Session 63, Monday 16 November 2009
Kite: Switchblade 10m
Location: St Kilda
Wind: 25 to 30 knots S
Duration: 1 hour 5:10 to 6:00
The forecast was for a strong southerly all day, and blow it did. I packed my kiting gear in the car and parked near Burnley railway station so I could duck out after work. I got to the beach with the wind blowing at around 25 knots so it was an easy decision to take out the 10m kite.
This was my first return to St Kilda after my earliest learning periods, during which I never really got to kite their properly.
After negotiating some learners close to shore I got out into the largish swell and headed out about 800m. Nice scenery looking back at the shore. After a couple of tacks I was at the breakwater, with a few large jellyfish about. I was able to kite into the flat water behind the rock wall with the wind still pumping over it to power my kite.
Then I scooted just downwind of the permanent moorings, passing a couple of yachts on swing moorings, to the flat water close to shore. There were about 8 other kiters in this fairly confined space but they all knew what they were doing. Even so, it pays to watch your kite closely and make sure you dip your kite down when you pass downwind of another kiter; who should fly their kite high.
There was a small surf where the swell gets under the pier so there is a mix of flat water and some rolling waves. They are big enough to snag your board if you don't watch out. I did a few jumps, but was mainly focussed on keeping the kite flying and not wiping out. It really is a blast coming into shore then fanging back out.
I did a run downwind past the learners, then repeated the circuit out to the breakwater and back in, which is a fun loop. My board snagged a wave and I tumbled off it. Body dragging upwind was not too effective (kite too low?). When I got close to the board I threw the bar than swam a few strokes to get it.
Relaunching the kite I discovered that one side of my spreader bar had released from the harness so the depower lines were pulling me sideways. It was tricky to reconnect the bar while hanging on to the board and contending with the small surf. Eventually I got it sorted and did a few runs then headed back to the beach. The Switchblade 10m kite doesn't seem to want to flatten onto the water and is a dream to relaunch.
Tip: make sure your harness is done up well and the spreader bar is tight - reef in the webbing to do this. It will loosen up a bit when it gets wet too.
The wind strength increased to a powerful 28 to 30 knots, enough to make me consider depowering the kite. I landed and returned to the car, with the wind whipping sand off the beach. After getting changed hastily I proceeded to a Bush Search and Rescue committee meeting and dinner in Williamstown.
I had been considering kiting across to Williamstown, but was glad I didn't. The swell was even bigger when the wind strength increased and it would be a long tack over big waves to get over there. The landing sites along the Williamstown foreshore are very limited so I was considering heading for one of the beaches on the southern side of the promontory.
This trip is on the list of things to do - but with a buddy, a phone and a PLB.
Overall a good session - quite challenging but very rewarding.
I was out at Port Melbourne from about 5:30-7:15pm on my 13m Venom. Fortunately it's very easy to handle in high wind and probably more like an 11m inflatable. Haven't seen waves that big in the bay in quite some time! Saw heaps of jelly fish too. Got stung trying to body drag back upwind to retrieve my board after a particularly spectacular wipeout.
I'm keen for a bay crossing when the conditions are good!
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