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Lukas Walton-Keim

Brothers do battle at kitefoiling nationals

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Hatched over Christmas dinner nearly 14 months ago, the Robertson brothers decided to do "battle" at this year's kitefoiling national championships at the Nelson Yacht Club to find the best kitefoiler in the family.

"It went terribly," said Phil Robertson, who is the middle brother but better known as the former world match racing champion, SailGP skipper and America's Cup commentator.

"I invested money into the sport, my little brother invested time and my older brother called on all of his experience. It turns out time is the key factor."

Phil finished 10th in the 13-strong fleet with Dave fifth and Andy, the youngest of the trio, fourth. Dave, who is a former world top-10 kiteboarder, was also first in the masters division.

Lukas Walton-Keim comfortably won the men's national title, winning 13 of the 18 races and clocking almost 40 knots on the final day, while Justina Kitchen took out the women's title and was sixth overall.

The pair are aiming to represent New Zealand at the 2024 Paris Olympics, when mixed kitefoiling will make its debut on the Olympic programme.

Phil Robertson sees kitefoiling's inclusion on the Olympic programme as a huge opportunity for youngsters in this country and was encouraged by the fact 18-year-old Lochy Naismith was second and 14-year-old Hugo Wigglesworth was third at the nationals.

"No one has experience or the knowledge of how to put together a successful campaign," he said. "New Zealand is short on kitefoilers and there needs to be more Kiwis doing it.

"I’m a huge fan. I learned halfway through last year and managed to compete at the nationals. I was a bit slower but it wouldn’t take long to get good. Man, if you’re a kid who likes to go fast, I would highly recommend it. It’s so simple and so much fun."

Robertson's brothers taught him how to kitesurf during the 2019/20 Christmas holidays and he bought some gear when he returned to his European base in Sweden. He then spent considerable time learning the nuances of the sport when Covid-19 hit and can see it will have benefits once he returns to the SailGP circuit with the Spanish team at April's season opener in Bermuda.

"For me it’s a very new skill. The yachts that I foil, you struggle to feel differences in foil finishes. With kitefoiling, your body is basically an extension of a foil so it’s amazing what you can learn and the skills you pick up.

"My first race at the nationals was the first kitefoil race I had been in so I wasn’t too sharp but a lot of other skills transfer. I think my starts were probably my strongest point and that was just because the speeds are very similar [to the F50s used in SailGP]."

Robertson will head back to Europe at the end of March as his America's Cup commitments end and SailGP ones ramp up but is already eyeing up a rematch against his brothers at the next kitefoiling nationals.

Before that, however, he still needed to get the campervan the Robertson trio used at the nationals back to Auckland as the loser of the family wager. He was last spotted in Taupo.

Results and standings from the Kitefoil national championships at the Nelson Yacht Club last weekend:

Men (12 boards)

1st: Lukas Walton-Keim (Takapuna Boating Club) (14 RET) (14 RET) 6 2 1 (14 DNS) 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 - 21 points
2nd: Lochy Naismith (TBC) (14 DNS) (3) 1 1 2 1 2 2 3 2 3 2 3 (8) 2 3 2 2 - 31 pts
3rd: Hugo Wigglesworth (Kohimarama Yacht Club) 2 (6) 5 4 3 2 (11) 3 4 4 (12) 4 5 2 3 2 3 3 - 49 pts


1st: Justina Kitchen (Nelson Yacht Club) 1 1 4 3 (14 DNF) 5 (8) 6 (9) 5 5 6 6 7 5 5 5 5 - 69 pts

Full results, photos and videos from the regatta can be found here

  • Banner pic: Lukas Walton-Keim won the men's title. Photo: George Guille Media.