World’s Leading Kite Foiler’s Limber Up Ahead of Opening Ceremony
Hang Loose Beach, Gizzeria, Italy—Many of the globe’s leading kite hydrofoil riders tested out the warm waters of the Mediterranean, warming up ahead of the opening ceremony at the KiteFoil GoldCup to be staged off Hang Loose Beach.
The racers ripped across the relatively smooth waters off south-west Italy’s coast measuring their pace against friends in the tight-knit set while tweaking hydrofoil and kite settings to gain maximum advantage in the “open” KiteFoil GoldCup class. In the gathering breeze that hit about 14kts, the riders initially put up their biggest 18m kites, but at its height some of the seven women due to compete opted for kites as small as 9m. The wind forecast looks good and may see many on smaller-sized kites over the coming days.
In all 48 kiters from 18 nations registered to contest the four-day event with the stunning coastline of Calabria serving as the backdrop, for the contest hosted by Hang Loose Beach with Audi Zentrum as one of the major sponsors.A low-key opening ceremony heralded the start of the proceedings, but it could yet presage fireworks on the water with European Formula kite champion Olly Bridge (GBR) and reigning course-board world champion Maxime Nocher (FRA) going head-to-head on their foil boards.
Sadly, leading foil contender Nico Parlier (FRA) was forced to pull out just a day before the start after suffering a deep gash on his foot on a beach elsewhere needing eight stitches and making it impossible for him to compete. Top Americans Johnny Heineken, sister Erika, and Joey Pasquali also did not make the trip.
In the roster of women, who will compete in the same fleets as the men, Britain’s multiple Formula board world champion Steph Bridge will be up against the young Russian, Elena Kalinina, for the honours.
For several days already riders have been concerned about plastic bags and large jellyfish in the water that can lead to hard crashes at more than 30kts when either become wrapped around the foil.
No doubt the ultra-competitive fleet of men and women will find ways to overcome the obstacles thrown their path to put on four days of spectacular racing guaranteed to excite and enthrall.
Day 1 – Near Flawless Performance Gives Nocher Edge in Thrilling Kite Foil Championship Opener
Hang Loose Beach, Gizzeria, Italy—Reigning Formula kite world champion Maxime Nocher demonstrated his devastating turn of speed in the kite hydrofoil class, scoring four bullets in five races that cemented his place at the top of the leaderboard on the first day of competition.
The Monaco rider competing in the “yellow” fleet made up of half the 48 racers — the other designated the “blue” fleet — might even have made a clean sweep of five had he not crashed on a downwind leg to the finish line and concede the win to Axel Mazella (FRA), who also had a good opening day at the KiteFoil GoldCup Italy. Fellow countryman Julien Kerneur (FRA) made hay in the “blue” fleet scoring several bullets that kept him in strong contention in second spot overall when the fleets are re-arranged for day two of the event’s qualifying series being being hosted off Hang Loose Beach, Gizerria, south-west Italy.
One of the bigger surprises on a day of intense, fast-pace racing that saw the riders scythe through the blue Mediterranean at jaw-dropping speeds, was the success of Benni Boelli (GER), who ended in third position overall. His 15m Flysurfer foil kite, in combination with a Levitaz hydrofoil with radical rear winglet and narrower ASV board, offered him blistering speed that saw him steal third place in the day’s final race despite an ill-judged pin-end start gamble that failed and put him almost at the back of the 24-strong pack.
But in the two laps of the windward-leeward track, which the winners typically completed in about 10 minutes in the breeze that built from a 9kts average to 12kts under clear skies, Boelli was able to blaze a path back into contention.
“This 15m Flysurfer kite is the one I’m used to riding at home, so I feel very comfortable with it,” said Boelli. “Not long ago we found a good set up with the Levitaz foil. The front wing is normal, but the rear wing is experimental and the fuselage is longer. It’s working very well.”
The sheer speed of the Flysurfer kites and Levitaz foils combination prompted Simone Vannucci (ITA), no slouch himself ending eighth overall, to joke that the Levitaz foils should be banned, an impossibility as the class remains “open”.
“I tried these Levitaz foils and they’re very fast,” said Vannucci, owner of ASV Performance and also a Flysurfer team-rider. “These foils should be protested on the grounds of technical advantage.”
Yet even the Flysurfer-Levitaz riders will have to contend with Nocher’s pace on his F-one foil kite, board and Taaroa Sword2 hydrofoil with new G10 wings that ensured he stayed well ahead of a classy field that included the likes of Olly Bridge (GBR) and Peter Mueller (GER), who ended fifth overall riding Flysurfer and Levitaz.
On the third day of the four-day championship the fleets will be seeded into the top “gold”and bottom “silver” fleets to compete for the podium positions. With the seven women mixed in among the men, qualification for the “gold” fleet will be a tough ask for them. But Alexi Fancelli (FRA), riding a Taaroa Sword2 hydrofoil, managed a good showing just stealing a march on reigning Formula kite world champion Steph Bridge (GBR). Both were able outstrip many of the men finishing about half-way down their respective fleets.
Writer: Ian MacKinnon
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