Foil Racing for beginners. (Formula 2)
So it’s 2019, and fast becoming the year of the hydrofoil. Foiling has reached the tipping point now with loads of people entering the world of floating above the water in silent speed. What once began as a bit of a fad for the people looking for something different, it has now become a mainstream attraction. Almost every manufacturer is making foils and foil boards for almost every type of water craft. The beauty of this is the cost is coming down, whilst the performance and ease of use is going through the roof.
It’s never been a better time to get a foil and start riding. We’ve been through the benefits of foil in other previous blogs, so this one will focus on other aspects of foiling, primarily racing. The word “racing” sends shivers down some peoples back with visions of riders careening out of control at insane speeds whilst balancing on carbon “knives” literally sharp enough to slice and dice a tomato, all the while holding onto monster powered kites and to make matters worse, it’s costing the national treasury of a small country.
You’ll be relieved to know that there is a way to learn foil boarding; a) without too much cost, b) where you can learn with others who are also learning, c) learn safely with experts willing to help out.
I’m talking about the newly formed Formula 2 class. Formula 2 is all about getting into racing with a bunch of like minded riders who have come from surfing or free foiling of beginner foils and boards and wave kites or just beginner kites. So, technically, you will already have the gear, it’s just a matter of turning up and getting out there with everyone. Naturally, those who get into it, purchase used race gear to go faster and so begins the process of getting faster.
With my experience I can safely say there will always be someone at your level to race with. The group is quite competitive but in a very friendly way. F2 is all about having a great time and improving your skills. Racing requires a lot of new skills that you wouldn’t have learned through free foiling. Just some of these skills are;
- positioning and timing for a start with other riders, understanding the start sequence and jockeying for position.
- Riding upwind or downwind and figuring out your fastest angles and course as you approach the buoy up or downwind.
- How to ride at extremely deep downwind angles when going downwind.
- Riding in light winds, handling strong winds and getting the most out of your foil and kite. There is a lot more to it than you think.
- Understanding strategy around the course, reading the wind on the water, understanding racing rules and right of way, and how to deal with weed.
- This is all additional to learning to tack and gybe effectively on both tacks.
Most of this list is stuff you just can’t learn by riding by yourself with exception to tacking and gybing. There is so much more to racing than going fast and being able to turn corners. Every race offers the potential to learn something new. Even is less than ideal conditions, or should I say, especially in less than ideal conditions, there is much to learn, even though the desire to go back to the beach and pack up is high, that would be an opportunity squandered.
My most recent race showed me how badly I need to be able to water start in lightening winds and how to deal with weed. It was a harsh lesson, but I stuck it out and not surprisingly, I now have some new knowledge. Maybe that knowledge is knowing that I was unaware of what I needed to know. I now know what I didn’t know, which is one step better than not knowing what I didn’t know. I now have new practice drills and am starting to jump to clear weed. In short, I progressed.
At the end of the day, you learn by mistakes and figuring a way to overcome difficulties or inadequacies. It also makes for much more interesting banter and stories around the bar after racing. The epic friendly rivalry and making friends through shared adversary. The last race was horrendous due to weed and light winds, but it also produced some of the most unforgettable moment in my racing memory.
The Formula 2 is made up of the most eclectic group of individuals, all ages, different motivations, different budgets, various foils from beginner to pro and kites of every shape and size, but all sharing the same enjoyment of learning and progressing. F2 is an awesome place to come along and see if you like racing. If it is your first time, I would suggest setting yourself the goal of just finishing the course. Each race day is made up of three races of two laps each. The laps aren’t very long, usually only about 2km, so a total of approximately 4km per F2 race. A race typically takes around 20 minutes. This means your total race time is about 1 hour over the three races, but expect to be on the water for about 2-2.5 hrs, then its back to the beach and more importantly, the bar. Ask questions, learn stuff whilst enjoy the company of others and a beverage and food in your hand.
Who knows? You may even get hooked on the speed and challenge and decide to move up to Formula Kite. Everything is possible, but you’ll never know if you don’t come and have a go. It costs nothing to come and try and few race days.
For more info drop in on this FB group and say G’day.