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WingFoil Racing Asian Championships - Overall

by WingFoil Racing World Cup Series 5 Mar 2023 15:05 GMT
First ever WingFoil Racing Asians - 2023 WingFoil Racing Asian Championships © IWSA / Techawat Songsuairoop

The first ever WingFoil Racing Asian Championships concluded today at the Club Loongchat, a favourite wind-sports spot on the beach to the south of Pattaya city, the 100-ranking-ponts event also gave a ticket to the first female and the first male competitors for the 2023 ANOC World Beach Games to be held in Bali, Indonesia.

Women

Hei Man Chan from Hong Kong claimed gold and secured her ticket to the ANOC World Beach Games without leaving any margin to her competition, but that was not a surprise. 2012 and 2020ne olympian and double Asian Games medalist, all on an RS:X windsurfer, the 32 year-old said she found the iQfoil too demanding and switched to WingFoiling. This was only her second competition after having a baby four months ago, and is confident that with the support of an extended family network she will be able to prepare for the ANOC Beach Games and try to add another title to her already impressive resume.

Chiaki Fujimoto from Japan, although she didn't manage to threaten Hei Man, was never really challenged on her charge for the silver medal until the last day, when a repeated mistake meant that she was disqualified in all races of the day. Fortunately for her, the margin she had built on the previous days was enough to keep her silver medal, by a mere 2 points. The bronze was fiercely fought over between the Thai sailors. Warasiri Yanthong, the 55 year-old co-owner of the host club kept the lead in the early stages but towards the end of the competition lost to 23-year-old Varinya Methaaphithamakool, who was ecstatic to win bronze.

Men

It was a nail biting competition, full of surprises in the men's fleet. Starting the day with a slim 3-point margin between the top three, everything was open and anything could happen in the 6-race final day.

Early leader Ho Chi Ho from Hong Kong, double Olympian and Asian Games gold medalist, saw his lead slip away in the later stages of the competition and had to settle for bronze.

Juntham Whatsapong, the young kiteboarder from Thailand won all his races on the second day of the competition and wore the yellow jersey on day 3 but then seemed to have lost his bearings and slipped down to go into the final day in 2nd place. As he was giving back the yellow jersey, he said 'I will get this back' but unfortunately for him, Rafeek Kikabhoy from Hong Kong was too hard to beat.

Kikabhoy had a slow start in the competition but on day 3 he won all 6 races and climbed to pole position going into the final day and then kept his nerve and managed to keep his competition behind him. The Asian Games silver medalist, who put his RS:X pumping skills in good use when it mattered to secure gold and earn the ticket to the ANOC World Beach Games, now needs to decide if he will pursue Olympic Qualification for Hong Kong in the iQfoil at The Hague Worlds or go to Bali and try his luck in WingFoiling.

Hong Kong sees potential in wingfoiling

Yu Wing Ho, the Executive Director of the Windsurfing Association of Hong Kong, is a former windsurfer and coach and leads a 7-strong team at the Asians. 'Hong Kong's first ever Olympic gold medal came from windsurfing back in 1996' said Ho. 'This brought a lot of support within Hong Kong and we are lucky enough to manage the discipline independently. Nowadays we see a lot of our windsurfers turning to WingFoiling. With its inclusion into the ANOC World Beach Games we believe that it is likely to eventually become Olympic and for this reason we have extended our activities to include WingFoiling' he continued.

Social responsibility

Dan Arnon from Starboard, the leading manufacturer of watersports equipment, was present at the venue every day. The Starboard office is based in Thailand, in close proximity to the Cobra factory, that produces their equipment. With almost half the fleet sailing on Starboard equipment, it didn't seem strange that Dan was present at the venue, but there was another reason for him to be at Loonchat Beach Club. 'We are trying to promote watersports engagement in Thailand. Despite having ideal conditions on their doorstep, the local population seems reluctant to engage with the sea. We are supporting several clubs with equipment, trying to give back to the community' he said.

Pathway or high performance discipline?

WingFoiling is the easiest way to fly on a single-point foil. It is seen by many as the pathway to both windsurfing and kiteboarding on a foil and for good reason: It is lighter than a windsurfer, it needs less space on the beach than a kiteboard and it is simpler than both. But can it stand as a racing discipline? It seems that the 10 knots minimum wind speed for racing is a serious barrier. Dan Arnon reveals that the new Starboard equipment will be a lot more rigid. The connection of the foil to the board will be similar to the one of kiteboards, and in the wing will additionally have a more aerodynamic shape. Combined with the constantly improving skills of the riders, the minimum wind is going to be a lot less than what we see today. He is confident that open equipment and the ANOC World Beach Games inclusion will encourage other manufacturers to keep developing. 'Give it another two years' Dan says.

Time will tell.

Results

Men

    1. Rafeek Kikabhoy (HKG) 26 points
    2. Whatcharpong Juntham (THA) 38 points
    3. Chi Ho Ho (HKG) 45 points

Women

    1. Hei Man Chan (HKG) 19 points
    2. Chiaki Fujimoto (JPN) 51 points
    3. Varinya Methaaphithamakool (THA) 53 points

Full results

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