Bruce Kessler 2nd Ragnarok on Peter Lynn Aero
Photos by Marlies Dekker Fotografie
Red Bull Ragnarok: Five full laps on a course of over 20 kilometers on the vast plains of the Hardangervidda (Norway’s snow kiting mecca). The biggest snow kite race in the world! Only the toughest riders survive and successfully complete the course. Ragnarok is an ancient apocalyptic story in Norse mythology, describing the last battle between the good and evil Deities, where only the heroes of the battlefield survive. Peter Lynn riders Eric Leegwater(NL), Roderick Pijls(NL), Shaun Hammergren, Bruce Kessler(Swiss) and Mikko Toivonen travelled to the Hardangervidda to compete and experience the Red Bull Ragnarok. Mikko, Shaun and Eric are veterans while Roderick and Bruce were first timers competing in this extreme event. We spoke to Bruce and Eric to hear their first impressions before and shortly after the race.
Size does matter
Eric Leegwater, just before the race: “I arrived two weeks before the race to train and ride the different Aero sizes. I feel that this new generation of closed cell race kites is the future of high performance! I know what the Raganok is all about: extreme variation between low and high winds, steep hills, fatigue and a lot of fun. Every year I look forward to putting myself to the test, to see how far I am willing to push to get a good result!
Bruce Kessler, Just before the race: “It is my first time in Norway and my first time competing at the Red Bull Ragnarok and I am very excited to be here. I trained hard and did some test runs. The wind feels strong so I will switch to a 7m Aero. I am a little nervous because it will be the first time on the 7m Aero for me!”
And so it begins
The race starts at 11:15. With a flying start, Eric leads the pack. His kite-buggy skills come in handy, but it takes exactly 2 minutes before the foil race kites overtake him.
Bruce does not have any problems with the start and proves to be very fast downwind to gate #1.
Eric, to avoid a big rock hidden in the snow, steers downwind and unfortunately crashes making him loose valuable time. Getting to gate #1 he notices a mass of tangled up kites and kiters in the snow blocking the passage through the gate. Eric: “Getting thru the first gate felt like a mine field, just when I thought I had gotten past the gate, a kite crashed into mine… The Red Bull marshal at the gate was completely overwhelmed by the number of tangled kites around him, however I managed to get his attention and he helped me untangle. Having made it through the hell of gate #1, I raced towards gate 2 without any further problems.“
Eric was busy securing a good spot in the set up area, a strategic decision with 300 contestants taking part. “I don’t want to lose too much time finding my kites when I need to change sizes!” The wind in the set up area is relatively soft and many riders are launching bigger and bigger kites. This worries Eric because he knows that during the race on higher ground, the wind will be much stronger.
Eric launched his new 7m Aero and clocked 78 km/hr on a first easy run. Eric before the race: “I am a little worried because I know there will be much higher wind speeds on top of the mountain, things might get too much for me to handle”.
On top of the mountain, the wind is blowing a whopping 44 knots. For safety sake, Eric opts to start with his 8m Fury.
Fighting to win
Bruce: “At gate #2, the wind was really strong but at gate #3 it was crazy, blowing over 40knots! The 7m Aero did amazingly well in these strong conditions. After gate #3, I couldn’t locate #4, so I lost some time finding the gate on my GPS. I managed to get to gate #5 just behind Domenic Zimmermann.”
Eric: “In the far distance I could see that the flags at gate #3 were flapping hard in the wind…it didn’t look good. At the gate the wind was howling. What a difference compared to the underpowered riding in the valley!” Eric had to ski downhill and had to wait for the wind to pick up to re-launch his kite and continue.
“With the kite back up I passed through gate #4 and was now on my way to gate #5 to complete my first lap. As I got close to gate 5 the wind died… the LEI Fury was now way too small. Some time later I slowly passed gate #5 clocking a time of 2hours and 45 minutes. Not good at all if I wanted to have a proper end result! I needed to take action and decided to change kite.
Bruce: “After the first lap, I was fighting for the second position with Domenic Zimmermann. On lap three I overtook him and kept going on the 7m Aero. It was a gamble as the wind at gate #5 had probably disappeared and the others riders had all changed to bigger kites. Felix (Winner on Skis) changed to 10m, Domenic (third on Skis) changed to 13m.
Mikko:“Hardangervidda put on an almighty show this time. It inspired adulation and I kneeled in front of its power to show my respect. This was my fourth Ragnarok battle, the largest and longest snow kite race on earth. I always wanted to have the best possible gear and this time I managed to get it all together even if it was at the last minute. This did throw some challenges in dealing with new gear in the extreme conditions. After many tangles with other kites and having to walk kilometers without wind I think I should be happy to be in 15th place. But I can't help feeling sad that my best wasn't a better result. Peter Lynn Aero -kites feels super fast.”
Eric: “Starting lap 2 with the Areo 11, felt good. My speed was good, easily riding upwind and downwind. At gate 3, to my surprise, I passed the gate without any problems. Although riding fully overpowered I was in control. Lap 3 was going decisively faster and I crossed the finish line in 58minutes racing toward gate #1 for my fourth lap. At that point I was unaware that the race was already over (I passed the finish line in 4 hrs and 56 minutes). I did not do well overall: the first lap was a disaster and took too long to complete.”
Bruce: “It was unbelievable for me and I am so happy that I managed all five laps and came 2nd. I'm very excited with the 7m Aero’s big wind range, from 5knots to 44knots! And the up and downwind performance was just awesome! I want to thank Peter Lynn Kiteboarding for letting me using this amazingly fast kite”
Roderick Pijls took off on a new 8m inflatable proto type and managed to come in as the first Dutch participant on a LEI taking the 48th place in the ranking.
Mikko came in 15th after struggling with kite crashes.
Eric Leegwater came in 28th, a personal record after several years of taking part in the Red Bull Ragnarok.
We are extremely proud of all riders who competed and broke their own boundaries. All the riders have already committed to coming back next year in their attempt to climb on the coveted podium of the Red Bull Raganok. All mentioned riders have already decided to come back next year and compete for a place on the podium.
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