Foil the Wight

We all know that the Olympic Committee and World Sailing made a massive error of judgement in appointing kiteboarding to the vacant sailing slot for Paris 2024. It’s an error of catastrophic proportions made by clueless, out of touch committees that failed to recognise the simple fact that no-one does the racing discipline. It’s a holiday beach sport at best. A weekend thing for people to do who have no friends. It’s for those that wouldn’t say boo to a goose.



Even the RYA, the greatest winning organisation of all time, have been casting around for 16-21 year olds who have any interest in pursuing the sport. Let’s say they weren’t deluged with candidates. Olympic legends won’t be created and it’s right up there with the ridiculous minority sports like breakdancing of the modern era or poodle-clipping (1900, Paris), horse long jump (1960, Italy), pistol duelling (1908, London) or solo synchronised swimming (1992, Barcelona). I kid you not. Quite fancy bringing ‘pistol duelling’ back though – that might sort out some America’s Cup stuff sharpish.

The big problem with kiteboarding is that it’s yesterday’s news. Everyone is wing foiling. Easier. More fun. Democratic. Cheap. Better racing. No chance of being pulled across groins and more sociable. You grab your board, get a wing and in five minutes you’re foiling the waves and looking achingly cool. The kite boarders meanwhile are still sat on the beach tying stupid little pieces of string, pumping up wings and trying to remember how to fly a kite – a skill they last didn’t master at the age of three with their grand-parents on rainy summer holidays in land-locked Derbyshire.



The cool kids are wing foiling. Fact. The Olympics has surfed the wrong wave. World Sailing was asleep and still think The Rolling Stones are groovy. The kids have won again. Kiteboarding should, if there’s any good in the world, be dumped immediately after Paris 2024 and never referred to again. An aberration. A mistake. A panicked decision. An error of judgement. An example never to be repeated again. Kiteboarding should be replaced by wing foiling, plain and simple. Easy.

And to prove the point, the most incredible initiative is underway by four wing foilers who are taking on the circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight – 50 nautical miles of sometimes hairy seas, wind shadows, shifts, rocks, cliffs, wrecks and rip tides, not to mention monster fatigue. I’m knackered after doing it in a 28-footer sitting down the whole way around. Can you imagine what it’s like to stand up? Amazing effort.



And also, hats off to my local club and national treasure, The Island Sailing Club, the absolute gem in the Cowes club scene. I was there last night having a pizza with the boy wonder on the beautiful quarter deck just as the sun was going down and the place was buzzing.

The club are the effective, de-facto go-to of all things going around our fabulous Isle and the organisers of the London Marathon of Yachting – the annual Round the Island Race which is such a focus of everyone’s sailing calendar on the South Coast. And they’re full-square behind this ‘Foil the Wight’ challenge which hopefully is happening as I write this, weather permitting.



Good luck to Ross Williams, Tom Court, Sam Light and Thomas Buggy who are moving the dial and rocking the world. With fleets emerging all over the place – and I see from social media that the St Francis Yacht Club is right on this ticket – I think wing foiling is the future today. Brilliant sport. Nice people and a great alternative for those kids who don’t like having coaches whistling at them. And going slow.

It’s the anti-parent discipline. It’s the nautical equivalent of the Sex Pistols.

Watch this.



12 thoughts on “Foil the Wight

  1. The same people you are squarely behind? Two of them make their living from the sport your deriding in the rest of the article…

    Nice about face from your positive remarks about the youth event held in Gizzera over the summer

    Painfully transparent though they were

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  2. … the joys of old email address liked to a form. And if I was from Naish I would be saying exactly the same thing.

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  3. As part owner in two boats at the opposite end of the spectrum, one an XOD, the other a 70’ ULDB I am a committed keel boat sailor and fortunate to be able to participate with friends in events both local and far flung. I have to say that though I don’t do any kite racing, kiteboarding is easily the most fun I have on the water, with and without foils. If you are like me , you never kite alone for safety reasons, so you are always with others of like mind; those that like a challenge, those that don’t mind scaring themselves occasionally and those that enjoy the company of others both on the same patch of water and on the beach post session. Not to mention kiteboarding can take you to some great locations and is a level playing field for both sexes. There is a camaraderie among kiteboarders that is unique in watersports, born out of the rigorous learning process and maintained by the occasional need to rely on each other for assistance.

    The wing thing looks like fun and has its place in the surf, we’ll see if it sticks, lets face it the Sex Pistols music was rubbish though and seldom played today.

    Boats should be in the Olympics, kiteboarding will dominate your world if you let it.

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  4. I agree that pistol dueling would be a welcome addition back into the Olympics. The elimination rounds reduce the associated costs pretty rapidly although I am not 100% certain how one can practice.

    In the meantime, almost all of us are keelboat sailors so there really ought to be a keelboat discipline in the Olympics. The 8 meters were splendid as were Stars (the Etchells should have taken the place of the Soling). It is true that an 8 meter costs more than a kiteboard, but which is more representative of the sport as currently practiced?

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    1. Personally I demand poodle-clipping be re-instated immediately. And yes, how do you practice pistol duelling meaningfully?? Good point re keelboats – I think the Star should be back in as it epitomised Olympic endeavour.

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      1. Dueling practice must be interesting to watch; it might be even more tricky than a port tack start.

        Perhaps poodle clipping should be back but let’s be honest with one another. Poodles are only a small step above cats. They have no place in modern society. One must have a Labrador Retriever or perhaps a Springer Spaniel.

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  5. Anything involving a board, however powered, wave, kite, wing, paddle or whatever . . . should be nothing to do with World Sailing . . .the clue is in the title.

    Boards should have their own world organisation covering ALL board based sport/pastimes and that organisation should have to persuade the Olympics of the merits of the various board sport/pastimes, and not get a free entry via using ‘sailing’ slots.

    Thus freeing a slots and allow a wider range of of real ‘sailing’ activities to be represented within the ten slot limit..

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  6. I watched some of the kite foiling at the 2019 world beach games in Qatar. It looked pretty with the kites up in the sunshine, but even with commentary and live TV it was almost impossible to follow. Admitttedly if they had national flag coloured kites it would be a bit easier, but it so difficult to work out who is overtaking who or even why they are overtaking because the wind they are sailing in is the length of the string away, so it’s graphically difficult to present to the masses on tv, and the strings preclude any close board on board action. Could be another one Olympiad class like the Elliott women’s match racing keelboat (another piece of ISAF muddled thinking) .

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  7. Hi Magnus

    You have nailed this one (as you often do). But it is not just the kids, in SF underneath the Golden Kite Bridge every evening the older generation(s) are out there in force. There are good few over 40’s ripping about, and some in their 60’s. Everyone who once windsurfed, but was a bit leery of kiting due to the danger factor, is now out there on a wing foil.

    While I can’t remember ever defending World Sailing before, Wing Foiling is barely 18 months old. The first concept designs started in early 2019, and it was late 2019 before the average person could buy one. The people and companies who make the gear are completely surprised by how fast it has taken off. They were expecting the wings to be a beach holiday sport for the less adventuresome. There have been less than 80,000 wings built so far (there are 150,000 kites built per year).

    You can’t buy a wing in a retail shop in the States at this point, all sold out. Designs for next season’s wings are happening and the fabricators will start producing product in January (all in Asia). The supply chain and shipping is a mess, and there will likely not be enough fabric to meet the demand. The brands are now trying to figure out how many wings they need to produce for next year. A lot more is the answer, but no one knows how many. They are guesstimating 200,000 units, and there probably will not be enough material available to build more. This is right on the verge of exploding globally.

    As you know this sport is “sailing”, in a way that kiting is not. Kiting is going to be the more niche sport by the time the next summer Olympics arrives, it is not in question. Wings are the thing.

    As far as the wings themselves go, it is very early days. They are currently on generation 2 for wing design, Gen 3 designs are taking shape in SurfPlan on the computers in Hood River and Hawaii right now. The current wings are kind of crappy compared to sails. They are basically spinnaker weight polyesters and nylons, they are very soft and floppy without a lot of aerodynamic stability. The first generation of a high tech sailcloth type material will go into the high end wings for next season. There is a long, long, long runaway ahead in technical development.

    I see this Foil the Wight event as a big deal. I am pretty sure a year from now there will be enough people good about to make it a real race, and the wing foiling speed record around the IOW will be something every youngster wants to own, and it will give a lot of them their “15 minutes”. Good on the ISC for being ahead of the curve.

    I see Ross made it around, good man. Didn’t see what happened to the rest of them however.

    Best
    Bill

    Bill Pearson
    Challenge Sailcloth
    Vice President/Development

    Mobile: +1 775.247.8971
    Skype: pearson.we

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