Qualifying for Formula Kite Worlds >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News
Torre Grande, Italy (October 15, 2021) – The 2021 Formula Kite World Championships ended the qualifying phase on day three with the final series now due to start tomorrow in the Gulf of Oristano.
After six races for men, the French duo Axel Mazella and Théo de Ramecourt are tied for points at the top of their standings in gusts and devious coast winds that have reached 18 knots. But occasional lulls of up to 7 knots were at times a source of drama for most athletes.
Behind the pair only three points separate the seven riders in positions four to ten, such was the intensity of the battles all over the flat waters of the trapezoidal track just off the beach of Torregrande.
On the women’s side, the difference between the leaders was almost as tight after completing five races, but reigning Formula Kite world champion Daniela Moroz (USA) held onto her slim lead despite an unusually stray ball.
In the fourth of the five-day regattas scheduled for the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) Formula Kite World Championships in Torregrande, the leading men and women will face off after the first three days of the qualifying heats have established the hierarchical order.
A remarkable number of 138 athletes – 89 men and 49 women from 34 countries and six continents – are vying for the world titles after a hiatus of more than two years due to the pandemic.
This is the largest kitefoil fleet ever, reflecting growing interest as the event marks the countdown to the Olympics and the much-anticipated kitesurfing debut at the 2024 Paris Games.
As France hosts the Olympic sailing regatta on the waters off the city of Marseille, the well-endowed national team has a squad of 21 world championship athletes, including a number of the world’s fastest runners.
Frenchman Axel Mazella climbed to the top of the standings, facing stiff opposition, including Slovenian Toni Vodišek scoring five balls in six races of his day.
“I don’t know why, but Toni Vodišek wanted to compete with me,” Mazella said. “Everywhere I went he was like a shadow. So I decided to get more aggressive and tried to put more runners between him and me. Then I tried to focus only on my own game. My starts were often poor, but I’m super happy with my downwind speed, where I was able to take and hold the lead.
Mazella also tried to keep track of the leaders, running through the three alternate men’s fleets, which could prove crucial to the outcome of the final series if the wind weakens this weekend.
His compatriot De Ramecourt had an assault performance in the north-westerly breezes that formed during the day. But he let his overnight lead slip away with some costly mistakes when he lost focus, removing the luster from his three balls.
“It was a very good day, even if it was a long one,” said De Ramecourt. “I made a few small mistakes that cost me two balls. In the last litter of a race, I hit the bottom mark because I was somewhere else in my head. Another time I went to the right and it just didn’t work due to the changes in the wind. The conditions were harsh, but really pleasant. I am happy.”
In another fleet, Singaporean Max Maeder, 15, the recent European Open champion, had an equally brilliant course. He landed four balls, but slipped to third place overall. But he too suffered a tragedy in the teasing conditions of the opening race of his day which saw him not finish.
“On the downwind stage, my 15m kite just banked in a gust and crashed into the water,” said Maeder. “It was really difficult to restart and it was me out of the race. But I can’t complain about four balls, especially since the competition in my fleet was tough.
Among those who fought with Maeder were the remarkable Italian Riccardo Pianosi, 16, fourth overall, the Frenchman Benoît Gomez and the Croatian Martin Dolenc. Barely three points separate the trio.
Briton Connor Bainbridge, in a duel on the track with a tough fleet, climbed to fifth in the overall standings, thanks to two balls towards the end of the proceedings, when the breeze stabilized and played on his strength.
“In the first race I was in the lead for over 100 meters when I jibed downwind,” Bainbridge said. “Unfortunately I hit a 10 knot wind hole, while the others caught a 15 knot gust. I stepped back and finished fifth. It made me feel a bit disgusted. But the first two helped me regain my self-confidence. I can’t wait to face all of the best guys in the final series.
The women’s final promises to be just as captivating, the French Lauriane Nolot behind Moroz in the general classification. Nolot was fighting in an alternate fleet and suffered several big moments.
Two tangles at a mark in separate races framed Nolot’s ball trio. In the first, she managed to break free quickly, but finished at the bottom of the order, while the second time, she had to give up with a damaged kite.
“After the tangle of the first race, my tactic was just to be as quick as possible, in order to reach the first mark first and avoid trouble,” said Nolot. “It worked and I got the balls. Now I can’t wait to face Daniela Moroz.
Nolot was battling with compatriot Poema Newland, who managed to run quickly and cleanly, taking advantage of two balls and three second places, leaving her comfortably in third place overall.
Great Britain’s Ellie Aldridge, faced with the formidable task of running against Moroz, has finished second on four occasions. But in the last race of her day, the Briton finally got the better of the American, who got off to a bad start and couldn’t pass, giving Aldridge the ball and fourth overall.
“In this last race I got off to a good start,” said Aldridge. “I had a good angle upwind. I had had enough of a lead. It generally catches up with the second time. But I continued and it paid off.
Results of the third day – the first three:
Men (10 races, 2 failures)
1. FRA Axel Mazella 9pts
2. FRA Théo de Ramecourt 9pts
3. SGP Max Maeder 11pts
Women (12 races, 3 withdrawals)
1. United States Daniela Moroz 9pts
2. FRA Lauriane Nolot 10.5pts
3. FRA Poem Newland 13pts
The race is scheduled for October 13-17.
Format for the Olympic discipline of Formula Kite:
1. Male and female fleets initially divided into equal groups. The men will start in small evenly divided groups, and the women will start in small equally divided groups.
2. All the competitors run up to 12 races over three days, then are classified in bronze, silver and gold for men, silver and gold for women, for 4 additional races with points carried over.
3. At the end of the second day of racing in the gold fleet, the two best kiters from the men’s and women’s divisions automatically qualify for the final.
4. Places 3-14 in the men’s and women’s gold fleets advance to the semi-finals where they run two races in two groups of six, with the winners of each group advancing.
5. The final consists of the best 4 races until someone gets 3 wins
6. The leading kiter enters the final with two points and only has to win one race to close the regatta.
7. The second placed kiter enters the final with one point and must earn two or more to win the title.
8. The third and fourth placed kiters who entered the final with zero points must win three races. (This exact scenario unfolded in the men’s fleet of the European Championships where Maximillian Maeder of Singapore entered the final with zero points, won three consecutive races and won the 2021 Formula Kite European Championships)