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Kite Start

Idyllic sea breezes, exciting racing, and fun vibes at 2023 FOIL Bay of Islands

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FOIL Bay of Islands 2023 kicked off with three days of beautiful sea breezes, and although a tricky southerly bucked the trend on the final day there was no complaints from competitors, the general vibe coming off the water on Sunday of 'happy exhaustion'. 

The annual event now in its fifth year is hosted by the Bay of Islands Yacht Club and is open to all foiling classes, ages and abilities. 

Event coordinator and race officer Chris Fewtrell says he's always overwhelmed with the support and gratitude of the competitors, and still gets a buzz out of the foiling spectacle. 

“The Bay of Islands delivered some of the best weather we’ve had all summer, and although the breeze kept us on our toes with a tricky offshore southerly to finish on,  we’re proud to have got away a full series of 18 races for the kite foilers and 16 for the Wind foilers, Wing Foilers, and Waszp sailors. It was a pleasure to facilitate an event with so many enthusiastic foilers,” he said.

The regatta kicked off with the 'About Being Seen' Island Race on Thursday, which consisted of a 6.5 nautical mile blast out to Motorua Island and a thrilling downwind run back to the Bay of Islands Yacht Club. 

Island Race

Competitors stopped off at Motorua Island for a quick snack and a rest before a few laps of the island and downwind run home. 

The next three days saw a mammoth effort from the race committee to run up to six races across four divisions for the course racing. 

Wing foil division winner Sean Herbert said the final day was a challenging note to end a fantastic regatta on.

Sean Herbert

Wing foiler Sean Herbert coming off the water on day two of course racing. Photo // Hana Hielkema

“It’s such a great event up here and the racing is quality. It was pretty patchy and shifty on the last day, but overall it’s been awesome to get out there, and also have a few more wing foilers turn up for the weekend to boost fleet numbers,” the Manly Yacht Club sailor said.

Herbert was one of seven wing foilers to enter the event, with fellow competitor Travis Gillbanks offering some stiff competition at the front to come away with 2nd.

Travis Gillbanks

Overseas additions to the kite foiling fleet this year included Fung Yang and Adam Becker from Hawaii, and youth sailor JJ Rice who is campaigning to represent Tonga at the 2024 Paris Olympic games.

JJ and Lucky

JJ Rice from Tonga, and 2023 Kite Foil National Champion Lochy Naismith (in yellow) battle it out in one of the Day 4 races. Photo // Hana Hielkema

The kite foiling division was won by current NZ national champion Lochy Naismith who also scooped up the foiling week trophy for the most guns, with twelve wins from 18 races to comfortably finish on 20 points.

Lochy Naismith

Locky Naismith had an impressive run of wins, finishing in 1st place overall. Photo // Hana Hielkema

The battle for 2nd and 3rd came down to the wire between NZ female national champion Justina Kitchen and Andy Robertson who ended up tied on points, with Justina claiming the final race to earn the 2nd place and 4thplace getter JJ Rice claiming first youth.

Justina Kitchen

Top female NZ kite foiler Justina Kitchen scooped 2nd overall and 1st female for FOIL Bay of Islands 2023. Photo // Hana Hielkema

A solid turn out of wind foilers had 21 sailors split between gold and silver fleets, with Liam Herbert taking out the overall prize.

“It’s been a good couple of days, a little frustrating today but good little battles within the fleet and it’s been really entertaining. Stoked to come away with the win,” he said.

Liam Herbert

Wind foiler Liam Herbert took out his division after some shifts in the lead over the weekend. Photo // Hana Hielkema

Rounding off the podium was Ben Rist in 2nd and Stellar Bilger in 3rd, who also took first female.

Stella Bilger and Ben Rist

2nd and 3rd place getters in the Wind Foiling Gold fleet were Ben Rist and Stella Bilger. Photo // Hana Hielkema

Bilger held off a late charge by Thomas Crook who entered the regatta on the weekend, carrying a heavy scoreboard from missing the first day of course racing.

There was no room for improvement in Crooks performance as he swept the scoreboard clean on Saturday and Sunday – narrowly missing out on third place by one point.  

Close in the wind foil fleet

Tight starts in the Wind Foil fleet at FOIL Bay of Islands 2023 - Photo // Hana Hielkema

Across in the Silver fleet local youngster Sol Douwes claimed third place and first youth, just behind Alin Misescu who took the second to Devan Pickmere.

Sol Douwes

3rd place getter in the silver fleet - Sol Douwes. Photo // Hana Hielkema

Waszp sailors Storm Douwes and Toby Clarke also had a solid tussle, with some match racing manouevers thrown in there at times to keep things interesting.

Prizegiving saw a full house in the Bay of Islands Yacht Club with plenty of praise for the sponsors and volunteers who put in a mammoth effort to run the event.

The event was proudly sponsored by About Being Seen, NZ Sailing and Max Coffee. 


Prizegiving 2023. Photo // Hana Hielkema

Dates for the 2024 event have now been set, and foilers of all ages, stages, classes and abilities are encouraged to come up from 22-25 February and experience FOIL Bay of Islands first hand.

Full results from the 2023 edition can be viewed online here.