Alex Morris leading the middleweights - Blokart World and North American Championships Alex Morris
In April, the fifth Blokart World Champs was held at Ivanpah Dry Lake, Nevada USA. This dry lake is situated about 40 minutes south of Las Vegas and is well known in the land yachting community for it's smooth surface, expansive sailing area and consistent winds.
The North American Championships was held several days before the World Champs was scheduled to begin. 77 competitors entered from several countries – mainly New Zealand, Australia and USA. Racing is split into weight categories to make racing fair in all wind conditions.
North American Championships:
The first day saw variable winds and when the breeze was light it shifted around a lot, sometimes up to around 30 degrees. This meant that if you were on the wrong side of a large wind direction change you were instantly at the back end of the fleet. These changes were very irregular and hard to predict, so you had to be extremely conservative in where you placed yourself. The wind also varied in strength too; making it difficult to feel confident in choosing a sail size.
The second day provided a very strong breeze all day which eased in the late afternoon. The direction was more consistent and oscillated more regularly which meant you could sail your own race and not worry too much about the fleet. The downwind was super fast with karts reaching up to 85km/hr. The fleet learnt quickly that seemed to be quicker to do only one gybe on the downwind, and the downwind legs were very long which meant deciding where to gybe so far from the bottom mark was challenging.
In the production (unmodified class), Michael Denton from Canterbury, NZ finished with a perfect score. In the performance light category, David Helibron (NZ) won comfortably. Barry Cole (NZ) had a good battle with Alex Morris (NZ) in the performance middleweights and took the win by a small margin. Santi Oliver (ESP) won the the performance heavyweight category convincingly and Wayne Osborne (NZ) was dominant in the super-heavyweights.
65756871-SirbyNabsa04052016+%2898%29 - Blokart World and North American Championships © Alex Morris
Following the North American Champs, 86 competitors began to ready themselves for the World Champs. The weather unfortunately had other plans... Paul Beckett, inventor of the Blokart, an event organiser and competitor writes:
“Unfortunately mother nature had a different outlook on events and over the next two days it rained starting at 4.00am on the morning of registration and continued off and on for the following two days. It was ominous that we had managed to coincide the worlds with the biggest rainfall for the region in 75 years. We were caught by surprise and by morning the playa (Lake Ivanpah) had an inch of water on it, and by the time the rain abated there was no chance of a start. The mud was so sticky you could not walk on it as it packed underfoot and to everything it touched and clogged everything.”
The uncharacteristic Nevada rain delayed racing for the main event by several days. In this time, competitors and organisers contributed to a rescue mission to extract everyone's karts from storage on the Ivanpah (now not so dry) Lake bed. It seemed unlikely that the lake would dry in time to get the required six rounds of racing in before the final day considering the forecast at the time. Organisers searched relentlessly for an alternative venue, and rumours circulated that we could be racing in a casino carpark in the town of Primm.
Luckily, organisers discovered a different section of the lake which had dried sufficiently and got permission for the fleet to sail for the final scheduled two days. The new venue had a fantastic smooth surface but was a smaller area, and couldn't accommodate the extra long windward/leeward courses that the sailors had fallen in love with.
On day one the wind was always in a state of changing; there were patches of dead air and the direction was never steady. Many competitors were often unsure what sail size to choose for the unsettled air, and the brave ones left the decision to the last minute in order to see what their main competition had rigged.
Close racing in the production fleet - Blokart World and North American Championships © Alex Morris
Large dust squalls often came rolling down the course. Dust masks and goggles were an essential, and had to sometimes be worn when watching the racing from the sidelines. In one race, I had worked up a nice lead in the first lap and sailed right into a massive dust squall downwind. Visibility vanished and I suddenly had no idea where the next mark was. This was quite unsettling as I knew at the time that one of the competitors racing in the super-heavyweight group lost their first place in a race earlier by missing the mark completely because of visibility issues. I aimed my kart to roughly where I thought the mark might be, and the mark miraculously came flying out of the unknown just to windward of the line I was sailing, and I had a near perfect rounding around it! Other's weren't always so lucky.
Day two started off with a consistent breeze but again became unsettled as the day progressed. There were a few delays as the race committee postponed starts in big lulls, and some races were abandoned halfway through when the wind died completely.
Middleweights racing - Blokart World and North American Championships © Alex Morris
The 3:00pm official end of racing ticked over and the new World Champions were decided. David Helibron (NZ) took out the title for the performance lightweight, Alex Morris (NZ) had a great first day which put him first ahead of Barry Cole (NZ) in performance middleweight. Sean Fidler (US) defeated last years champion Santi Oliver (ESP) in the performance heavyweights. Wayne Osborne was again dominant in the performance super-heavyweights as was Michael Denton (NZ) in the production fleet.
Over the week and a half sailors got to enjoy the light, medium and heavy breezes and everything in between. The racing was fantastic, the people were great and although the weather could have been better, I think everyone left pretty satisfied that they got to experience 'the Cathedral of Blokarting.' Many thanks to NABSA for hosting a great event.