Robert Smits >> Les Hemmes
The 12th of May promised to be a good day, wind and sun was predicted at the French beach of Les Hemmes, near Calais.
At 6 in the morning, after just 4hours of sleep, David picked me up from my house, we attached the trailer to his car and our road trip was underway! After 2 hours in the car, we found ourselves in France, among other kiters, what a way start to the day!!
After assembling the rest of the buggy, David and I enrolled ourselves and went to the beach. Around 10.30 am, we noticed markers were put out.. course set straight through the water!! After discussing a bit about the track, David and I donned our dry suits, turned chill-mode off and switched race-mode on. After the briefing, David and I decided it would be best if David would start, and what a start it was! At the start, David was in sixth place, but going hard on his Yakuza GT 8.3 At the first turning marker, he was in second position, with Joost breathing down his neck, but David pushed on, increasing his lead little by little. After a lap, it was great to see about 4 people riding away in front of the pack, the gap ever increasing.
The wind was picking up after about 45 minutes racing, to which most pilots came into the pits, but David kept going and finally shouted to me that he had to use the bathroom and I should take the 6.8. We had a record speed tag out and I was on my way. The third was on his way to get me, but I kept riding hard, keeping the distance between us and even increasing the distance a little.
The conditions were great, the Yakuza GT 6.8 was perfectly powered. The track was great, some water here and there, some hard surface and some soft sand, but everything went superb. It was a lot of fun overtaking some other racers, which were many (38 teams at the start). The wind picked up slightly, but the 6.8 was still manageable. After another 45 minutes of racing, I told David it was his turn again and sure enough, we did another lightning speed tag out, which did not go unnoticed by the jury…
David had to go “in jail” because we were too fast and should slow down in the technical zone and do the tag out at walking speed, to improve safety for all riders. David thought it was a joke from the race master, so only was in jail for a couple of seconds and resumed racing. David was racing well with his 6.8, and we kept the same spot. A Dutch team was really steaming along in the first place, but David had some nice battles with the 3rd and 4th teams. After an hour, David wanted to change again, and it was my turn.
After a very slow tag out (we had to, as the race master especially came out to watch us do the tag out, from 10 meters away), I was racing on the 6.8 again. After about 3 laps (one lap was 5.88km), I noticed the wind had turned and was decreasing. I needed a bigger kite. David put his 8.3 out for me, which I rapidly changed and was back out racing. After some rounds, the 8.3 became too small and I felt I was losing ground to other racers. Luckily, they were struggling like I was and to my astonishment; I was even increasing the lead on the other racers around me, even if just a little. When passing the scoring gate, I told David to get ready with a bigger kite.
We tagged out again, David racing with his Yakuza GT 10. A lot of pilots were changing up sizes, and sure enough, David shouted to put my sandwich away and give him a Yakuza 12. As I noticed most were out on 13’s and other big kites (and because David interrupted my meal), I decided to give David a 14m² GT to continue racing. After a maneuver in front of the scoring gate (a German pilot who just tagged out from the technical zone, didn’t see David coming and indicating he was coming into the technical zone to change his kite), David was put in jail for a second time, this time for a little while, which seemed like a eternity. The funny thing is, David had right of way and actually, did nothing wrong. David kept going and the race master told me he would probably shorten the race, as on parts of the track, wind was lower than 4meters/second (which is too little to have an official race). David shouted he really needed a bathroom break, when I shouted to him it wouldn’t be long anymore until the end. David kept going while I was supporting him. 50 km’s later, we wanted to change but they finally announced the last lap and I could keep my pants dry.
The race was over, after 6 hours and 40 laps, racing with people from different parts of Europe (France, Belgium, the Netherlands, the U.K., Germany, and Switzerland). Because the race is that long, it is not that easy to see who is in which place. Okay, so, the price giving, all 38 teams were named and came forward to get a drink, some snacks and a poster.
David and I scored a podium place, third! Jeroen and John made it to the first place. We lost the second spot to Charles and Fabian, when David was “in jail”. In the end, we were just 50 meters apart, but never knowing they were competing with us. In the end it’s a fun-race and the fun-level was high in France!
It was another great day at the beach with a lot of pleasure, laughs, and other crazy things. Thumbs up to the organisation for this event!
Next year, we will definitely be competing again!
Thanks to Jeroen Potters and Mathieu Zubert for using their pictures.
Robert and David