- 16 September 2009 | Kiteboarding
This has been a good summer for F-One team rider Frank Wittke, a native of France who has lived in the Bay Area since 1986.
After winning the Grand Master World Championship Kiteboard Course Racing title on August 8 in San Francisco, the 50-year-old rider finished 1st kiteboarder in the Ronstan Bridge to Bridge race on September 3.
In its eighth year, this race once again attracted kiteboarders, windsurfers and 18’skiff dinghy sailors under the Golden Gate Bridge for this one-of-a-kind 7.5-mile downwind race to the Oakland Bay Bridge.
This year the wind conditions varied from 20-25 knots at the start of the race, (with a nasty chop created by a powerful ebb that caused numerous boats to capsize before the race even started), to an anemic 0 to 5 knot at the finish line.
For the second year in a row, the skiffs finished first slightly under 20 minutes, taking advantage of their few hundred square feet of sail area in the no wind bubble just North of the Bay Bridge, while kiters who had led the way, some by a 5 minute margin, were struggling to keep their kites in the air.
Just 59 seconds after the 1st boat and 21 seconds after the second Australian skiff, Frank Wittke powered his way through the finish line ahead of another dinghy, a second kiteboarder Marcelo Segura, and a third kiter Jamy Donaldson.
At the awards ceremony, when asked to describe his strategy for the race, Frank replied, ”as a teacher, I tell my students that the fastest course from point A to point B is a straight line, not a zig-zag. I followed by own advice this year, and I guess it paid off!”
Wittke told us later that equipment choice was crucial. “Right until the last minute, I hesitated between my surfboard and my 6’ Amundson custom shaped race board that I used during the “Worlds”. I knew it would be tough to ride in the chop but that it would give me enough float to ride through the lulls at the finish. I also stuck with my biggest kite, the 12m F-One bandit dos that has a huge range.”
Wittke got a good start, just a few seconds after the gun shot, right next to the boat. Chip Wasson, second place finisher overall at the ”Worlds”, soon crossed his path and decided to position himself closer to Alcatraz and Treasure Island in hopes of finding more wind.
Wittke decided not follow the leader and to do his own thing instead. Sure enough, the wind slowly backed off and 200 yards from the finish line, the whole group went down, struggling to keep kites in the air. The racers waded in the water for 2 or 3 minutes while the boats grew steadily closer.
Since Wittke was upwind of the rest of his struggling partners, he caught a little puff and succeeded in waterstarting and staying on top of his board while power stroking his kite up to the finish line, crossing with a big smile and a loud “allez la France”.
Of the 57 participants, 22 finished the race, with 7 out of 30 kiters, 5 out of 13 boats, and 10 out of 14 windsurfers.
1. Frank Wittke F-One
2. Marcelo Segura RRD
3. Jamy Donaldson Slingshot
4. Nick Adamson Naish
5. Rob Kindt Ozone
6. Steve Gibson Ozone
7. Kris Youngberg Slingshot