How it all started
Back in 2012 local Hove based kitesurfer Dan Charlish was crashing his way through a kitesurfing clinic being run by Lewis Crathern at Lancing Beach. After the session and over a cup of tea in the back of Lew's van, Dan asked if Lew would help with an idea to get hundreds of kitesurfers to ride together from Hayling Island to Lancing to raise funds for charity. Lew was in and the Armada was born. (Well actually The Big Charity Downwinder was born, but I think we can all agree that shelving the first name was a good call..)
The first event was scheduled on Hayling Island for October 2013. Interest was high and over 300 kitesurfers had quickly signed up to attempt the 50 mile downwinder. Virgin then got in touch and Richard Branson asked if they could sponsor the event and lead off the first Armada. A five year agreement with Virgin was put together and interest in the event grew further. On the big day the morning was calm, before the predicted strong winds began and the Armada set off. In total 318 kitesurfers took part, with 72 completing the full 50 miles as winds peaked at 40 knots sending many to the beach early! A new Guinness World Record was set, £70,000 was raised for charity and the platform for the Armada Festival was in place.
Every year since the festival on Hayling Island has grown and added new features all leading to the Armada we have today, voted best UK Kitesurfing Event for the last 3 years and becoming the largest kitesurfing festival in Europe last year. Seven World Records have now been set. Fundraising has continued each year with over £200,000 now raised for good causes, guided by a team of Trustees including Lewis Crathern, Dan Charlish, Julia Feeß, Chris Bull, Andy Gratwick, Simon Bassett and Andy Pope. The kitesurfing community has supported the event every step of the way and for this we are extremely grateful.
International Armada's held in Cape Town and Tarifa along the way were big achievements and great fun, and a sister festival, the SUP Armada, ran for 3 years before we returned to focus purely on kitesurfing at the heart of all the festivals. So next up, we are taking the Armada on Tour with an event in Skegness planned for July 2019 - watch this space!
The Armada still has no salaried staff and we need the support of many sponsors, the local council, the kitesurfing community who buy tickets and the public who attend over the weekend in order to raise all the funds needed to run the event.
Thank you all for your support!