Johnny & Adam >> 1st and 2nd Copa Mexico Regatta
Once again it was Ozone Race Team members Johnny Heineken and Adam Koch on top of the podium at the recent Copa Mexico Regatta.
These guys are killing it with the Ozone Edge kite, well done to them, below is an event report from Adam.
It’s not every regatta where you have the top 3 racers in the world on a starting line with the worlds best race director. We were honored to have Americas Cup Race Director John Craig at the bi-annual Regatta Copa Mexico. Through my eyes John is the pioneer for the format of kite course racing and truly makes every event he runs outstanding. I see the kiteracing becoming a tradition in this prestigious International Sailing event. It certainly changes things for a kiteboarding competition to be attached to a massive regatta of this caliber. The opening ceremonies where over the top with heavily catered sushi, deserts, entertainment… Drinks where flowing a bit too heavy and free…. Corona girls… Dancers… several racers partied a little too hard the first night… Proof was painted down the side of a locals car and thankfully not on the inside…
Practice Racing… a few warm and sunny days of training with myself, Adam Withington, Alexis Aguera, Alex Aguera, Paolo Rista, Bryan Bernie Lake, Joey Pasquali, Johnny Heineken and Ricardo Leccese all showed up for some dialing in… but for the conditions to come there would be no proper preparation. As we push the low end limits of our sport you run into a tipping point where your kite just wont stay in the air. A race course that would one minute be filled in all the way across would instantly change into patchy spots of zero wind. Sailing into one of these holes would often make you respond in a spurt of random words that best described your frustration. Some racers tantrum preference was to punch or bite their bars. Or… my personal favorite is to slap the water as hard as you can with your arm and then laugh. It appeared that when the wind is 3 knots or less. No matter what kinda kite kung fu skills you have. Your gonna swim.
First race… first day is always the most interesting. Everyone is edgy and overly anxious. All racers want it to be their turn to win… Bernie was determined to earn it with his race face in full effect. As we approached the last 16 seconds before the gun… everyone had a clean spot on the line. The fleet was on Starboard Tack close hauled into the wind. Bernie was low on the line and punched out at the gun with clean air and running like a freight train. Johnny had a golden boy start as usual just upwind of bernie… I was positioned on Johnnys hip over his aft shoulder. In the same position upwind of myself was Riccardo Leccese “The Columbian”… Bernie tacked first onto the port lay line for the windward mark ducking all 3 of us. Johnny was pined by me and I was pined by Riccardo. Riccardo was pushing us all over the layline while bernie was running away with the race. So finally Riccardo lets Johnny and I tack. I’m stuck now with Johnny over my hip breathing fire down my neck and I also have to find a way to sail through Riccardo and beat him to the top mark. With Johnny on my hip I cant tack at the mark until he does first. This would put Heineken on the inside of all of us and therefore in the lead. If I give Riccardo too much space he could tack and cross Johnny and i which would put me in 4th. So it was a fight right out of the box for us all to catch up to Bernie who continued to roll like a freight train. Then all of a sudden I see my kite lines wrapping around Riccardo’s neck and legs… my kites lower wingtip caught on Riccardos kite. Next thing i knew my 17 meter was in the water and the only reason I was still riding was because Riccardo was now towing me. He was yelling, I was apologizing and making sure I wasn’t doing serious harm to him. With Riccardo being Leeward and having all rights…. it was clearly my fault. As it turns out he was just upset that I knocked off his lucky hat. So as I sat in the water… everyone else was history…. I was kite down and now in last place. I relaunched as quickly as I could and continued the race after doing a 360 penalty turn. In the meantime Bernie was going towards the finish Johnny hipped up on him and Bernie tacked close putting them into a colliding situation. Bernie painfully spun his penalty turn giving Johnny the race.
As we continued racing with our big kites Johnny was proving to be the world champion he is by never giving up and fighting all the way to the finish. Contorting his head and body in an aggressive stance sending him smoking upwind. All of us had great speed at this event… especially for taking our big kites into way too much wind. All of us on the Ozone Edge 17 where very impressed. With the wind going from nothing to everything in the middle of races.
Bernie for sure deserves recognition for leading the most races and having the worst luck… Sailing a mile ahead and then getting swallowed by holes. The wind would just disappear around you and there was nothing you could do. So he then he got to sit and watch Johnny and I sail right around him as he struggles to keep his kite in the air. Talk about a cruel way to loose first place in a race. But that’s just how the wind was. Just like rolling dice.
Day two was 17 meters all day and the wind was much better… The race committee was determined to get in 4 races by the end of the day. No breaks unless we needed to change kite sizes…. It did get quite windy but eventually it would get scary light. It just didn’t convince any of us to get off the monster kites. The last race of the day the wind totally went off the map… I couldn’t even make it across the starting line on Starboard tack. Everyone else was a bit smarter and started on Port going straight to the top mark. I was caught in a hole and still had not made it upwind of the start line. The wind had shifted all the way left on the race course and pretty much died. I was last place again and not looking like I was even going to start the race. I wasn’t laughing.
Eventually the wind filled down the race course and with it brought the fleet charging down towards me an entire leg ahead… I didn’t give up and I fought my way back to top 5 by the second lap. Then the same bad luck hole I was caught in swallowed Johnny, Bernie, Riccardo, Aguera, the Rista twins…. It gave me a chance to catch up and sneak into 2nd right at the finish. Proof right there that you can never give up.
The last day the wind had filled in nicely for our 13’s. More wind seemed to have brought the fleet closer together. There is nothing more fun then grinding to the finish overlapped with other racers…. Paolo and Stefano Rista ended up tied after 11 races and 4 days of racing. If Paolo would have beaten his brother in the last race. He would have won. That is what I think all of us course racers love about this game. It doesn’t matter if your battling it out for first place or second to last place. Your always chasing someone down or being chased down. It’s the same sensation to win a race as it is to beat someone you are competitive with. In fact Adam Withington from Playa Central in La Ventana was recently converted into a course racer from his girlfriend Alexis Aguera. He’s an avid wake style rider…. and now he is pretty hooked on the concept of head to head combat. It’s an adrenaline rush.
The pre awards party took us across the bay on the race committee boat. More free drinks and free dinner. It was amazing food again and the entire island style resort was lit up with candles and we had waiters that brought us more free drinks…
The final awards party was top notch. An endless buffet and completely open bar again…
Unfortunately we didn’t have the infamous Chip Wasson there to grab the spot lights and point it at random kiters singing “Start Spreading The News”.
Congratulations to all the competitors…
We look forward to returning to the Regatta Copa Mexico next time around.
Photo Credit: Raquel Arroyo and Adam Koch