standing in the light, looking out into the darkness, seeing Filippo riding in front of the boat. The only things I can see are the four lights, the light on his back, one in the middle of the kite on the leading edge, and the two brake lights on the wing tips. I’m always very excited before I have to go. But there are always the doubts: will the wind stay up, are we going to make a good rider change in the dinghy, will I be able to stay up in the sweet spot ahead of the boat (in front of the boat, on the upwind side, so the boat can pick me up without having to turn around if something goes wrong).

Then Eric double checks all my gear: is the VHF working properly (radio check), is the back strobe light, is the dog tracker on with full charge. Then it’s time to start my night time session. Eric informs Filippo that I’m in the dinghy, and I’m released behind our safe haven (the Double A). There is a stern light on the Double A that always blinds me just before I’m doing the rider change. The distance between the catamaran and me is getting bigger. Now I’m getting really excited. Once the dinghy is locked into position, Filippo approaches. This is the moment where everything changes. Filippo shouts my name. This is always the time when all of my doubts fade away. If Filippo can do it, I can! The change is a serious moment and we do it fast. First, I release Filippo’s leash from the safety, and hook mine into it. Then I grab the chicken loop and hook it into my harness, and take the bar into my hands. Filippo puts the board onto my feet and the leash around my ankle, and off I go into the darkness. Filippo shouts: enjoy Ike!

The first thing I do, is check my position relative to the boat. I keep doing this until I’m in the sweet spot. The boat has a white stern light, and a three color light in the mast (red, white and green). There are also red and green navigation lights on the front of the boat. In the night, all that you can see of the catamaran are its lights. If I kite just beside the boat, I see the white stern light, red top light and red navigation if I’m on the port side. Green lights if I’m on the starboard side. If I see this, I know I am not yet in the sweet spot and need to go faster than the Double A. The stern light lines up with the red light on the front now, letting me know I’m almost in the sweet spot, port side, in front of the boat. It takes at least 20 minutes before my eyes get adjusted to the darkness, and there is lightning on the horizon. Erik van Vuuren gave me a briefing of the weather, and told me it was 30-40 kilometers away. It looks amazing to see the lightning in the dark moonless night sky. There is a little bit of light shining from the kite onto the water, but not in the direction of where I’m going. It’s amazing how my legs can handle the waves without seeing them, and after an hour I’m one with the conditions. Filippo and I joke over the VHF. It’s funny being out there all alone, and having radio contact with team back on board. After an hour, I go so fast I get airborne while speeding over the chop. At times, it’s easy to get too far in front of the boat. Then the top light changes from red into white, and I know its time to jibe back the other way. I’m looking over my shoulder as the light is turning into green. Shit, I’m jibing too late, I’m turning in front of the boat. Filippo comes over the VHF and asks me to turn a little earlier next time. Then Filippo says, “Ike, Max is in the dinghy, and it’s locked, you can approach”. As I kite to the dinghy, I see Max’s strobe light on his back. Then I start to shout “MR. MAX BLOM!”, and he shouts back. Then, it’s serious business again. I kite next to the dinghy and jump in. I’m landing in Max’s lap and he starts to laugh. We do the exchange: first the chicken loop, then he grabs the bar. I attach the board to his feet, and strap the leash around his ankle. “Good luck and have fun Max”, I’m shouting as he jumps out. We holler at each other, and off he goes into darkness. Now, I have to pull the rope in, and see the lights of the Double A getting brighter as the rest of the team helps me to get to the boat. Back again, two hours later. I put all of my gear back, insert the VHF and dog tracker into the charger, mark down my kilometers and get changed quickly, because now it’s my turn on watch for Max’s session. Max gets to the sweet spot, and we make fun over the VHF. What a night!

By Ike

15 Dec

A movie in the making

In Uncategorized by allard / December 15, 2013 / 3 Comments

To cross an ocean was one of my dreams. When RTL productions asked me to film the HTC Atlantic ocean kite challenge I did not hesitate for a minute and said YES.

So here I am together with 2 flight cases full with gear. I have two camera’s with me, two laptops, 6 Go Pro’s, and many many external hard disks.

I film with a canon XF 305 and his little brother the XF 105. The last one is mainly for the night since it has a night vision. My biggest fear is.. will everything be working until we arrive at Turks and Caicos.

Salt water and film/editing equipment are not a match in heaven. So every day when I click the power on the camera and its working I feel relieved and happy. Unfortunately I have less luck on the editing department. Both my card readers are dead. I have only 7 flashcards to film on, so I need a card reader to put it in the computer.

With my card readers not working it this not possible. I have been stressed about it. But thank god I found the solution. At the moment my card reader is my camera. Thank God the connection of the go pro camera fits also my camera, so all my material is safe on my 2 terra disk and on my back up. At the moment this camera is even more important now then ever before.

To make a film on the Atlantic Ocean feels sometimes almost the same as the kiters challenge. To keep you’re balance on a moving ship with a 3 kilo camera is not always easy. The real challenge is to film in the night. There is so much happening during the nights. But it is difficult to see since it is pitch black.

At the moment I sleep on the couch of the main cabin.. with next to me my camera which is totally ready to go. If something happens then I want to be there as soon as possible…and not miss out on anything. When RTL 7 asked me to make this film, my first question was… how will I film the kiting from a moving ship.. It seems impossible. But the 6 Go Pro’s are the answer and they do a really  great job.

I use several mounts. My favourite is the stick. The kiters are filming themselves in the face. Also I use one on the wrist, on the board, on the helmet, in the mast of the ship and in the kite. The last one gives a wonderful perspective in how amazing the kiters challenge is. You see a small kiter totally alone in the big, .. big Ocean… It is a beautiful and impressive shot.

Every day I film the 6 kiters doing their thing and I  think it is still unbelievable brave what they are doing. Especially the kiting at night and all the procedures are still really impressive.  I hope I can tell these stories in the same way as I experience them.

RTL 7 will broadcast the series of the adventures of the HTC kite challenge in 2014. Don’t miss it!

By Esther

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 Dec

Tuesday December 10th 4636 km’s

In Uncategorized by allard / December 15, 2013 / 0 Comments

“All hands on deck” Ike yells. “What happened”. No response. I quickly get dressed and ran up on top to find out Camilla was down in the water, separated from the kite, temporarily didn’t have VHF communication, although it appeared to be working again. Nothing else had been determined yet. I could see two lights far in the distance, quite a ways away from each other. Not sure which one was Camilla, and which was the kite. Strong winds, and growing swell made the lights vanish and then reappear every few moments. So intense the situations we are all getting so used to waking up in on this journey. As Captain Erik perfectly maneuvered the Double A into position to pick up Camilla, she was able to grab the dinghy rope on the first pass and climb right into it. First priority accomplished, Camilla’s back safe, now time for the kite. Although it was out of sight for a moment, we engined downwind, and again picked up the lights on the horizon and went straight for it. Everyone got into position, and were able to grab it on the first pass, pull it onboard, and roll it and the lines up without any damage. “Well done everyone, very well done” Captain Erik shouted.

As the seas grew, and the wind howled pushing 30kts, we had a quick team meeting to discuss what happened. Turns out she VHF lost communication, so Max got in the dinghy, and went back to switch out her current unit. As he was trying to put it in here vest, a big wave hit them, causing slack in the lines and sending the kite falling to the water. She hopped out to relaunch it, but it had rolled, inverted, and was dragging her through the waves underwater, so after a few attempts to stabilize, she released it. Once sitting in the water with just her board, was able to pull out the VHF and see that it had turned to another channel, so thankfully could change it back and communicate again with the team.

Concluding our meeting we decided to send out Dennis, the next rider in rotation, although Camilla was more than willing to continue.  As I pumped up the kite on the front deck, Captain Erik came up to assist me. “Thanks for saving our lives so many times out here” I said. “You all did amazing too” he responded. “I do have to say once everything was safe, I felt very proud. But what we are doing is very dangerous. One move, and the results could have been very different. If my colleagues knew what I was doing out here, they would say, you’re crazy Van Vuuren”. As Dennis went back to launch the 10m to continue the rotation, we could see the intensity of the conditions in an instant, as the dinghy flew down the face of the swell, threw a huge spray of water, and flung the drogue behind it with ease.

Today was going to be big. As the sun rose, and the day progressed, so did the ocean. 4 meter high waves tossed the Double A and especially the dinghy, all over the place. However once we each got out, it was the best day of kiting yet. To see these massive walls of water, coming from such a distance, and just pick one off, and race down the face of it, was everything all of us had been hoping for this whole trip. The force of the ocean can be truly amazing, and this was our most fierce day in the open Atlantic yet. As we all had the day of our lives, the sun began to set, and it was once again Camilla’s turn. The wind had been stable in the 18-19kts range for the last few hours, but as soon as she hit the water jumped to 24-25kts again. She did again a terrific job holding it down, earning every km in her two hours that session. Then as I switched out with her, the wind instantly dropped down to 15kts, while out on a 10m. It seems unbelievable that no matter what time of day, or what the order of riders are, the wind changes and challenges with each riders session. As the heaviest rider, my biggest challenge has been light wind, and it wont let me forget it. The Atlantic, doesn’t just let you cross it, it forces you to earn it, whatever way it pleases.

By Eric

14 Dec

About gear & set-up

In Uncategorized by allard / December 14, 2013 / 0 Comments

Since I’m the one responsible for gear, set-up, time schedule and adapting to weather conditions, I’d like to give you some information about this side of the Challenge.

Schedule and watch system

As everybody knows, we are riding in a team of six. Every rider is different in terms of technique and weight. In this way, we can adjust to different conditions. We change riders after every 2 hours of kiting. The following schedule has been going on for a while now: Dennis (90kg) – Eric (90 kg) – Filippo (75 kg) – Ike (72 kg) – Max (75 kg) – Camilla (58 kg). However, in practice, the actual time a rider is on the water is variable. Earlier or later rider changes may be required by changes in weather conditions or equipment issues.

For example, the schedule for a regular day of riding will look as follows: Dennis (07.00 – 09.00), Eric (09.00- 11.00), Filippo (11.00- 13.00), Ike (13.00- 15.00), Max  (15.00- 17.00), Camilla (17.00 – 19.00), followed by the first rider again. Before the session of 17.00, we will add the necessary lights to the kite and rider because this rider will ride into the darkness.

Every rider has a buddy (watcher). This person is responsible for the rider on the water. He is the only person on board who is in contact with the rider through VHF. Communication between watcher and rider concerns wind speed, position relative to the Double A, weather changes, and making decisions about cancelling or proceeding with a session. The buddy is the rider scheduled one session before the current rider. So, for example, when I (Max) am on the water, Ike is on watch because he was riding before me. We are doing it like this because a rider just off the water is still full of energy/adrenaline and has most time off, so the others can prepare/rest until the last moment before their session starts.

Positioning of the rider and changing weather conditions during a session

In principle, a rider is allowed to play on the ocean, which is in line with the spirit of Enable Passion. After all, we are making the longest downwinder ever, and are using the Atlantic Ocean as the biggest playground a kiter could ever imagine! BUT the most importing matter (even above playing) is safety. Hence, we have a ground rule to play safely on the ocean. The rider has to position himself upwind in front of the boat, at an angle of around 45 degrees. In this way, the Double A can act swiftly when the kite drops by just steering up and lowering its sails and starting its engine, if required.

When a rider is on the water and is not able to keep up with the boat (and is automatically not able to stay in the agreed area due to a lack of wind or other reasons), the rider will call off the session or ask for a rider change. The buddy/watcher will check out the rider at any second of the session, and can give him or her instructions if necessary.

Choice of gear before a session

The biggest challenge within the Challenge is the weather. Wind is crucial and therefore a red line during our entire trip. Trough UPS, we download GRIB files in order to make plans for the day and night. Together with the skipper, we check the weather forecast for the day and upcoming night. We select a kite size based on the weather forecast.

The choice of kite and board size is crucial in the Challenge. We are with six riders and therefore we pick a set-up which suits the team for that day. We pick the right size for the heaviest riders in the team; the lightweights can adjust by depowering the kite or choosing a smaller board. A board change is easy and is possible with every rider change. Before we started the Challenge, we defined the features of the perfect kite for making the crossing. Specifically, we were looking for an all-round kite for this project, characterized by a wide wind range, simplicity, easy relaunch and fast movement in the air. Taking these features in consideration, we chose the Slingshot 2014 Rally and Turbine.

On board, we have the following kite quiver: Rally 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 and 14 and Turbine 17 (light wind specialist). All the colours are bright or white, because this reflects very well with the light set-up during the night.

Since we are going downwind all the way, we can handle bigger sizes than we would use for a regular kiting session on our local beach. We are trying to avoid kite changes as much as possible, because they take time and we need all riders on deck for this operation. During a day of riding, the non-riders need to take their rest, so all hands on deck is not the ideal situation.

During our journey, we have an average wind speed of 15 knots. In the gusts/squalls, we can get to 25 knots and in the less windy zones we deal with 11 knots. Therefore, the most used sizes are the Turbine 17, the 14 and the 12. With these sizes, we can cover a wide wind range and weight range of the riders. Maintenance of the kites is important; during non-riding days I have time to check the kite and lines on damages or other issues.

Of course, boards are very important as well. Before the Challenge, we tested several board shapes to find the ideal set-up. Since we face big ocean swells and choppy conditions, a surfboard is the best choice. For the lighter air, we have a race board. For the final stretch and to play around in the Turks & Caicos, we brought a twintip.

Specifically, we ride with the following board quiver:

  • Slingshot Celeritas 5.8 (surf; a smaller board for the lighter riders and heavier winds)
  • Slingshot Celeritas 5.11 (surf; a wider board for choppy conditions and with more flotation; this board is ideal to take the wind drops and is still flying very easy!)
  • Slingshot Tyrant 6.1 (surf; a board with a more skinny and longer shape, with a better performance in comfortable wind speeds; the Tyrant is very smooth and a lot of joy to ride, ensuring some real fun during the Challenge!)
  • Slingshot Misfit 1,32 (Twintip; this board is not much used, but will be when it’s playtime in the Caribbean!)
  • Aquero race board (the board we use in light conditions if the wind doesn’t allow surfboards; also for more upwind legs, this board helps us a lot!)

All the surfboards are equipped with a thruster fin set-up.

We ride all the boards with a surf leash, as getting far from your board is not comfortable and involves risks out on the ocean. Especially during the night, loosing a board on the open ocean makes your very vulnerable.

The water temperature is between 18 and 23 degrees Celsius, while the outside temperature various from 16 up to 32 degrees Celsius. Given these conditions, we use 3-2 mm wetsuits (custom made), waist harnesses, specially made buoyancy vests and helmets. For the warmer conditions during the day, we ride with board shorts and rash vests/neoprene tops. All the rider clothing and gear is provided by Mystic.

If you ever consider kiting the Atlantic Ocean, all these topics might be good to take into consideration. If you have any questions (or any plans to cross the Atlantic), feel free to contact me at max@enablepassion.com. I will get back to you as soon as possible after the Challenge.

Enable your passion, good luck!

Max

13 Dec

Kite-procedures by the sailing team

In Uncategorized by allard / December 13, 2013 / 0 Comments

The HTC Atlantic Kite Challenge is all about kitesurfing. Six-thousand kilometres across the ocean. This can’t be done without a support ship; in our case the 50 foot catamaran “Double A”. While launching or landing a kite, changing a rider or retrieving someone when the kite can’t be landed according to plan (all called ‘operations’), this ship and its little dinghy are centre elements. All operations have their own key features for the sailors. They have to be done at a certain course; launching and rider-changes are done at a broad reach (wind-angle of 110°) and even a little higher for landing a kite (more like 90-100°). Max or Filippo generally coordinate the operations and frequently talk to the sailing team when changes have to be made. For example in very light winds, back-wind from the mainsail or the gennaker can be in the way of a successful operation, which we can avoid by easing the sheet a little.

As the sailing team we do try to keep the speed in the boat as much as possible. Skipper Erik van Vuuren is a professional race-sailor, which he projects on everybody so that we don’t only want to cross the Atlantic, but do it as fast as we can. Operations have already been completed while going up to 10 knots of speed with gennaker or code Zero flying.

Currently, about 90% of the time the operations go smooth and without surprises. But sometimes, as expected in this no risk-free environment, things don’t go according to plan. Especially at night, this is demanding for the whole team. We need hands on deck, and a clear and alert reaction from everybody. Effectively we are in a continuous man-over-board situation in the middle of the Atlantic.

As the sailing team we operate the boat-handling while fixing these situations; furling the foresails, managing the mainsail when manoeuvring the boat around the kite(r), when necessary use the engines (and making sure NO lines end up in the propellorsJ) and –most importantly- make a safe approach towards the rider and kite quickly without damaging either one of them (and if anything; preferably the kite). Night or day, swell, wind, current and the state of mind of the rider in the water make every situation unique. Now the wind’s picking up and waves will build we are glad to have gained a lot of experience with the whole team. We are confident in all sorts of weather conditions so let it come; we are ready!

By Sophie