The relatively new sport of kiteboard course racing is now firmly established in Tauranga, just weeks after getting the nod as an event for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club is the first in the country to run a regular racing programme for kites. Last weekend saw the second round of kiteboard racing as part of the club's winter series, with 10 kiters - double the number from round one - competing in a series of three races over a windward/leeward course.
The competitors came from Tauranga, Auckland, Raglan and New Caledonia, and despite the absence of local kiting guru Glenn Bright, who is in the Cook Islands, competition was fierce.
Launching from Kulim Park, the kite course was set in the Otumoetai channel, a few hundred metres upwind from the course area used by the sailing dinghies and sailboards.
A good westerly breeze made for some excellent racing.
Kiteboard racing controversially replaced boardsailing, New Zealand's top medal-winning event of the last six Olympics, in a world sailing federation vote in May on the classes for Rio 2016. A re-vote looms in November which could lead to a reversal of the decision, which will no doubt please many committed boardsailors who have been shocked and bewildered at the sudden dumping.
Regardless, kiteboard racing is an exciting and up-and-coming form of sailing in Europe and the US, and New Zealand has a lot of ground to make up.
The sport is in development and success on Sunday was in part down to skill and in part to having the right equipment. Unlike other kitesurfing which uses 'twin tip' boards with tiny fins which can go in both directions, course racing involves larger, uni-directional boards for lighter winds and deep fins for going upwind. Top honours went to Raglan's Matt Taggart, with two firsts and a second. He was followed by Dave Robertson (Auckland), who was first, second and third, and Craig Roberts (Raglan) with a second, third and fourth. First local was Royce Whitaker in fourth overall.
Spicing up the action in race three was the arrival of two hydrofoiling Moth boats sailed by locals Peter and Richard Burling. Peter, home briefly ahead of the London Olympics where he will be sailing a 49er skiff, showed the kites how it's done with a perfect start and a fast two laps of the course, lapping many of the kites on the way.
Whether this reflects different levels of racing skills, or speed differences between these very different but fast sailing craft, only time will tell. But certainly the kiters, now that they have the chance, will be working hard to up their racing ability over the coming months and years as the Olympics beckon.
Next race day is Sunday, July 8 and briefing is at Sulphur Point at 10.30am. Club volunteer Darryl McConnell said if the forecast is for more than 20 knots a slalom course will also be set and those with twin tip boards or slalom windsurfers will be welcome to race as well.
In tandem with the new Bay of Plenty Cricket junior winter training programme, representative agegroup coaches for the 2012/13 season have been appointed.
The off-season appointment of the Bay of Plenty Lakeland and Coastland coaches to guide the region's junior rep teams in the coming season is to work with and oversee the winter junior training programme.
Lakeland teams are drawn from the Eastern Bay, Rotorua and Taupo regions, with the Coastland sides centred on the Western Bay of Plenty.
The new coaches are a mix of experience, and several newcomers who have gained their NZ Cricket coaching credentials.
Both senior secondary coaches have had several years in charge of the Bay's oldest agegroup representatives. Coastland coach Peter Swan, who holds a NZ Cricket level three coaching qualification, will again mentor the senior Coastland agegroup team, with Tony Wolsey again in charge of Lakeland.
Two recent graduates from the Bay of Plenty senior secondary sides are Joe Carter and Seam Davey, who will represent New Zealand in the under-19 World Cup in Australia in August.
In two further changes, Mark Crawford, who guided the Lakeland primary team last season, has made a step up to the Lakeland junior secondary team.
And Tauranga Boys' College teacher Charles Williams, who has been in charge of the school's 2nd XI, will take the Coastland coaching reins for the first time.