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KTA Asia Pacific Hydrofoil Series Malaysia

by Kiteboardtour Asia 17 Jan 20:29 GMT
Day 3 - KTA Asia Pacific Hydrofoil Series Malaysia © Alexandru Baranescu

In its 10 years of running kiteboarding events in Asia, the KTA had landed for the first time in Malaysia, Desaru Coast in Johor to be more precise.

Anticipated as one of Asia's newest tourist destinations, Desaru Coast is situated on the east coast of the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, just a very short ferry ride across from Singapore. Desaru Coast is redefining this beautiful coastline, by creating a blend of globally renowned resorts and villas, a riverside dining haven, a conference centre, championship golf courses and an adventure waterpark that also boasts a pretty cool wave pool.

The coastline itself offers a watersports heaven, 22km of unspoilt sandy beaches and open water to play with which is where the KTA comes into the picture, bringing the next round of its perpetual Asia Pacific Hydrofoil Series to the spot.

Not only would this be the first time the KTA has included Malaysia in their annual tour schedule, it's also the first time that a kite foil competition has taken place within the country. A landmark event both for the country and the KTA with over 40 riders from 18 different countries joining proceedings.

The first day of action in Malaysia would see blustery conditions for eastern shores of Johor, as the competition running from the 14-16 December commenced with 4 rounds of windward leeward course racing.

Before the racing kicked into action however, the KTA crew as with all its events and travels would also try to get a feel for the location and the people that live there. A visit to Tanjung Balau - which used to be Desaru Coast's traditional fishing village - gave some insight into what it's like to live in Malaysia as a local, think beautiful wooden bungalows, cats snoozing on balconies, bundles of brightly coloured potted flowers, and chickens roaming around in the road. A further stop-off at one of the local homestays saw the team getting to know a little more about the warm Muslim hospitality, as well as what it feels like to live, eat, and sleep inside a real-deal Desaru home.

Back at the beach the conditions were unexpectedly challenging, with powerful shore-break and up to 2 meters of swell further out. Races began with a steady 16 knots of wind, which built up throughout the day, peaking at a gusty 19 knots by the early afternoon.

The first race saw riders taking off on both port and starboard tacks as they tried to deal with the wild conditions, but as things settled we soon saw Asia champion Max Maeder move into the lead position, closely followed by Korea's Soon Ho Kwon and series leader Daniel Leow. Race 2, however, turned the tables as Max faulted in the swell, giving Soon Ho the opportunity to dominate proceedings.

In the women's division, long established KTA competitor Thailand's Fon Benyapa Jantawan, proved her versatility and strength in the conditions to claim the early wins, while newcomer Megumi Hirata from Japan pushed Fon in each race to take a win of her own in the 4th and final race of the day.

Back with the men's fleet with the winds steadily dropping, Max would put right his 'blip' from race two and take wins for races three and four. Other riders, however, had also begun to settle into the conditions and we would see China and Japan taking the top 3 places with Peng Li and Hojo Toshihiro respectively. By race four the winds had backed off to an average of 8kts across the course, which allowed for cleaner racing for everyone, boosting confidence for the next day's competition.

The second day saw things beginning with a thick fog covering the beach and rain clouds threatened to pour down at any moment, but luckily the deluge held off and was instead replaced by beaming blue skies and sunshine by lunchtime.

While everyone else was waiting for the sun to appear and the wind to fill in, the KTA Media crew was off again, this time to check out Desaru Fruit Farm- one of the top tourist attractions in the area, to meet with the owner and take a tour of their 100 acre plot.

This saw the crew getting nice and muddy as they ripped around on ATV's, exploring the 'off-road' pathways between mango trees and winding passion fruit vines, petting some baby goats (yes, really), and getting to know the family that run the fruit farm. Having owned the farm since 1994 (i.e. long before Desaru Coast had developed as a destination or the KTA appeared), they had plenty of interesting stories to share about how the region has changed over the years.

Meanwhile, crowds of spectators were gathering onto the golden sand on Desaru Coast to soak in the atmosphere and watch the competition take place. With music, food stalls, and entertainment in the form of acrobatics, trainer kite flying lessons, kite buggying and even a chance to meet a friendly snake or two, we kid you not.

That said, the wind was all but absent until 2.30pm. It wasn't until then that a welcome 10 knots of stable breeze began to blow across the event site, allowing the first race to commence around 3 o'clock. In contrast to earlier rough and stormy conditions, the second day of racing brought its own set of challenges, with riders doing their best to fly their kites and make it past powerful sets of waves in light wind.

The first race of racing had seen Max Maeder, take a comfortable lead over Thailand's Whatcharpong Juntham and local Malaysian rider Daniel Leow, which he maintained with little difficulty for the rest of the day, the advantages of his young age (did we mention Max is only 12 yrs. old?) and light weight being bonus in these conditions.

As the afternoon progressed, winds dropped just shy of 7 knots, causing Korea's Soon Ho Kwon to struggle to match the performance he put on in yesterday's choppy waters, today faltering in the frustrating conditions. Meanwhile, Peng Li (China) and Kazumasa Sugihara (Japan) are nipping at the heels of the top 3 in the men's division, putting the pressure on for the final day of racing.

In the women's division, it was Japan's Megumi Hirata was now coming out on top, proving her technical abilities and riding skill in the face of extremely light winds and big barrelling waves. Thailand's Fon Benyapa Jantawan was still hanging on in second place, though struggling with the conditions that were allowing her Japanese competitor to begin to build up a lead.

With two very different sets of conditions for the opening days of the event, most riders appeared early at the beach in anticipation of the final day of racing. However, the wind was suspiciously absent, leaving everyone wondering whether or not they would get a proper day of racing in the bag. While riders and spectators gathered on the beach in anticipation, a few of KTA's own headed out on the water armed with surfboards in the hopes of making the most of what was turning out to be consistent period of monsoon waves.

Desaru and the surrounding area is actually known amongst local surfers, which, although great fun for them surfing types, has proven enormously difficult for some of this weekend's hydrofoil competitors to navigate.

The final day in the end though was blessed with 8-9 knots by 12.30pm which allowed for the first races to commence. The day would give up a total of 5 races on the sparkling blue waters to finish the competition nicely, with the wind building briefly to 12-13 knots, before dropping back to 8-9 by the end of proceedings.

The wind was also almost directly onshore, giving the KTA Race Officer Simon James the chance to bring the action closer to shore, much to the appreciation of the Sunday crowds that had gathered to see the kiters in action. The atmosphere throughout the day grew as the excitement of each race unfolded, with the riders all charging towards each start together on a starboard tack, making for a dynamic spectacle for everyone gathered Desaru Coast Beach.

The leader of the weekend in the men's division, Max Maeder, maintained his overall lead throughout the day, coming in first in every race but his last, when he miscalculated his position for crossing the finish line and ended on the wrong side of the finish boat. Even so, Max's near flawless performance across the weekend has secured him the number one spot for the competition.

Coming in second overall, Daniel Leow pulled off an excellent performance throughout the day, achieving second and third place for each of his races. He was closely followed by Thailand's Whatcharpong Juntham, whose efforts have earned him a well-deserved third place on the podium. Daniel also sits at the top of the leaderboard in the Master's class, followed by Korea's Soon Ho Kwon in second and Japan's Kazumasa Sugihara in third.

In the women's division, Megumi Hirata consolidated her position and walked away with first prize after a well-fought battle in the challenging conditions, closely followed by Thailand's Fon Benyapa Jantawan in second place and fellow country woman Aya Oshima in third.

With that the KTA Malaysia was completed, just in time as the heavens opened to deluge the beach and send one and all running for cover. Things brighten up again for in time for the evening which would close the event with a prize giving ceremony right on the golden sands of Desaru Beach, along with a relaxed social evening which saw athletes, spectators, and staff enjoying a collective wind down after the full, hectic weekend of kiting action.

In the end conditions at Desaru Coast may not have been quite as anticipated, but they certainly made for a challenging and memorable first outing to Malaysia for the riders and the KTA. So watch this area carefully as it develops in the coming years as it looks like it is set to make its mark in the action sports world.

Results

Men

1. Maximillian Maeder Singapore
2. Daniel Leow Malaysia
3. Whatcharpong Juntham Thailand

Women

1. Megumi Hirata Japan
2. Fon Benyapa Jantawan Thailand
3. Aya Oshima Japan

Masters

1. Daniel Leow Malaysia
2. Soon Ho Kwon South Korea
3. Kazumasa Sugihara Japan

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