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Kite Hydrofoiling: Testing The Waters

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Mango arrived in San Francisco from Hawaii with a new hydro foil to test. Chip and his wife met Mango at the airport along with their 2 year old baby and the four of them headed straight to the Delta at Sherman Island where the wind was blowing 20-30 knots and the new board could be tested. Chip is racing the foil boards powered by a kite at the StFYC Thursday night racing series, training for the Kite National Championships. Chip has a chance win, he's won a few nationals before, quite a few, but not on a foilboard. The foil board planes up on a wing, floating the board and rider up above the surface of the water. Foiling, the boat can potentially go higher up wind and faster through chop, since the surface doesn't touch the water nor is affected by rogue waves and voo doo chop. When you're in the groove you're going many degrees higher than traditional kiteboards and keel sailboats.

Chip has some experience kiting, he pioneered kiting in the SF Bay and is the co-developer of the Thursday Night Series. The kite race series is a chance for locals to test their latest designs. Most are home-made, surf board style boards that are surprisingly effective on all courses of sail. The current series leader is riding a quad-fin 5'8" surf board, others are on traditional bi-directional kite boards and converted surfboards. Jeff Russ is riding a wider than normal kiteboard with a large 60cm windsurfing fin on the windward rail. He pulls out the fin like dagger board and reverses the foil on each tack and removes it for the downwind leg, not unlike the old one design windsurfer. Old habits are hard to break.

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The foils are advanced, though Mango Carafino's fine adjustments continue to improve the foilboards for racing on the SF Bay. Chip is a good sailor with experience. He might be the leader or he might blow up the new foils. Each of the past weeks of racing Chip has led periodically and is in the hunt at the top of the fleet but he isn't well ahead, yet. He's been passed on wipe outs and occasionally downwind, but upwind he is among the fastest, now if he could control the foil across the whole course he might set the standard for performance kiteboarding. Either way, it will be decided, at the Kite Nationals July 25th 2007 at Crissy Field, San Francisco. It will be an opportunity to prove who's the best in course racing kites. This is going to be the first US Kite Nationals sanctioned. Sailing is ever-changing and always the same, challenging conventions, experimenting with new designs to go fast, on all points of sail.

When the day was over, I had the chance to ask Chip and Mango how the board worked. Chip replied, "this board is better than the last one." Mango thought about that awhile, "Well, we're building the board for Chip to win. I'm going back to Hawaii now, call me later if you think of something you'd like to try", and he left. Mango is focused on developing the foil. Chip is focused on riding the foil. And just about everyone else is focused on watching the foilboard plane up and go upwind like nothing else.

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