The last national Blokart event for this year is in the books. The last Dutch Open was organized in 2009, followed by a 2 year hiatus with the 2010 Worlds in Belgium and 2011 Europeans in the Netherlands.
Lieven and I arrived in Ijmuiden on Saturday morning , greeted some of the other pilots, built up our karts and took the long walk down to the beach. We did some practicing, followed by a traditional Dutch briefing (i.e. confusing). When the races started, the wind had dropped to a 7 knot average. Since all performance pilots were racing in the same division, it quickly became clear that I would have a large disadvantage since I weigh a lot more than most other pilots. This showed in the races: Lieven, Olaf Buhl and Geert Steen were contesting at the front; Etienne Kodeck and I were battling for fourth place.
Once the races were over, we checked in at the hotel and cleaned up before heading to the pilots’ dinner, which started at 18h00 sharp
Sunday morning, it was clear that the wind had dropped some more; the average was 5-6 knots. While my disadvantage would normally increase, I tend to outrun more people in very light wind compared to light wind. I managed to keep my kart going where other pilots were simply giving up. This allowed me to get a more solid grab on my fourth place. The podium consisted of Olaf in first, Lieven in second and Geert in third.
The races and the event were run amazingly well! Race director Richard Chardet had a team of about 8 volunteers and it paid off, as we did manage to complete 8 heats each in very light conditions. Big congratulations to Blokart Club Nederland for this!
On Sunday, fellow sailor Henk informed us that he has a very serious illness and that he will not recover from it. Our thoughts are with him, his family and his friends.
Last weekend, the Belgian Blokart Club organized its fifth installment of the Belgian Open Blokart Championships, Ostend (BOBCO) and what a great event it turned out to be!
Back to basics
After the 80 participants at the 2009 BOBCO and the 135 participants at the 2010 World Championships, the BBC took a year of in 2011 to get the priorities straight again. We wanted to host a smaller and more casual 2012 BOBCO, allowing for new pilots to get their first racing experience in comfort, truly getting back to our roots. Even by keeping it more low profile, the event attracted over 40 pilots from seven different countries.
Registration and day one
On Friday evening, most pilots gathered at the Ostend Tennis Club. After weighing in and registering, everyone stuck around to grab a drink or have something to eat.
First briefing on Saturday was given around 9.00, even though some people were still a bit hung-over from the night before. Race officer Lieven briefed the pilots about the track and delayed racing since there wasn’t any wind whatsoever. After the general briefing was dismissed, Lieven and I stayed to inform the newcomer pilots about the specifics of blokart racing. Since there was no time pressure, we had the chance to be very extensive in our explanation and I’m pretty sure it really helped the new pilots, as there were no noteworthy issues during the races.
Around 11.00, the wind was still absent. The race committee (Lieven, Nico and I) went to have a look at the track. Unfortunately, the wind inland was blowing even slower, so racing there was not an option.
At 13.00 the final briefing of the day was made: races dismissed. We all stuck around to enjoy the excellent catering and went back home.
In the evening, the Charles Lindberg restaurant hosted the pilots dinner. The food and atmosphere were amazing and the evening got topped off by a surprise musical act, performed by a fellow blokart pilot!
Day two – the racing
Sunday morning, things were looking a lot better. There was a north-easterly wind of about 4bft, which meant racing would be on! By the time the races got going, the wind had dropped to about 3bft. All performance classes started off together, followed by the production classes. Once the production group went for its third race, the wind had shifted and dropped a bit, wherefore most pilots didn’t manage to get along the track anymore. The race was cancelled and the track was repositioned. The pilots lined up again and got a second go, which worked out better this time. Afterwards, the performance group went for their fourth heat, but this was cancelled as well since most of the pilots got stuck. After waiting for a bit, the wind did not pick up again. Lieven decided to stop the racing. Both groups got three heats in, which is the amount minimum for a valid championship.
Around 15.00, everyone gathered for the prize giving. Our sponsors provided some nice prizes which were raffled. To close the event, Jan Meijer gave a very nice speech about what makes BOBCO so special.
This is the first blog entry in a while, but I’m keen to report on the 2012 Danish Open Blokart Championships that took place last weekend.
The drive from Antwerpen to Rømø on Monday was pretty smooth. The most difficult thing on the German Autobahn was to keep my inner racing pilot from bursting out
On Tuesday, there was sunshine all over, but no wind (literally, 1-3 kts).
Wednesday the wind picked up nicely (20 kts), but the beach had completely flooded due to a combination of tide, rain and seawater blown onto the sand.
By Thursday afternoon, the wind was still blowing hard and while the beach was still very wet, there was a large area that was sailalbe. I was so happy that I could finally get going!
On Friday, most pilots had arrived (Buhls, Bruhns, Torstens, Alex VDL, …). The wet spots on the beach had disappeared, but you can guess it: so had the wind.
Small clip from Friday
With all the pilots present, the transponder system set and the volunteers in place, we were ready to get racing! It had been raining for a while, so the beach was pretty wet and quite limited, so it would promise to be a very tactical. Add some pretty strong wind (17 kts) and you have the perfect conditions for a good blokart race. Because of the limited number of participants (21), we all raced together.
The start was dead downwind with one side of entry blocked. I was a bit afraid that this would create conflicts, especially since we were with 21 pilots. Most racers however did a very conservative start, meaning that they had already set in their final approach at least 20 meters from the beginning of the startbox. This gave me a perfect oppertunity to force myself into the startbox at full speed, while being able so see the other pilots (with right-way priority) coming and anticipating on their course.
Combined performance results
Overall, I won races 1 – 2 and 4.
In race 3, the wind had dropped a bit, which meant I could only keep up with the lighter guys, rather than building up a lead. I came in third behind Torsten and Olaf.
The fifth race started pretty well, with the wind unchanged. However Heimi had decided to quickly change to a 5.5 sail (everyone was sailing 4m all day). While it made absolutely no sense while he was doing it (the wind did not show a downward trend at all), he profited greatly from it. A couple of minutes into the race, the wind had shifted and dropped a little. This meant he – as the only pilot – was able to get downwind from mark 2, through the gate up to mark 1 in just one leg. The other competitors – myself included had to work our way downwind zigzagging. Upwind I was clearly catching up, but in the end it turns out that Heimi had made a gamble that worked out well!
After heat 5, the water was standing at around 2cm on the entire track, which meant we had to bring the cars to safety and races were cancelled for the day. The afternoon brought some sun but the beach was still a no-go zone.
We’ve all met again at the local restaurant for a nice pilots dinner, but then it was straight to bed to be able to race freshly on Sunday!
Sunday morning however, it was pretty clear that things were not looking to good. It had rained all night, puddles were spread all over the camping site. Around 8.00 I got the news from Torsten – our race officer: races would be cancelled.
The award ceremony was at 10.00 at the camping site, with some surprises: some classes had been combined, others had been kept apart without a clear reason (see Afterthoughts). The proudest of them all however was cleary Karin, who finally put a win on her palmares
Once I said my goodbyes, I cleaned up all my gear. It is so nice to not have to clean your blokart when you come home!
Finally, I would like to share some quick opinions about this event and their bid for 2014. Some of this may be complete BS, other might be helpful, decide for yourself
It was a very casual and friendly racing environment, which always creates good spirits with both the pilots and the organizers.
However, things might have been run a bit too casual on those points:
- scruteneering: there was no scruteneering throughout the event. When everyone knows the rules and is honest, this should not pose any problems. I did however pick out a serious infriction (full carbon mast in production), which was quickly resolved. I am afraid though that there will probably have been similar – unintentional – violations of the rules.
- communication: there was no Notice of Race issued and therefor it was not made clear by which rules we had to abide. On a more practical note: the lack of rules meant there was no flag system to indicate the start procedure, which lead me to miss the countdown 4 out of 5 times.
- classes: 7 different classes were run, which resulted in 19 out of 21 pilots getting a trophy. Stating the obvious: this is an insanly high number. I understand that trophies are made on beforehand, and letting them go to waste is not good either, but one of the only things that gives a trophy glory is its exclusitivity!
I have only been able to list three negative issues, which demonstrates that this event was organized well in all the other ways: friendly environment, good races, delicious catering… The Dansk Blokart Forening has once again proven to be well oiled organizing team!
The Danes have also put in their bid to host the 2014 Blokart World Championships. Having participed in three events on Rømø (2009 European, 2011 and 2012 Danish), I would like to do a very quick review about this place to host the Worlds.
Accomodation-wise, Rømø is a perfect fit. During low season, there should be a plenty of room to house all the participants. There are a number of restaurants and other facilities.
For organizing a big event, the Danes also have a great team that will with no doubt be able to host races for 150+ people.
The only problem however, seem to be the sailing conditions. It is just too common that the beach is completely flooded and cannot be sailed upon. If the Worlds take place for 5 days, it would not be too big a surpise if the beach were only dry for 2 or 3 days.It seems imperative to have an alternate sailing venue, which could be a parking lot (maybe the Lakolk Campingsite), a closed down street or the harder beach at Lakolk.
I wish them all them best with their bid and would like to thank all the volunteers and participants for making the races as exciting as they were!
Next stop are the 2012 Belgian Championships (BOBCO12) in October.
it’s been a while since the last blog, but here we are!
I did not write any more posts since I was a bit frustated and wanted to keep up the good spirits. Also, I was very busy with races and certainly did not want to ruin my karma with any premature predictions!
Let’s just go day by day:
Tuesday – Day 2 of the Worlds
We got confirmation that Matt Beckett had indeed broken his foot as a result of the crash. Races started of extremely slow as the wind was very shifty and the race committee wanted the course to be perhaps too perfect. The first protests were also coming in and I did attend the hearings to gain some experience on the matter.
Wednesday – Day 3 and Thursday – Day 4 of the Worlds
The third and fourth day were very similar: there was lots of winds all day and it was freezing cold. The team sailed with 3m and 4m sails; Nico even broke out his 2m sail, altough it was a gamble that did not work out well. At the end of day 4, it was announced that we had to pack all our stuff and bring it to the hotel, since rain was predicted.
Friday – Day 5 of the Worlds
We all gathered for a morning briefing on the parking of the hotel. Fran announced that racing would be cancelled since the risk of rain was too high. Once it starts raining on the playa, the terrain becomes impossible to drive on and can get damaged. All of us understood that this was not a risk worth taking. The racing was over!
For a couple of hours, Lieven and I started packing our bags, dissasembling the sails, weighing all the luggage and so on.
In the evening, we headed to the prizegiving with dinner. It started out with a very thorough thanks to everyone involved, which we would like to repeat once again!
Afterwards, prizes were given. I was the only team member on the podium, but it was on the number one spot! Lieven came in fourth, missing out just 3 points from the podium. Nico obtained the sixth place, even tough he had an excellent last couple of races.
For the team prize, we came in fourth, landing on 4 points from the podium. Two Spanish and one New Zealand team were ahead of us. Congrats to them as well!
It was time to leave Primm, so we drove all the way to Los Angeles. Just 10 minutes away from the playa, we encoutered a road that had been completely snowed down, which is pretty weird knowing that we had temperatures well over 30 °C in that same week.
In the afternoon, we arrived in Venice. We met with Olaf and Karin Buhl, as well as local pilot Bill Price in the popular bar Whaler and had a few drinks. Afterwards, we went to a nearby restaurant for diner.
Sunday – Monday – Tuesday
The last day in the States had arrived, but we wanted to make count. We drove up to Malibu Beach, which is even fancier then Venice. During the two hour drive, we saw a dozen Rolls Royces, some Bentleys, lots of Porsches, Ferraris and I am convinced that I saw a Koenigsegg, even tough I did not get it on camera.
Arriving at the airport, the check-in and the security clearance went very smootly, I guess the authorities do not care as much who leaves their country compared to who comes in. We then flew to London Heathrow for about 10 hours, on the smallest seats ever. Luckily we both caught some sleep. After landing in Heatrow, we had to wait a couple more hours and then hopped onto our flight for Brussels, where we landed on monday around 16:00
Once retrieving our luggage in Brussels however, we were a bit shocked. The tube containing all of our masts had been opened and was in no way closed again. The sails were slightly damaged and we were afraid that multiple axles had fallen out. Just a couple of hours ago I did discover that they had in fact opened the bottom side of the tube, so the axles were just on the other side. Lucky us!
To conclude I would very much like to thank every single volunteer and participant who was involved in making this event as great as it was. Also, I would like to thank the Belgian Blokart Club as well as team members Lieven and Nico for the nice company and coaching!