Please select your home edition
Rooster 2023 - Aquafleece - LEADERBOARD

Johnny Heineken wins Inaugural Spring Wingding & Pacific Coast Wingfoil Championships

by St. Francis Yacht Club 20 Apr 13:24 BST April 14-16, 2023
Inaugural Spring Wingding & Pacific Coast Wingfoil Championships © St. Francis Yacht Club / Salty Brother

On April 14-16, St. Francis Yacht Club hosted the Spring Wingding & Pacific Coast Wingfoil Championships, the first-ever wingfoil regatta of its kind on San Francisco Bay.

For racers and spectators, there was a shared spirit of adventure as this new sport took on traditional forms of buoy racing, slalom-style, at speeds most sailboats will never hit.

A total of 13 races were held over the weekend, with the San Francisco Bay Challenge scores counting twice. Sixty wingfoil riders competed in 11 races and the top 20 raced an additional two championship races over three days in perfect conditions on courses situated between the StFYC clubhouse, Alcatraz Island and Golden Gate Bridge, adjacent to Crissy Field.

Racing commenced with five heats on Friday, followed by a Grom Freestyle Session. Saturday opened with three races, then the "San Francisco Bay Challenge" — a distance race of approximately 20 nautical miles from the San Francisco city front east to Berkeley and back, that was also open to Hydrofoil Kites and Formula Windsurfers. On Sunday, competitors were whittled down to the top 20 in three heats, who then competed in two final championship races.

Overall winner and Pacific Coast Champion was Johnny Heineken, who won all 12 races plus the two championship races. His sister, Erika Heineken, won the Women's division.

Watch a recap of the 2023 Spring Wingding & Pacific Coast Wingfoil Championships

Johnny Heineken, representing StFYC, is a former Kiteboarding Course Racing World Champion, 2012 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and no stranger to the podium. An exceptional competitor across diverse sailing platforms and a pioneer in the sport of wingfoiling, he was excited to see how racing in a large fleet would play out at this event.

"We were figuring out how it would all work, winging in a big regatta, how to conduct the starts, how to be on the start line at the right time, getting around the course — it went pretty flawlessly," he said.

Heineken was part of the racing community that developed the sport of kitefoiling on these same waters, and he commented on the similarities in the development experience.

"At the top of the fleet were the people who know what they are doing and are used to racing, whether its kites or boats. It was reminiscent of the early kite foil racing days. Those of us who had come from dinghy sailing knew how to start and make tactical decisions. If you had raced kites, you had a huge advantage this weekend. But this was the beginning of something new, and the level of competition will keep getting better."

Heineken acknowledged the up-and-coming talent in the Under-19 division, who have shown a ton of enthusiasm for the new sport. "It was cool to see a bunch of kids out there, more than we would ever see kiting," Heineken said. "I'm sure they'll be giving me a run for my money soon."

One of those kids was 15-year-old Makani Andrews, representing the Kaneohe Yacht Club and Windclub, Hawaii, who took fifth place overall and first in the Under-19 division. A high-school freshman, Andrews has been making waves on the iQ Windsurf Foil scene this past year and took first in class in the 2022 Sears Cup skippering in the VX One.

"I was really stoked to see something like 60 wingers on the water. When I raced on the Bay last year there were only about 20 of us," Andrews noted. "The organizers did a good job putting together the courses — it's hard to run developmental class events because it's kind of blurry how everything works! It was super cool racing with the other kids my age who I know through recent wingfoiling clinics."

Andrews added that he learned a lot from the event, such as evaluating gear and learning about different foils for different conditions. At Spring Wingding, for instance, many riders were on a specific foil designed and built in the Bay Area. "The long-distance race was fun — I put on my biggest wing and used a harness for the first time, so it took a while to tune in to that, but it was a great downwind. That was one of my best races."

This was also an opportunity for Andrews to learn how to navigate the currents on San Francisco Bay. "In Hawaii we don't have much current so learning about the floods and the ebbs on the Bay gave me a lot to think about tactically going through the course."

Event co-chairs Geoff and Morgan Headington were satisfied that the event went so well, given the unknowns of racing a huge fleet in a new kind of regatta. A light-air forecast for the weekend did not look conducive to competition, and even going into the first race on Friday morning, Geoff Headington had moments of concern due to the strong flood tide.

"Fortunately, the wind filled in and racing was fine, and we had great breeze throughout the weekend," he said. "On Saturday for the distance race, we had a mad downwind rush of 80 watercraft starting at the same time right off Crissy Field. It must have been amazing for spectators to watch us all zigzagging and crossing paths all the way downwind. We had exceptional breeze on Sunday for the finals, in the low 20s and blasting solid across the course."

With the event done and dusted for 2023, Headington is excited about being on the leading edge of such a new sport.

"It is thrilling. We know we are going somewhere exciting but we're unsure exactly where," he said. "We're in the early stages and I don't know what the future looks like — whether it's the Olympics or higher-performance wings and equipment than we have today. This weekend we had freestyle, course racing, and distance racing, so we explored three different areas of the sport. The event could not have played out as perfectly as it did without help from sponsors F-One, Manera, Ozone, Marine Layer, NJS Designs, Ronstan, 101 Surf Sports, Axis, Kite the Bay, Cabrinha, Sunski and Pistil, plus the many volunteers, StFYC staff and race committee."

"The energy in this global community really showed through," Headington said. "There was a shared spirit of anticipation, which is contagious. We had a lot of people helping out and watching the competition and talking about wanting to take wingfoil lessons, which I think is so cool!"

In 2023, St. Francis Yacht Club will continue to host biweekly Wingfoil & Windsurf Course Slalom Racing and a Friday Night Foil Series from May through September. More information at

Wingfoil Overall
1 - Johnny Heineken
2 - Joey Pasquali
3 - John Subranni

Under-19 Division
1 - Makani Andrews
2 - Henry Vare
3 - Liam Coralle

1 - Erika Heineken
2 - Lily Buden
3 - Michelle Gabriel

Masters 35+
1 - Joey Pasquali
2 - Kenneth Adgate
3 - Joshua Waldman

Grandmasters 45+
1 - Steve Bodner
2 - Geoff Headington
3 - Nils Stolzlechner

Bay Challenge - Wingfoil
1 - Johnny Heineken
2 - Joey Pasquali
3 - John Subranni

Bay Challenge - Formula Windsurf
1 - Xavier Ferlet
2 - Max Rosenblad
3 - Al Mirel

Bay Challenge - Hydrofoil Kite
1 - Neil Marcellini
2 - Mike Martin
3 - Vladimir Mezhibovsky

Related Articles

Rolex Big Boat Series at San Francisco overall
Competition was as fierce as ever for the 59th edition Variable sailing conditions hounded this year's 79-strong Rolex Big Boat Series fleet, but the competition was as fierce as ever for the 59th edition of the West Coast's premier racing event. Posted on 18 Sep
2023 Rolex Big Boat Series at San Francisco Day 3
It all comes down to tomorrow, with several tight contests still to unfold "Champagne sailing" is not the norm on San Francisco Bay. It is highly unusual to have a run of light weather in September, or to even have a run of days with the same weather. Posted on 17 Sep
2023 Rolex Big Boat Series at San Francisco Day 2
A showcase of sailing excellence Skippers kept their feet on the accelerator during Day 2 of Rolex Big Boat Series, driving another intense day of great racing on San Francisco Bay. Posted on 16 Sep
2023 Rolex Big Boat Series at San Francisco Day 1
Spectacular from start to finish The 2023 Rolex Big Boat Series kicked off today, and Day 1 was equally spectacular from start to finish. Posted on 15 Sep
59th Rolex Big Boat Series preview
An intense lineup of competitors ready at St. Francis YC The energy is palpable and anticipation high as the 79 teams registered to race gather at the docks of St. Francis Yacht Club for last-minute preparations before tomorrow's start of the 2023 Rolex Big Boat Series. Posted on 13 Sep
Ronstan Bridge to Bridge Race at St. Francis YC
Mike Martin describes this event as "the best race in the world, ever." Certainly, that description is up for argument, but who could complain about a downwind blast in 20+ knots of breeze between the iconic Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay Bridges? Posted on 31 Aug
Phyllis Kleinman Swiftsure Regatta
Most teams didn't wear foul-weather gear all weekend The St. Francis Yacht Club hosted their warm-up regatta last weekend for the upcoming Rolex Big Boat Series- the Phyllis Kleinman Swiftsure Regatta. Posted on 26 Aug
Final call for entries in Rolex Big Boat Series
Competitors and spectators will converge on San Francisco Bay from Sept 13th Rolex Big Boat Series, the premier racing event on San Francisco Bay since 1964, is once again set to deliver a legendary experience for sailors. Posted on 23 Aug
Register now for Rolex Big Boat Series 2023
Skippers have one month to register to race before a late entry fee is assessed Considered the most prestigious regatta on the West Coast with a history of legendary competition since 1964, Rolex Big Boat Series draws sailors from around the country and the world to St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, California. Posted on 2 Jul
Register now for 5O5 Worlds in San Francisco
Planning for this regatta has been in the works for months Register now to receive optimal pricing for the 5O5 World Championship and North Americans to be in San Francisco, California. All entries made after midnight PDT on Friday, June 30, 2023, will incur a late fee. Posted on 22 Jun