The 2008 US Nationals were held in wild conditions just under the Golden Gate Bridge. Like the 2007 event, the 2008 event was hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club and run with the precision of a finely tuned Swiss watch. The US Nationals are sanctioned by US Sailing, the governing body of sailing in the US. This designation helps to pave the way for kite racing to be sanctioned by ISAF, the international body of sailing and hopefully an Olympic berth in the future.
This year’s event could only be described as competitively heated! The world’s top racers were in attendance, including last year’s champion, Anthony Chavez, top Bay area racers Shawn Richman and Jeff Kafka, kite master Sky Solbach, and of course reigning PKRA world champion Sean Farley. On the women’s side, Kristine Boese was on hand to fearlessly defend her 2007 title.
The international fleet of racers was looking for top racing conditions and Crissy Field and the Golden Gate delivered. A total of 15 races were held in a variety of wind conditions that ranged from 15 knots to what even respected waterman and Bay area local Jeff Kafka described as “brutal” with winds gusting to over 30 knots!
Early on, Damien Leroy and Sky Solbach set the tone of the event by splitting firsts and seconds in the qualifier rounds while pre-race favorite Sean Farley started off with inconsistent results. Clarissa Hempel charged full on and finished several races in a respectable position well in front of most of the male competitors and tops among the women. The difficult conditions and high level of racing caused many registered racers to withdraw from the event prematurely to watch the action. The smaller fleet allowed race organizers to start all remaining riders on a single line and go directly to finals scoring.
In the finals, it was a team effort for Cabrinha. Making new fins, sharing kites, mending boards, and discussing race tactics all helped to propel top Cabrinha riders into excellent positions. Damien rode a variety of kites but opted to ride his usual weapon of choice, the tremendously rangy Crossbow 3’s in sizes from 7 to 12 meter. His choice of board was an NJS designed 6’1 racing quad with custom fins of his own making. Clarissa was riding Switchblade 3’s and a Kafka race quad 5’6.
As the event raced on, Damien showed incredible consistency finishing 1st or 2nd in all races but one where he finished 3rd that he was able to discard. As the points were very close, the young racer remained composed, yet when the situation called he was able to aggressively attack. His arsenal included nail biting port tack starts and full throttle blasts off the wind to protect and sometimes increase his points lead. While Damien was among the fastest riders down wind, it was his totally dominant up wind angle that helped him to win this most important title. Clarissa was able to stay the course and finish 18th overall among the men and 9 points ahead of Kristen Boese to take the women’s title.
Other Cabrinha riders with top results were Jon Modica finishing 4th overall using the new Crossbow IDS, Kent Marinkovic finishing 8th using the CB3 and Crossbow IDS, last year’s second place winner, Jeff Kafka using a mix of Contra and CB3 finishing 9th, 4 x Olympian Mike “Gebi” Gebhardt using Crossbow IDS in 11th, race organizer John Gomes using Switchblade 3’s in 12th, and Nils S. racing on Switchblade 3’s rounding out the top 15.
“Having been a member of the US Olympic Sailing Team for 7 years and competing on a top level in windsurfing, seeing Damien and Clarissa take these titles at this stage of the sport made me feel like a proud parent. Being there as part of this incredible team and helping contribute to their success made me feel like I was standing atop the podium with both of them, it was inspiring. Damo, Clarissa, and the rest of the team are the best personalities in the sport regardless of their outstanding results. I couldn’t be happier!” Kent Marinkovi.
2008 US National Kite Championships
Results Men’s overall
1st Damien Leroy CABRINHA
2nd Sean Farley north
3rd Sky Solbach north
4th Jon Modica CABRINHA
5th Anthony Chavez naish
6th Jon Van Malsen north
7th Shawn Richman waiman
8th Kent Marinkovic CABRINHA
9th Jeff Kafka CABRINHA
10th Ken Winner north
1st Mike Gebhardt CABRINHA
2nd Nils Stolzlechner CABRINHA
3rd Chip Wasson Flexifoil
1st Clarissa Hempel CABRINHA
2nd Kristin Boese best
3rd Melissa Gil CABRINHA