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Blokart pilots take on the world at Las Vegas

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The 2024 Blokart World Championship at Ivanpah Lake, near Las Vegas, with a giant solar farm as a backdrop.

The “Holy Grail” of Blokarting brought pilots from around the world, to a dusty dry lake in Nevada, including a father and son duo from Taupō.

Blokarting is a type of land sailing invented by Pāpāmoa man Paul Beckett in 1999. Since then, more than 16,000 Blokarts have been manufactured and shipped around the world. The Blokart World Championships have been held biennially since 2008 in various countries.

This year’s venue could not have been more different from home for Steve Fox and son Shannon Fox (20) who are more used to the pristine waters of Lake Taupō than the dusty arid plains of Ivanpah Lake near Las Vegas.

New Zealand is the home of Blokarting but Ivanpah was the “Holy Grail” when it came to venues, Steve said.

Its vast open spaces and winds make it the ideal place for land sailing.

Steve placed 2nd in his World Championships weight class and Shannon 4th, despite both struggling with a bad cold and Shannon racing with bad asthma at one stage. But he also grabbed a place on the podium, placing second in the North American Championships held at the same time.

Shannon Fox competes at the 2024 Blokart World Championships at Ivanpah Dry Lake, near Las Vegas.
Shannon Fox competes at the 2024 Blokart World Championships at Ivanpah Dry Lake, near Las Vegas.

They were part of a 24-strong contingent from New Zealand at the event, which took place from April 8-14.

The Blokarts reached speeds of up to 96km/h on the dry lake bed. That’s quite a bit slower than the land sailing speed record of 225 km/h set by Emirates Team New Zealand in a salt lake in Australia last year, in a much larger and more sophisticated yacht, but plenty fast enough when the ground is whizzing past a low, open cockpit, Steve said.

He said they had to take more than 200kg of gear over to Nevada for the championships, including the chassis and different sails for a variety of wind conditions.

Ninety-eight pilots competed in the event, ranging in age from 12 to 80 years old.

Conditions were pretty tricky during competition with little wind at times and then wind that whipped up so much dust that spectators couldn’t even see the Blokarts on the race course.

Blokarts emerge from the dust at Ivanpah Lake, near Las Vegas.
Blokarts emerge from the dust at Ivanpah Lake, near Las Vegas.

Racing is similar to Sail GP racing, races are a minimum of seven minutes long and 10-15 minutes on average.

Steve said one of the challenges was finding places to practise around Taupō. The area has good opportunities for traditional sailing and Steve has pedigree there too, having competed at World Championship level in laser-class sailing.

He has sailed around the Taupō International Motorsport Park before and reckons the nearby Taupō Gliding Club would be ideal too, but may not be an attractive proposition for the aerial pilots there.

Instead, he and Shannon regularly journey down to the Manawatu Blokarting Club which has the best facilities for the sport and lots of competition.

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