The KTA Asia Pacific Hydrofoil Series Desaru Coast saw its first day of action today along the blustery eastern shores of Johor. The competition commenced with 4 rounds of windward-leeward course racing and is set to continue over the next two days (14-16 December 2018).
The event marks the second stop of the KTA's brand new Asia Pacific Hydrofoil Series, the first of which was held in conjunction with the Samui Regatta in early June on Koh Samui, Thailand.
This weekend's event is taking place on the golden coastline of Desaru, one of Malaysia's most southerly beach towns which sits just a 30-minute ferry ride (plus a short car journey) away from Singapore.
The event's headline sponsors, Desaru Coast themselves, have now become one of the region's most hotly anticipated tourism developments, having established a range of upscale resorts and private villas along with an impressive array of golf courses, an adventure waterpark (complete with a wave pool), riverside dining, conference centers, and more.
Not only is this event the first time the KTA has included Malaysia in their annual tour schedule, but it's also the first time that a kite foil competition has ever taken place within the country. A landmark event both for Malaysia, Desaru, and the KTA, riders from 18 different countries have gathered on the beach to take part in the event, including the series' reigning champion Daniel Leow (Malaysia) and current Asia Formula Kitechampion, Maximillian Maeder (Singapore).
Today's conditions were unexpectedly challenging, with powerful waves at the shoreline and up to 2 meters of swell further out. Races began with a steady 16 knots of wind, which built up throughout the day - peaking at a gusty 19 knots by the early afternoon.
Many competitors struggled to make it past the rough shore break, and for those that did, the conditions outside were nearly just as relentless. The race team also had their work cut out for them, rearranging the course and adjusting the race marks with every change of wind direction and tug of the waves.
Race 1 saw riders taking off on both port and starboard tacks as they tried to deal with the wild conditions. As the race settled, we soon would see Asia champion Max Maedermove into lead position, closely followed by Korea's Soon Ho Kwon and series leader Daniel Leow - holding these positions through to the finish. Race 2, however, turned the tables as Max faulted in the swell, giving Soon Ho the opportunity to dominate proceedings.
In the women's division, long-established KTA competitor Fon Benyapa Janitwan proved her versatility and strength in the conditions to can Races 2 and 3, while newcomer Emi Hirata from Japan pushed Fon in each race to take a win of her own in the 4th and final Race of the day.
Back with the men's fleet with the winds steadily dropping, Max would put right his 'blip' from Race 2 and take wins for Races 3 and 4. Other riders, however, had also begun to settle into the conditions and we would see China and Japan taking the Top 3 places with Peng Li and Horo Toshihiro respectively. By Race 4 the winds had backed off to an average of 8kts across the course, which allowed cleaner racing for everyone, boosting confidence once again for tomorrow's competition.
The event plan had been to hold 5 races each day, but regretfully, as the start sequence for Race 5 began, the wind decided it was time to switch-off - calling a premature (but perhaps not totally unwelcomed) end to a tough first day's racing.