Press Releases 2014-2015

Kitesurfers and Car-Lovers Set for Bristol Channel Challenge


Yn yr her bydd Dr Ross Head a Kelvin Lake (gwaelod ch i dd), barcudfyrddwyr ac academyddion PCYDDS, yn cystadlu yn erbyn eu cydweithwyr yn y maes modurol, Tim Tudor a Roger Dowden (yn sefyll ch i dd). Engineering and product design academics from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in Swansea will embark on a Top Gear-style challenge next month as kitesurfers take on an electric hybrid vehicle in a battle to get from North Devon to Swansea.

The challenge will pit academics and kitesurfing enthusiasts Kelvin Lake and Dr Ross Head against their automotive engineering colleagues. The aim is to promote UWTSD’s new world-first course in extreme sports manufacturing and its expertise in automotive and motorsport engineering, and product design, while raising money for a number of good causes. Four possible dates have been identified, depending on the weather, which are 4th, 5th, 18th or 19th October.

The challenge will start in Woolacombe in North Devon. The kitesurfers will make the thirty-three mile journey across the Bristol Channel and aim to finish near the Observatory on Swansea Bay. The journey, which is twelve miles longer than the distance between Dover and Calais, is estimated to take three hours and twenty minutes.

Kelvin Lake and Dr Ross Head will be joined on the water by two-time British Senior Wavesmaster (kifesurfing) champion Marc Rowley, along with Sarah Rowley, who runs a kitesurfing school in Porthcawl. Also undertaking the challenge will be UWTSD graduate Oli Thorman, co-founder of a company called Mutiny Kites who will be providing the kites for the crossing.

The automotive engineers will leave Woolacombe at the same time, making their way from North Devon to the M4 and then west towards Swansea, also finishing near the city’s waterfront observatory. According to online route planners the 176 miles journey, which will be made in the University’s Honda Civic Electric Hybrid vehicle, should take three hours and twelve minutes.

Kelvin Lake said: “This October we are launching the world’s first degree course in extreme sports manufacturing. This challenge will allow us to demonstrate the potential of the programme as the kitesurf boards will be designed and manufactured at the University. They will be made using a mixture of traditional manufacturing techniques, including materials such as carbon fibre, as well as modern 3D printing which will be used to create the fins.”

Dr Ross Head said: “The Boards were designed in the CAD programme Solidworks which enabled us to perfect the design and check the geometry prior to sending the boards for manufacture.”

Adding a competitive edge, UWTSD Head of Automotive Engineering Roger Dowden said: “In this battle of sustainable travel we plan to demonstrate how our Honda Civic Hybrid car will beat wind power. Despite adhering to the laws, and unpredictability, of the road we still expect to get to the finish line in Swansea first.”

Local companies and organisations supporting the challenge include Mumbles Yacht Club, Swansea Yacht and Sub-Aqua Club and the Maritime Volunteer Service who will provide safety boats on the day.

The support boats and the hybrid car will use GPS to update progress as the challenge happens and this will be uploaded live to the internet via

Aside from promoting the University’s academic programmes, the Kitesurf Challenge will be used to raise money for the Wales Air Ambulance and the Maritime Volunteer Service. More information can be found by visiting

Speaking about the introduction of the degree in extreme sports manufacturing, Kelvin Lake said: “The extreme sports industry is a significant and growing employer. The UK surf industry reported sales of £200 million in 2007, with the manufacturing element of the surfing in Cornwall alone estimated to be £62 million a year. The use of advanced materials such as composites continue to grow in the leisure industry and are now regularly used for the manufacture of surfboards, wakeboards and skateboards. Specific opportunities for growth have been identified in youth leisure goods, such as snowboards, by the Department of Trade and Industry and this has led to significant growth of composite manufacturers that specialise in these areas. The proportion of composite manufacturers in Wales that focus on sport and leisure now exceeds both the aerospace and the automotive industries.”

Dr Ross Head added: "Designers in both the product and graphics areas play an important part in extreme sports product development and marketing. Whilst the equipment must be engineered to perfection it must also demonstrate constant innovation and have the slick styling to succeed in a very competitive market. This has been well demonstrated by Oil Thorman, who graduated in Product Design in UWTSD and started his own extremely successful kite company.

Note to Editor

  1. A series of pictures and videos are available of the development of the kitesurft board in preparation for the challenge. For interview, filming and photography opportunities please contact Steven Stokes via the details below.
  2. The University of Wales Trinity Saint David was established in 2010 through the merger of the University of Wales Lampeter and Trinity University College, Carmarthen. On 1 August 2013 the Swansea Metropolitan University merged with the University.
  3. The University’s Royal Charter 1828 is the oldest in Wales, and it is third behind Oxford and Cambridge in Wales and England. HRH Prince of Wales is the Patron of the University.

Further Information

Steven Stokes
Senior PR and Communications Officer
07872 423788