Red Bull Lighthouse to Leighton

2016 Red Bull Lighthouse to Leighton race


French Kitefoiler Parlier Destroys Record Crossing Time


Redbull Lighthouse to Leighton 


Leighton Beach, Perth—French kitefoil racer Nico Parlier catapulted the iconic Red Bull Lighthouse to Leighton (L2L) race to a whole new level when he obliterated the existing record for the 19kms crossing from Rottnest Island to Perth’s Leighton Beach, cutting the time by more than three minutes.

The 21-year-old’s control and devastating pace slashed his winning time to a breath-taking 19mins 3secs — beating Briton Olly Bridge’s two-year-old best time of 22mins 7secs — in the seventh edition of the southern hemisphere’s biggest kite race.

Redbull Lighthouse to Leighton Nico Parlier

Parlier suffered few of the dramas that befell his chasing competitors in the 135-strong fleet — the largest to date — though at one point as he passed one of the large anchored ships he was forced to perform a backroll to clear weed from his foil, one of several jumps he had to to do rid himself of it.

On his distinctive orange 10m Ozone R1V2 foil kite and Mike’s Lab hydrofoil, the reserved Frenchman pushed the powerful Rottnest Eco Express — which served as lead boat for the spectacular kite armada — to average 33kts for the crossing just to stay ahead.

“I think I actually could have gone faster,” said Parlier. “There was a bit a of wind shadow behind behind one of the ships. I guess this is the first time a foil has won. Now we’re working a lot on this gear, so hopefully next year will be even faster. It’s great to be here and the organisation has been fantastic.”

For Parlier the job was made a little easier after Bridge broke his foil board just before the start and was forced to use a twin-tip in what turned out to be a vain attempt to regain his L2L title.

His mother, defending women’s L2L title holder, Britain’s Steph Bridge, won the women’s race in a time of 24mins 50secs on a slalom board, a choice she made because of concerns over seaweed in the water that can be problematic for foils.

But after she experienced Russia’s Elena Kalinina, who ultimately took the second podium spot, reeling her in towards the finish line she feels that her next Red Bull L2L foray will be on a hydrofoil as the fastest option.

redbull lighthouse to leighton Steph Bridge

“That was quite a risk I took not using the foil,” she said. “Today would have been good for the foil as there was not too much weed. Elena Kalinina was catching up when the water was a bit flatter. But in the end, these kind of races are phenomenal. It’s bringing all different kiters together. It really is the spirit of kiting.”

The start line, in perfect conditions with the storied Fremantle Doctor thermal breeze building to more that 22kts, was indeed a kite jamboree of tube and state-of-the-art foil kites, twin-tip boards, custom slalom boards specially-designed for the race and the fastest carbon-fibre foils on the planet.

The eclectic mix was underscored with the entries of multiple world freestyle champion Aaron Hadlow and top kite park-styler Sam Light who happened to be taking the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with the classic kiting conditions offered by Western Australia’s summer for training.

For both, it was a good day’s work, and hugely enjoyable. The Britons Hadlow and Light snatched first and third in the twin-tip class respectively, trailing in not far adrift of the specialist hydrofoil racers, for whom they developed a new respect.

Redbull Lighthouse to Leighton

“It’s really tough going,” said Hadlow. “It’s not so much my legs, more my hips because you’re at a bit of an angle trying to go as fast as possible. I couldn’t wait for it to finish. But it was great to experience it. Not sure I’d do it everyday, though.”

Germany’s Florian Gruber, a former winner in 2013 who took the second podium spot, felt the burn in his legs but shrugged it off, comparing it with the experience of his 40kms European Red Bull Coast 2 Coast race.

“They’re all tough,” he said. “I’m feeling it in my legs. If anyone says it’s not tough, they’re lying. But it was a good race. I had a clean start. I was leading for the first one or two kilometres. But Nico Parlier got me and was quick and got away over the long distance.”

Redbull Lighthouse to Leighton

Towards the finish Gruber was aware that Spain’s Florian Trittel, who took the third place overall, was gaining on him and in the process crashed, but was able to gather his board and finish just ahead.

Trittlel, an L2L novice on his Australian brand KFA foil and Ozone R1V2, was delighted with the outcome. “It was really fun. I’ve never done anything like this before. I crashed on some seaweed and the foil hit my face. But it was OK. The race with Florian Gruber at the end was so close — and great.”


Text: Ian MacKinnon


Overall results:




1 Nico Parlier (FRA)

2 Florian Gruber (GER)

3 Florian Trittel (ESP)




1 Steph Bridge (GBR)

2 Elena Kalinina (RUS)

3 Theresa McKirdy (AUS)

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