For two weeks leading up to the event I had been getting messages asking what plan B would be if if it rained on King of the Fort weekend because the weather report was looking pretty bleak. “We’ll be racing no matter what!” was always my reply. I wasn’t about to dissapoint the 60 entrants who had travelled from all over the country and tell them the race would be cancelled due to a little wet weather. To be honest, I was actually hoping for a wet race since I thought it would mix things up a bit and give the middle field (myself included) a better chance at the crown!
When I arrived at 6:30am on the first day I was stoked to see that the hay bales were already there thanks to Elster and Graham. Damian from Cafe 88 had arrived before me, eager to set up his mobile food stall and get some coffee ready for the early birds. Chris from G-Form South Africa was next on the scene and helped me with some of the final set-up of the track. Before I knew it, there were skaters everywhere coming to greet me with big smiles. You could see it in their faces that they had been waiting a while for KOTF to arrive and they couldn’t be more excited that it was finally here!
We had the skaters on the hill by 9:30 thanks to our shuttle drivers Julian and Aleksander. As is customary, The final corner was claiming victims right from the first run. Thankfully we had loads of foam to protect crashing skaters this year, courtesy of the guys from Black Sheep. At this time it was still dry and we were pushing to get loads of practice runs in before the rain came.
The rain that had been threatening all morning came just in time for time trials. Luckily it only rained for about an hour or so but we had to run the Street Luge and Classic Luge times on a completely wet track. By the time we started the open time trials the rain had stopped but the track was still wet. I was up first. Luckily I had been at the hill the weekend before and had done a few runs in the rain then so I had an idea of how slipery the road would be. I slipped out in the S-bends and again at the chicane but both times I was quick getting back on my board and up to speed. I secured a time of 2:54.95 which is nowhere near the track record of about 2:10 but I thought it was pretty respectable for a wet run. I wasn’t too concerned anyway since we’d be running round robin race to qualify heats after the time trials which would give all competitors a more accurate seeding than timed runs would. Especially since the track slowly started to dry up as we made our way through the time trials and you could clearly see the effect it had on the results with the guys doing there time later in the day getting faster times.
The Junior 2 category had their chance at a timed run next and with an almost completely dry track their times were much faster than the Opens. Tyrone Coetzee set the fastest time of the day with a 2 minute, 15 second run winning himself R1000 cash courtesy of Red Bull.
Next it was time for round robin racing, one of the highlights for skaters at King of the Fort since I introduced it a few years ago. The system puts riders into fairly random heats and 1 to 6 points are awareded depending on where you finish in each heat. 1 point for first, 2 points for second and so on. I say fairly random because the names need to be seeded before they go into the heat sheet and the heats in each round are calculated based on the results of the previous round. So if the top riders always win their heats they will never face each other in round robin and their final seeding in relation to one another will depend on their time trial. This system adds a lot of fun for the skaters because it forces everyone into heats with people they wouldn’t normally practice with and the results of each heat isn’t that serious since it is only for seeding purposes.
Now I said the results of each heat isn’t that serious but if the top riders don’t take it seriously at all and consistently lack any effort to win their heats or worse, don’t pitch up for their heats then the results will not be an accurate representation of the riders skill. This is exactly what happened in the round robin heats for the Open Category. A lot of the top guys were more interested in having fun on the hill than winning their heats and Decio, who should have been the top qualifier, didn’t race his round robin heats at all! Instead he made the wise choice and spent the time practicing for luge since he would be competing in that category as well. After three rounds we realised that the results would be pointless so we had a vote and it was decided that instead of continuing with round robin, the Opens would have practice runs with up to 20 people going down the hll at a time! Fun times. The round robin heats worked out much better for the Junior 2 category since they took it a bit more seriously. At the end of the day their qualifying results were a more accurate representation of the riders skill than a single timed run would have been.
Click through to page two to continue reading about race day, watch the official video and view the photos.
On the second day, race day, we started off early with practice/warm-up runs to give everyone a chance to remind themselves where the good lines through the corners were. Shortly after 11am we started with the final race heats for Classic and Street Luge. In both categories the races were run Prand Prix style with all 9 riders racing down the hill at the same time. 3 rounds were run and the winners were decided with a points system. Andries got the crown for Classic Luge and Franco claimed his first ever win in Street Luge. Elster had an unfortunate crash in one of the Classic Luge heats, had it not been for that he would have been the winner. He did, however, manage to place third in both luge categories.
In the Masters category there were only 7 guys so it was run in one final heat. Since I’ll be turning 30 later this year, this is my first year competing in the Masters category. Although I was ranked 2nd in the Open category in 2013, I have never actually won any official race (a few outlaws here and there but nothing legit). With masters being such a small category I knew that this would be my best chance at a win and I really wanted it! In the race it was Robin and Craig who were in front at the first corner but I managed to take the lead shortly after. I looked back to see Mercer hot on my heels and I knew he would be biding his time, sitting in my draft until the best possible time to make the pass. In the left hander of the S-bends I went wide and let Mercer slip by on the inside. I only just caught enough of his draft to catch him on the final straight and by this time Craig was right there with us too! Mercer crouched down for a little foot break before the Chicane and that was my oportunity. I took a tight line on the inside of the right hander and had to hold on tight to make it through the carnage left. I made it through safely for my first win with Craig in second and Mercer in third. I couldn’t have been more stoked to share my first win with the 2014 Masters King of the Fort (Craig) and the winner of Masters at Fair Cape 2015 (Mercer)!
In the Junior 1 category their were just 6 boys so they too only had one final heat with Matthew Swannepoel coming out on top for his second win of the season, his friend Gabriel was second and Kyle Seale from PE was third.
Tyrone Coetzee came out tops in the Junior two category to prove his number one qualifying time was no fluke. But it was by no means an easy win! Tyrone pushed off the start line in front followed by JP and Yannick. He and JP had quite a battle through the S-bends with JP getting out in front for the final straight before the Chicane. Yannick then came blasting through to take the chicane in front and although he had been dominating his heats all weekend, he had overcooked it this time and slid off the road. JP was also too fast and followed Yannick of the road allowing Tyrone to come through with a smooth line for the win.
Whilst all the race heats were being run, the riders who weren’t in that category were able to continue practicing which made a big difference for the opens since at most races they sit around for hours waiting, letting their muscles cool down. It was important to stay warmed up and ready to race at this years KOTF because with only 21 people actually competing in the race we went straight to quater finals. Racing 6 at a time you had to be in the top three to make it through to the next round and it wasn’t easy. In the finals it was Decio Lourenco, Tom Courly, Nick Hook, Ricki Allardice, Bryce Gardiner and myself on the line. Tom, Decio, Nick and Ricki went through the first corner together. I’d like to say I was at a safe distance behind them but to be honest, my push wasn’t up to scatch then so I couldn’t have been closer even if I wanted to. Somehow Bryce was still behind me. In the long Pearly Gates Straight Decio had managed to get far out in front, as he does. Tom was comfortably in second while Nick and Ricki were battling for third leaving Bryce and I tucking hard, trying to catch up. It was only at the chicane that we had caught them and I was able to pass Ricki on the inside of the right hander. A controversial move but on this hill you need to defend your line if you’re in front. Nick was in third through the Chicane but crashed out in the left hander allowing me to take the last spot on the podium. This year was the first time I had managed to get on the podium at my own race and I managed it in two categories! Awesome!
All in all the event went really well and even though we only had 60 entrants in total (down from 100 in the two previous years) it was a lot of fun. I couldn’t have done it without the help of Elster Pieterse on the organising side and Graham Gerber on the graphic work for marketing. Thanks guys! These events would never be possible without the support of sponsors. G-Form South Africa, ABEC 11 Wheels, Kingdom Longboards, Predator Helmets, JET Skateboards, Burley Boys Media, Enviroclaim and of course Longboarding SA were the sponsors for 2015 and they all contributed significantly. The marshals we had this year did an excellent job, esspecially considering it was the first time form most of them. We all need to remember that races don’t happen without marshals so we should show them our gratitude at every race. Jason Brown would have been a top contender for the ultimate crown this year but unfortunately he injured himself during practice. Many thanks to you my bru for keeping the spectators entertained on the microphone. Last but most definately not least, I have to thank the skaters. It was awesome to host you all on my home hill and I am esspecially grateful to those who travelled up from the coast. At this stage I am considering leaving KOTF off the callendar for next year but you can be sure that the energy that I usually put into KOTF will go into other awesome events.
See you at Dookie Downhill!
Photos by Juan White:
Photos by Anthony Churchyard: