What a twisty-turny tour stop in Vietnam! There was doubts but at the eleventh hour the wind and the conditions that Mui Ne is world famous for finally came to town and the KTA Vietnam grabbed the opportunity with open arms pulling out one hell of an event. After the frustration of the no wind days the riders were at last able to stretch their legs, race their socks off and blast out any lethargy as they battled it out in round after round of challenging freestyle competition and some hard fought course racing. Vietnam has been the long awaited return match for many riders from last year as established KTA riders once again had the chance to mix up out on the water, but it was not just the old faces that would be catching everyone’s attention. The Japanese riders once again showed themselves to be growing in confidence and ability, along with new riders from the Philippines making their first intro to the tour, a strong showing from Russia and impressive displays from local Vietnamese riders on their home patch. All of which meant this event really did live up to its potential.
Still for the KTA it was an event that almost fell at the final moment as it lost its headline sponsor nine days before competition was due to begin. At this point though we already knew that visiting riders had their flights booked and were on their way and the local guys had been training solid for the past year for their chance to show their talents - it was clear then that the show must go on! So piggy banks were raided, favors’ called in and local help mobilized to make everything work. The KTA Vietnam is the biggest riders grant ever made by the KTA - in effect to each and every rider that took part. It does unfortunately mean that we will now be limited in being able to offer future support to riders through the grant scheme for the rest of the tour, but better that than loose this event all together. So we are glad it worked out into a good competition and that you all had fun in Mui Ne.
We still of course would like to thank our KTA tour prize sponsors Cabrinha, Maelstorm, Triggernaunt and Sprockett Repairs, along with further thanks to the local support and help, Wax Beach Bar for the competition area, the Vietnam Kiteboard school and Kite Planet for the judging tower and beach support, C2Sky’s Jeff for the on-water safety cover and Stevie from the Sankara Kitesurf school for making it all come together day by day and generally working his butt off throughout the event.
To the event then…….
We had a lot of waiting around, playing snooker, beach volleyball and swimming while waiting for the wind, but the second day gave us the first racing of the event and with a well laid course covering a nice large chunk of the bay the large fleet of race boards and TT racers took to the water . Heikki Gross from Estonia made the first impact of the day tactically choosing the better upwind lines to leave Yo Pudla, Tanner Aykurt and Deivis Maciulis in his wake towards the upwind turn. Yo was to later pull things back on the downwind leg, but never enough to reel Heikki back in fully.
For the girls the now familiar battle between current KTA Tour and Asian champions Karthryn Borgwardt and Hill Siu (actually racing TT Class in this event) was unfolding, with of course Japan’s top rider Aya Oshima right in there amongst it all too. Even Kathryn’s wide line and the third mark that could have let the others in was not enough to keep her from taking the first race of the day for the girls. This was to remain the situation in the second race of the day and also eventually in the final race of the event, putting Kathrin on the winner’s podium with Aya in second place. In taking third place overall Hill would also win the women’s TT Class, with Australia’s Alice Child following her in also with a good event in the TT.
Meanwhile for the men Yo was to take the top slot in the second and third races of the event but due to a disqualification for the first race his overall points would leave him out of the running. Heikki in the end proved to be the most consistent of the other riders, although each race would remain a close fought thing between Tanner and Deivis. In the men’s TT Ken Nacor who is more known for his freestyle skills was making an impact on the more established TT racers like Dennis Wong and Kin Nguyen Ngoc. For once Ken would manage to keep clear of any tangles or rule infringements and place high enough in each race to take the overall win for the class.
Even with another no wind day following the racing spirits were not damped and the good vibes paid off as we woke on the final day to the event flags signaling the game was on. The judge team decided to kick things off with a final course race to finalise the results event wise for the racers and then switch to freestyle as the wind filled in. Although the time left for the KTA Vietnam would only allow for us to run a single eliminator for the nine women and twenty nine men, it was to be a hard fought competition for the riders and a long day for the judges.
As the women’s freestyle progressed we could see that Aya and Kathrin were once again in good form. Also riding well the early heats were Jannicke Stav from Norway and Marielle Van de Riet from Holland. These girls progressed steady through to the semi-finals to meet each other and sort out the top slots. The upset came as Jannicke knocked out the current KTA tour champion to put herself into her first ever tour finals. In the end though Japan’s Aya Oshima confirmed that she is the rider to beat this year as her more powerful unhooked moves took her through into the top slot.
The large men’s freestyle field brought out some great performances through the afternoon, with a both a strong local team riding on their home turf and the highly motivated Philippines crew. Unfortunately local favorite and Vietnam’s top rider from last year’s KTA tour, Lai Hong Phi, bowed out early as he struggled to find his full range following recent injuries. The local flag was well carried though by Kinn Nguyen Ngoc, showing a nice range of old and new school moves throughout his heat progression . Good rounds were also being put in by Russian riders Sergey Rozhkov, Victor Mumpan and Chistyakov Pavel, with an explosive heat between the later and Doque De lo Santos being one of the highlights of the early rounds. Unfortunately it came to premature end for the Philippines rider as misjudged landing put him into the now pounding Mui Ne shore break. With this and his kite now down it was to sadly be the end for Doque.
Current Asian champion Yo Pudla, Boracay’s Ken Nacor and Japan’s Hiro Nakano were all also hitting their moves as they progressed towards the finals. Yo looked particularly unstoppable ramping of the wave kickers and landing powerful front mobs, slim chances and KGB’s sweet as, but his run came to an end when Ken Nacor took revenge for his defeat at the hands of Yo last year at the same venue. So it became a Philippines vs Japan finals, with Ken now lit from semi-final win, but even this would not quite be enough to knock Hiro of course as once again he turned in an almost flawless performance to keep Boracay boy away from his first win of the year and leaving Japan a clean sweep of the top slots in freestyle.
So that was the KTA Vietnam, pulled back from the no wind brink to another successful event. Which was all then rounded off nicely in the evening at the awards ceremony and closing party, hosted at Sankara and presented by the Ministry of culture, sports and tourism for the Binhthuan Government, which of course then in true KTA party style kicked until the sun called by the following morning to send everyone home.
Which only leaves us now to say see you in Thailand!!
1 Hiro Nakano- Japan Aya Oshima- Japan
2 Ken Nacor- Philippines Jannicke Stav- Norway
3 Yo Pudla- Thailand Kathrin Borgwardt- Germany
1 Heikki Gross- Estonia Kathrin Borgwardt- Germany
2 Taner Aykurt- Turkey Aya Oshima- Japan
3 Deivis Maciulis- Lithuania Hill Siu- Hong Kong
Twin Tip Racing
1 Ken Nacor- Philippines Hill Siu- Hong Kong
2 Kin Nguyen- Vietnam Alice Child- Australian
3 Lai Hong Phi- Vietnam Verena Rechberger - Austria