Connecting Team Bridge at the Sailing World Cup Final Melbourne

Consider the logistics of three teenage boys of varying ages all playing the same equipment heavy sport. Now imagine the coordination required for the Bridge family of kiters currently in Australia for an extended southern hemisphere tour that includes the IKA Formula Kite Open division of the Sailing World Cup Final Melbourne presented by Land Rover.

Competition began on Tuesday December 6, 2016, off the St Kilda Sailing Precinct in 10-12 knots SSW wind with the kites part of the opening session for Olympic classes. Their series wraps with the medal race on Saturday December 11, just one of a host of gold medal finals expected to draw huge crowds to the foreshore over the weekend.

Eldest son Ollie, 19 and a two-time Sailing World Cup Final winner and European champion, is hoping for a top two finish and his 17 year-old brother Guy will be pushing for top three. Mum Steph Bridge says a mid-fleet finish among the mixed gender fleet is realistic for her.

Moving a large family and all the gear around the world and competing herself is a major logistical challenge for Steph. “It’s a big job. It used to be just Ollie, now he’s sorted and its coordinating Guy’s movements. Remember our sport doesn’t have official coaches or a scheme to mould the athletes. There’s a lot to think about; the onus is on the individual and the fallback is always me.”

Fitting schooling in also has its challenges and airports and planes are where the boys tend to catch up on their schoolwork. “When you are competing there is a lot of waiting around but it’s not quality time,” Steph says. “In the evenings you are tired and want to eat and get an early night and in the morning you want to prepare for the event.”

Youngest son Tom, 15, will join mum and his two brothers on the tour in Perth where he’s freestyle training for next year’s world tour.

The waters around Exmouth, Devon, Great Britain is where the Bridges live and kite, but this time of year the icy winter temperatures and inconsistent wind make training difficult, and accepting an invite to Perth’s annual Red Bull Lighthouse to Leighton race an easy choice.

Ollie, the record holder until this year, had to race the 19k event on December 3 on a twin tip board having broken his foil in a jump before the start while Guy completed the speed crossing in just 21 minutes on his foil board. Steph Bridge held her fastest female title for the third year straight, finishing in 24:50. That same day the weary kiting family took the red eye flight to Melbourne to prepare for their World Cup hit-out.

Ollie is hoping for a top two finish in Melbourne and within the next few years to be IKA Race World Champion. Guy, the dark horse according to mum, is hot on the heels of his older brother and his short term ambition is a top three result come Saturday’s gold medal decider.

Between the family members there are multiple titles including British Race Champion and Youth World Champion twice over (Ollie); British Hydrofoil Champion and Isle of Wight Kitesurf Navigation record holder (Guy); European Freestyle Youth Champion 2011-2014 (Tom);  five-time Race World Champion 2007-2015 and British Freestyle Champion (Steph).

Dad Eric runs the family businesses and is Team Bridge athlete coach plus a BKSA instructor and examiner.

Kiteboarding is working hard to gain Olympic Games inclusion as the eleventh sailing medal and is part of the 2018 Youth Olympic Games set to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“It’s not a holiday coming to these events but competitions bring good things and bad things, and lots of memories,” Steph says. “To compete with your family is really special. I’ve been to all the major continents; South Africa, New Zealand, Iceland, Necker Island….

“At the moment our life is juggling four different businesses, a fairly big family and a fairly big house, and kiting is a game.”

“A game you want to win,” Ollie reminds.

By Lisa Ratcliff/SWC Final media