The UK is to showcase super-fast kite foil racing in the countdown to the Paris 2024 Olympics when the RYA hosts the 2023 Formula Kite European Championships.
The world’s best racers from the Olympic circuit will battle it out on the waters off Eastney Beach in Portsmouth from September 19 to 24 for the title of European champion – and potentially a place at the Games.
Kite foiling sees riders ‘fly’ above the water on hydrofoils attached to boards, powered by huge kites which can propel them to incredible speeds of up to 45 knots (51mph).
It will be the first time the UK has hosted an international Formula Kite regatta since the exciting new discipline was added to the Olympic roster.
Formula Kite will make its Olympic debut at Paris 2024, with medals available for both male and female athletes.
And the stakes for the 2023 European Championships couldn’t be higher. Taking place less than a year from Paris 2024, 150 athletes from more than 35 nations will descend on Portsmouth for the regatta.
Mirco Babini, President of the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA), said: “We can’t wait to have our Europeans on the way to the Paris 2024 Games organised by the team that delivered the sport of sailing in the London 2012 Games.
“Alongside superb racing, we jointly aim to promote sustainability, equality and inclusion in a country that is a leader in adopting those values. We are confident that this will be a truly memorable event.”
Sara Sutcliffe, CEO of the RYA, added: “Kite foiling is the newest addition to the Olympic sailing slate and we couldn’t be more excited that some of the world’s best athletes will be racing on our waters during the big countdown to Paris 2024.
“As spectator sports go it doesn’t get much more thrilling or faster than kite foiling. This will be an event the likes of which UK audiences won’t have seen before, and we look forward to welcoming Olympic racing back to our shores once more.”
The Formula Kite Europeans will also mark the UK return of the international Olympic circuit for the first time since the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 European Championships which took place in Weymouth and Portland in 2019.
Crucially the regatta will continue the legacy of London 2012, offering world-class racing in a city centre location easily watched by spectators.
UK Sport has provided National Lottery funding for the regatta, and the RYA has teamed up with Portsmouth City Council to deliver the event on behalf of the IKA.
Esther Britten, Head of Major Events at UK Sport, said: “We are really pleased to have supported the successful bid to bring the Formula Kite European Championships to Portsmouth and we are delighted that the Championships will provide a fantastic opportunity for people to enjoy live elite sport free of charge. As ever, we would like to thank The National Lottery for their support for this event.
“Last year 2.7 million people attended a major sporting event across 25 different locations in the United Kingdom, ensuring that the economic and social benefits of hosting major events are felt in every region and in communities right across the country. Securing the Formula Kite European Championships shows that the UK continues to attract the very best and most exciting global sporting events that deliver so many benefits for our country as well as reaching, inspiring and uniting the nation.
“Hosting the European Championships is also a vital chance for athletes to secure Olympic qualification and prepare ahead of Formula Kite’s Olympic debut in Paris next year. We are really excited to see what British athletes can achieve on the European and world stage and bring Formula Kite to a wider audience.”
Eastney beach will provide the perfect viewpoint to watch the high-octane racing, which will take place just a few hundred metres from the shore.
Racing will start on September 19 and run through to a thrilling knock-out finale on September 24, held in front of hundreds of onlookers with expert commentators explaining all the action.
The final two days of racing will also be streamed live for those wanting to follow the racing remotely.
Throughout the event, the RYA will be working in partnership with local watersports providers to engage with the local community. School aged children and young people from the Portsmouth area will be able to learn more about this exciting new sport from a specially-created Beach Classroom on Eastney beach.
A range of activities will be on offer including kite flying, while experts will also be on hand to explain the basics of the sport. The event is also the perfect opportunity for youngsters to learn more about the range of watersports available on their doorstep and connect with the waterfront of Portsmouth.
Portsmouth has a track record of delivering world class sailing events, having hosted the America’s Cup World Series in 2015 and 2016.
Combined with its rich maritime history, including being one of three naval operating bases, Portsmouth promises to be a perfect location to host the Formula Kite Europeans.
Cllr Steve Pitt, Portsmouth City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure & Economic Development, said: “As the great waterfront city, we’re honoured that Portsmouth was chosen to host the 2023 Formula Kite European Championships.
“We’re looking forward to working in partnership with the RYA to deliver a memorable event for residents and visitors alike, especially as this event is one of few opportunities to qualify for the kite foil racing events at the 2024 Olympics.”
For more information about the Formula Kite European Championships click here.
If you’re attending the RYA Dinghy and Watersports Show at Farnborough International don’t miss British Sailing Team kite foiler Ellie Aldridge talking about the Formula Kite European Championships on the main stage on February 25.