Day 1 : Berlevåg – Stjernevann

The bus drops us at 9.30 on the road West of the town, on the sea shore. There, the snow is not very abundant, so we will be dragged by scooter up on the hills, 1km inland where the start line is set up.

15 teams of the 18 originally planned have finally made it. Of course, getting ready for the VAKE and coming all the way up here was a race by itself!

The start area is pretty wide. But there are still many rocks sticking out from the snow. The wind is quite strong, but blowing exactly against our direction to the South.

At 10.30am, the first leg of the VAKE 2010 is officially launched, and we all ride full speed up wind, toward our first check point on the GPS. But after only 500m, one Swedish contestant makes a mistake with his kite and gets violently dragged into the rocks, loosing consciousness… Hopefully, he is quickly taken care of by the staff and evacuated to an hospital. That is over for them, only 14 teams are on the competition.

Tacking upwind is a hard job, especially when the breeze gets lower and lower… After 30min, it’s hard to keep going, even with our 12,5m Montana5. But hopefully, after a few kilometres, the wind picks up again. The views over the Barents Sea are so beautiful, and the plateau so wide, that we kind of forget about the lack of wind.

The teams are slowly spreading apart over the Varanger plateau, depending on the size of their kites, the weight of their sledges, their navigating skills, etc.. etc.. We end up not seeing anyone else, which makes us feel very small… but makes the race even more exciting. Crossing massive canyons, zigzagging around rocks, always looking for the best wind (which is still very low)

At 6pm, we are still 10km from the finish line of this 1st day. But the wind dies totally, so we decide to head toward the closest (and unique) road to get picked up by the organisation, according to safety rules of the race. We are only 4km away, so we make it within one hour.

Once at the finish line, we ear that only 4 teams have made it to the end on time. So we start to set up our camp site and spend the night in the snow. When the night falls, 12 team are here, but 2 are still missing. They’ll have to stay overnight in the mountains. This is why each team has to carry everything to survive over the 3-4 days of race : food and camping gears.

We are exhausted after 8 hours tacking upwind… And by looking at our GPS track log, we understand why : to cover the 40 km of today’s leg, we actually kited over 100km…..

Well, so far it seems that the VAKE could be the hardest snowkiting race in the world…

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