Declining Participation on French National Kite Racing Tour

The Technical Report of the ISAF Kiteboarding Format Trials makes the following claims:

p.2: The class is growing fast. App. 60000 persons start kiteboarding every year.
p.7: Active registered sailors in France:  > 10000
ISAF Kiteboarding Format Trials – Technical Report
http://www.sailing.org/tools/documents/EC8bKiteboardingTechnicalReport-[12451].pdf

Those claims are extremely misleading. Kiteboarding as a sport encompasses many different disciplines: speed, freestyle, wakestyle, big air, racing, slalom, waves, etc. Kite racing itself, for a variety of reasons, attracts very few participants, even in countries like France that are at the forefront of the sport’s development. Of those 10,000+ registered kiters in France, only 3% are active in kite racing (sources: FFVL, kiterace.fr).

The following chart illustrates the participation level at national ranking events in France over the past 3 years, and shows an overall decline in attendance:

Especially worrisome is the participation level among women and youth sailors. Compared to the 9 youth kite racers who competed at the most recent French tour event in Wimereux (September 2012), 174 youth windsurfers took part in the course racing nationals in Brest (August 2012 – source: FFVoile).

No doubt, the May vote for Olympic selection will give a significant short term boost to kiteboard racing numbers at the 2012 Kite Racing World Championships (to be held in Cagliari in October) where many will try the new class for the first time.  However, the actual trends do not show kiteboard racing to be growing fast, if at all, and the participation numbers do not come close to windsurfing.

Furthermore, more and more racers on the French National Tour have recently opted to race on foiling kites (foils took 8 of the top 10 overall positions at the last Tour stop!). Removing foils from the figures above (since they do not currently fit the kite racing box rule) would show an even starker decline in kite racing participation.

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