The Formula Kite European Championships has quickly become one of the biggest events in the kitesurfing calendar. With kite foil racing being one of two new sailing disciplines added to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, this event signaled a chance for athletes to qualify for their place on the plane next year.
2XS was asked by the RYA, who had received support from the BKSA and Portsmouth City Council, to organize and deliver power kite sessions to children in the local community with the aim of engaging, enthusing, and inspiring them to get involved in water sports.
Ben and Aidan (the 2XS kite team) loaded up the van and made their way to Portsmouth and met up with Tom, who helped us with coaching.
Although the original plan was to have all the activities at the beach site on Eastney Beach, high winds meant that we had to relocate to the Andrew Simpson Centre for the first two days. We set up the equipment, had a quick briefing with the team, and were then ready to roll. The RYA had also organized wing tasters, environmental beach cleans, and hands-on lessons to learn about kites and foils, so the kids were spoiled for choice!
Despite the high winds, the kids were all super keen to get involved and have a go themselves, taking the time to learn how to control the kite, safely release it in the event of a gust, and some even attempted a loop or two! Since the foil racing for the day was canceled, a few of the competitors from the British Sailing Team, along with competitors from Antigua, Greece, and the USA, came down to talk to the schools and demonstrate some of their kite skills.
As the wind eased off towards the back end of the week, the team moved back down to the beach site and got going with the next two days. This involved more kite flying, a few talks about the uses of wetsuits, kites, and foils, as well as lots of interesting questions from intrigued children! The site allowed the schools to participate in their activities while still becoming immersed in the atmosphere, with all the competitors launching and landing within a stone’s throw from where the children had their lunch.
We managed to give over 300 children an opportunity to try something new and broaden their horizons. Lots of the children said that despite living so close to the beach, they had never had the chance to see these types of water sports up close and personal, so it was really rewarding to see them all enjoy themselves so much. It looked like every child left the power kite sessions with a smile on their face, with lots of them asking for leaflets and information packs to show their parents what they had done. With Portsmouth only down the road, we hope to see lots of these children down at West Wittering soon to continue their kiting journey!
The racing event was also a success for the locals, with Briton Ellie Aldridge taking the win in the women’s fleet, becoming European Kitefoil champion and staking her claim to a place in the Olympics. Be sure to look out for her and the rest of Team GB when kite foiling comes on your screens next year!
Photo by Ben Mellor and Mark Lloyd/RYA