It’s always fun to cheer for your favorite team. So for kiteboarders, when Zack Marks took on three high-tech sailboats, we couldn’t help but cheer him on. And boy did he make us proud.
Congrats on schooling the fleet. How did you get involved in the project?
Zack Marks: Thanks! The whole project was always Pat Rynne’s idea. Pat is a great sailor, kiter and scholar. I’ve known him through sailing and we’ve raced against each other in kite regattas. He was trying to get myself, and Jon Modica to come be a part of the project. Trying to find a time and place that worked for everyone was tricky. Luckily the scheduling worked out and I was able to participate. Pat had also played with the idea of shooting it in Key West during Key West Race Week. That would allow us to have the foiling GC-32 race with us too. But it didn’t work out so we just did it in Miami.
Were the other sailors surprised at how fast you were compared to them?
I’m not sure what the other sailors’ expectations were going into the race. I know that Jonny Goldsberry knew the potential of a foiling kiteboard. He has plenty of friends that race kites and he is also from the San Francisco Bay area. I think in general there is a lot of ignorance about the performance of kites and foils. I’m not trying to be negative, I’m just saying that in general, sailors don’t actually understand how efficient a kite and foilboard can be. I think lots of sailors are aware that kites are fast, but they are not aware of how great the upwind and downwind angles are.
Tell us a little about where you did the race, the conditions, and the racing format.
We did the race on Biscayne Bay in Miami. The wind was southeast at around 12-14 knots. The basic plan was to do a few one-lap windward leeward races. Then we would do a few reaching races. Just a beam reach out to a mark, gybe, and then come back. We completed two windward leeward races in great wind. Then the M32’s chase boat bumped into the M32. They had some damage and had to head back to shore. Unfortunately the wind was slowly dying the entire time also. We did do one reaching race but the other boats were seriously underpowered. It was probably only about 6-8 knots. The new foil kites by Ozone have amazing range so I still had enough power to make it. But since there was not much wind, we didn’t use any of that footage.
What kite gear were you using? What’s a set up like that cost?
I was using a 12 meter Ozone Chrono with 25 meter lines. I had an Alex Aguera foil board, a Taaroa Sword foil, Dakine Fusion harness and Patagonia wetsuit. I got my 12 meter Chrono used for $1600, complete. I got the Aguera board used for $1075. The Sword foil was new for $2500. Throw in maybe $250 for the harness and wetsuit. So that’s $5425 total. I think if you wanted all of this gear brand new you would add about $1500 to that total. For kiters it might seem like a lot of money, but coming from sailboat racing, that’s fairly cheap. Taking the plunge and spending the money is the hardest part. But once you do, you’re hooked.
The Hydrofoil Marstrom 32 was the closest in the fleet. Were they even close? What’s that boat worth?
The M32 was the closest, but it doesn’t foil. It’s just a fast catamaran. I knew that they would be fairly fast because I had done the Around Jamestown Record earlier in the year and the M32 bested me by 30 seconds. But in Miami they were not really that close. They were about a minute behind on a race that lasted only 6-7 minutes. I actually fell on the first race because I hit a plastic bag in the water. I was in the water and took the plastic bag off my foil, then once I got going again I still had enough space to throw in a tack and cross them. I thought they might be really fast on a straight beam reach, but unfortunately they went in and the wind was also dying, so we never got to see.
I’m not sure what the cost of that boat is, but it is definitely more than I make in a year. Or two years. Or three years…
Was it just the conditions or would you beat them all the time?
I do think that all of those boats have a sweet spot where they would be very fast. However, I think a foiling kiteboard would still beat all of those boats if there were at least 5-6 knots of wind. We have better low-end and better high-end. We can always have the optimum amount of power because we can swap out our kites. We also are not fighting the leverage of a mast.
Think you could beat an America’s Cup boat?
If the course was very short then it might be possible to beat an AC 72. The foiling tacks and gybes on a kite are so quick, taking only about two seconds. Changing direction on a 72-foot boat is no fast task, so I think they would lose on boat-handling alone. But if it was a longer course I think the AC 72 would win. They have a lot more downwind speed than we do. I’m not sure how comparable they are to us upwind, but I’m sure they are fast. There is only one way to find out though. Pat wants to do another video where we go to Bermuda and challenge Oracle in a few races. I don’t think that their 72 is operational anymore, but we could still race against the foiling AC45s.
Anything else to add?
I’m trying to think if there was anything that I missed. It was a really fun day on the water and I’m glad that Pat asked me to come down. I want to see more people get into kite foiling. I’ve seen lots of people have their love of water and kiting reinvigorated because foiling is so different and fun.
Zack Marks is the Assistant Sailing Coach at Eckerd College.
This original story appeared in the Summer issue of Kitesurfing Magazine. Be sure to check out rest of the free digital Kitesurfing Magazine edition.