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Kiteboard contest attracts top three international sailors

Athletes vying already to qualify for 2016 Olympics in Brazil
KITE DELIGHT Kiteboard riders at the top of Howe Sound are getting prepared for the Canadian Kiteboarding National Championships. Photo by Jim Hegan

While the world is tuned into the Olympic Summer Games in London, Mark Leng is looking ahead to the Games of 2016.

The West Coast Open and Canadian Kiteboarding National Championships race director is thinking ahead to the Games in Rio de Janeiro because his sport will make its Olympic debut four years from now. Interest in the competition this weekend in Squamish is high because of the Olympic connection.

"We've been able to get some better support from our sponsors because of the interest," said Leng in an interview this week.

He said Pacific Pilsner is back for the second year as the title sponsor and the event has received great support from Airtime Board Sports and North Shore Ski and Board.

According to Leng, some of the best kiteboarders in the world will be competing at the event.

"We have 35 riders registered, 20 of whom are from out of town and travelling here especially for our event."

Last year's defending champion, Johnny Heineken of San Francisco, will be back to defend his title.

"He was the 2011 world champion," said Leng. "He's still in the top three to five riders this year from event to event. He's still a contender and he's coming back."

Leng added that Adam Koch, the 2010 world champion, is also going to compete in the competition. Bryan Lake, the top rider in the Professional Kiteboard Riders Association standings, will also be vying for a win in Squamish.

"We arguably have the top three in the world coming to our event," he said.

In the women's competition, professional tour competitor Jessica Sickinger of Toronto plans to attend along with Erica Heineken, sister of Johnny Heineken.

"She's a very, very strong rider," said Leng of Heineken. He pointed out that last year she was ninth overall at the national event in Squamish. He added that she finished one spot ahead of him and she regularly beats strong male kiteboard riders.

The men in the open competition are sailing into a $1,000 paycheque for top spot and the top female competitor will collect $500 at an event that will pay out $4,000 in prize money.

Leng said two spectator areas will be set up, one close to the action and one back a little farther that will be better sheltered from the wind. He also said boat operators are welcome to watch from the water but he cautioned boat operators to give the competitors room to race.

The forecast is favourable for the event and Leng said the sailors will be travelling at speeds of up to 30 knots (55km/h).

The course racing will take place from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday then from noon to 4 p.m. on Monday with an awards ceremony slated for 6 p.m. at the Squamish Windsports spit on Monday.