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Hoek tot Helder charity event 2019

On 28 September 2019, after having to wait 1,5 years for the perfect day, mother nature finallly delivered. On this day, Kite Team Van Oord and 254 other participants kitesurfed from Hoek van Holland to Den Helder to raise money for charity. Three days in advance, the organisation of Hoek tot Helder decided to give a green light for the event, which was the sign for all 300 participants to start with the final preparations, and be prepared for the monstrous 130 km kitesurfing marathon.

It was the second time Kite Team Van Oord participated in the event. This year the team consisted out of 4 colleagues, being Jan Willem Markvoort, Michiel van Gunsteren, Dennis van Kester en Suzanne Kuiper. As you can see in the picture below the team was exited to start!

At 6:00, when the sky was still pitch dark, the registration of all kiters started in Hoek van Holland. At 6:30, the skippers meeting took place, giving all participants the latest info about the conditions during the day. After the skippers meeting, it was time to put on wetsuits, pump kites and lay out the needed gear. As there were 300 participants in the event, the starting window was 1,5 hours in total, allowing a natural spreading of kiters on the water for safety reasons.

At 7:45 Kite Team Van Oord was ready to start, but not before doing a team huddle!! Kitesurfing is a very individual sport but today was going to be a team effort, getting all the team members to Den Helder safely and on time.

This year, Hoek tot Helder scheduled for a total of three official stops in between the start and the finish, being Scheveningen, IJmuiden and Camperduin, see map below. The stops are put in place to ensure every participant drinks and eats on time and it takes out any competitive element as it is not a race and shouldn't be.

At the start of the event, the wind had not really picked up yet. With a windspeed of around 16 knots, it was hard work to keep power in the kite and to go downwind without dropping the kite in the water. It was going to be hard work to reach the first stop in Scheveningen.

The first landmark we passed on the way to Scheveningen was the Zandmotor, the natural suppletion method designed and made by Van Oord. A good moment to stop on the beach to make a selfie which was, as well, nicely picked up by one of the events photographers.

As I mentioned before the light wind was mading it very challenging to reach Scheveningen. As a result, some of the participants did not manage to get to Scheveningen on time and had to pull out of the event. Unfortunately, one of our team members was one of them, but at least he was safely on the beach. The remainder of the team arrived in Scheveningen safe and very exited!

In Scheveningen, we were welcomed by our colleage Johan Hofland and his sons, who were standing on the beach with a big Van Oord flag. The flag was visible from the water, so that was a very nice welcome in Scheveningen.

After the stop in Scheveningen, the wind remained light, so we decided to keep sailing with bigger kites than expected, as we needed power in the kites to be able to pass safely around the Pier of Scheveningen.

All throughout the day the team was supported by Aisling Markvoort and Marlou van Lent, driving a support car from stop to stop all the way to the finish with extra gear, food, drinks and lots of enthousiasm to keep the team going strong. A special thanks to these lovely ladies!

At Wassenaar the wind finally arrived making it a lot easier on our bodies. Till then, the kites needed to be steered continuously to generate sufficient power, but now the wind and thus power was available in abundance, enabling us to kite comfortably with high speed to IJmuiden.

At the second official stop in IJmuiden, we were welcomed by lots of family and another enthousiastic colleague, Cornel Leijerzapf. Cornel helped us pack up our gear for the lunch break and took a team picture.

As it is not allowed to cross the Noth Sea Channel to go from IJmuiden to Wijk aan Zee, after lunch we were take to Wijk aan Zee by touring car.

After lunch the wind increased so much, that we could leave the bigger (10 square meter) kites in the support car, and continue with the smaller (7 square meter) kites. And the smaller the kite, the faster they fly, so our speed on the water increased, reaching top speeds well above 50 km/h. This resulted in an additional challenge for our support team, to be able to reach the stop before we did which was sometimes just impossible.

In the morning it was low tide, resulting in nice and small waves near the shore line. But after lunch the tide kicked in and the waves increased, making it a challenge on our bodies which were getting a bit tired. Nevertheless, all three remaining members of Kite Team Van Oord were on fire, and the last stretch was done with great enthousiasm and great speed and with so much joy that we did not notice the pain in our muscles anymore.

The next stop was in Camperduin, a special place for Kite Team Van Oord as this beach was formally a dike, but a couple of years ago, a beach and dune landscape was designed and created here by Van Oord. In Camperduin we were welcomed again by a, now retired, colleague Hans Oostinga and his wife. So great to get this support from our colleagues! And look at this is the view from Camperduin with 300 kitesurfers approaching...!!

After Camperduin, we only had the final stretch in front of us. We were feeling good and looking forward to reach the finish which was about an hour of kitesurfing ahead of us. On the last stretch the beach was getting more narrow, as the tide became really high. With the increase of the tide, the waves near the shoreline increased as well. On this Northern part of the Dutch coastline, many stretches of rocky dikes named groynes have been layed out in the water to decrease the longitudual sand transport along the coast line. So all participants were told to take great care on this stretch, as not to hit any rocks which were hidden below the water surface. Actually it would be great if Rijkswaterstaat would decide to widen the beach at this part of the coast and to cover those groynes with sand. Van Oord would be happy to assist! :-)

After approximately 130 km of kitesurfing we reached the finish. It was amazing seeing so many people there on the beach to welcome us. Knowing that all those people, including lots of family, were there for us gave us a very special feeling while crossing the finish line.

A big thanks to everyone who donated for the charitable cause the Hartstichting and a special thanks to all those who took the effort to support us in person on the beach, which made this adventure even more special for us!

I have captured our adventure in a small movie, see below. Enjoy!!

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