Gnarly conditions. Epic racing. San Francisco delivered and more for the second day of the 2018 Hydrofoil Pro Tour at the St. Francis Yacht Club. Sunny skies and 20-knot winds blessed the first heats of the day and gave competitors their most satisfying rides.

Heat one blasted off with France’s Nico Parlier (Ozone, Lynch & Associates, The Black Dog, Julbo) rounding the first weather mark and exploding, losing about ten places. He fought back and managed a second in the heat to Guy Bridge (Flysurfer, Mike’s Lab) — an incredible comeback in tough conditions. “It was very hard. I had a nice little lead and I hit something and crashed,” Parlier explained, noting that something went awry for him in all four races today, preventing him from taking any firsts after yesterday’s five bullets.

He didn’t blame the wind, which was gusting well over 30 knots by the Golden Gate Bridge for round four.

Grinding upwind along the waterfront, ripping downwind while avoiding other racers, boats, birds, and flotsam, “It was gnarly conditions today,” said Will Morris (StFYC), the top Grand Master after two days of racing. “There was a lot of carnage on the water, people crashing that you needed to avoid. I had a race where Jean [de Falbaire, MRI] was just in front of me and his board submarined and went down so I jumped off my board and launched over his head to avoid hitting him. I landed on the other side and my board bonked into him, but he just got up and kited away.”

Britain’s Guy Bridge (Flysurfer, Mike’s Lab) made the most of it and nabbed three first place finishes to maintain his hold on third place overall. “It was a little bit survival by the last one,” he conceded, “But there’s no point in holding back – you always have a discard!”

The top three tightened up, with just six points now separating Parlier, StFYC’s Johnny Heineken and Bridge. Titouan Galea (F-One/Manera) is just one point back in fifth behind Connor Bainbridge (GBR).

 

“I had a good morning, terrible afternoon,” reported Bainbridge. “I don’t think anyone expected it to blow as much as it did. It was a case of holding on and getting around. For the local guys, this is their spot and they did pretty damn good.”

The classic Crissy Field conditions saw some locals claw back points with Joey Pasquali (F-One/Manera, Mike’s Lab) solidly in sixth and Seth Besse (F-One/Manera, StFYC) fighting for tenth. Top Junior and Female Daniela Moroz (Flysurfer, Mike’s Lab, Sperry, Ronstan) took more solid finishes in the top ten and sits at seventh overall, putting pressure on Joey Pasquali. For complete standings see the official results page.

StFYC’s Chip Wasson, second Grand Master, said, “There’s a south twist in the wind which makes it very gusty. The top of the fleet is so fast and they’re feeding off each other. When you’re not in the top ten you don’t get to feed off it, too. It’s a bellwether for the sport that these minor differences make it so much more critical.”

Hydrofoil racing pushes the boundaries of carbon technology, kite ram air foil designs, load limits and athletic judgement. As boards, foils, kites and lines push limits of strength, weight and performance, other limits are bound to be hit. Italy’s Riccardo Andrea Lecesse (Ozone, Mike’s Lab, Evobars) found those limits during day one when his carbon bar exploded under load, almost severing a finger and putting him out of the racing. He is reportedly doing fine and undergoing surgery, however, this shows the limits and edges of technology these riders are pushing.

Winds were still gusting heavily across Crissy Field beach as the racers packed up their kites, dropped their tailgates and popped the tops on some Fort Point beers for the evening’s social. Competitors who’d been hollering at each other to avoid collisions on the course now mingled and recounted their feats while sponsor Sunskis rolled up with fresh supplies of beer, sunflowers and sunglasses. Nobody was especially looking forward to Saturday’s distance race, The Bay Challenge, where racers launch for a speed run downwind to Berkeley, then tack their way back out of the East Bay. Speed, tactics and course are all up to the racer to find the fastest path. Will Parlier, who won it last year in 30:12, beat his own record in conditions expected to be as windy as today?

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