If the setting in China had changed, little else had. In the opening skirmishes at the KiteFoil World Series in Pingtan, Monaco’s Maxime Nocher picked up where he left off a week ago at the tour’s first stop in Weifang Binhai.
The multiple world champion scooped a clean sweep of four bullets in the first racing day of the competition in building breezes that hit 18kts, continuing the winning ways that earned him the top podium spot in the first of the back-to-back World Series’ stops in China.
Britain’s Connor Bainbridge, who was all-but untouchable on the first days of the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) World Series’ season-opener in Weifang, sits a few points adrift in second overall after posting a trio of third-placed finishes and a second.
In the tricky sea state of chop and and a counter swell thrown up by a typhoon threatening the track off Fujian’s Pingtan Island, former world champion, Russia’s Elena Kalinina, finished the day mid-way down order racing against a strong field of men.
With the small group of women, she is competing in the 27-strong fleet from 16 nations battling on the second of the four-stop World Series tour that will eventually crown the IKA KiteFoil World Champion.
In Pingtan the kitefoil racers are fighting for a share of the $40,000 prize money, with the World Series stop the centre-piece of the 2018 Pingtan International Kitesurfing Festival.
It is the seventh successive year that Pingtan has hosted a major international kiteboarding competition. The spot’s appeal is highlighted by the big local field among the 70 athletes competing in the Chinese National Championships in TT:R course racing, with three races completed on day two.
On day one of competition it proved impossible to get any races away thanks to the high winds and big seas that prompted safety concerns for the athletes. But day two saw the winds abate to what most of the racers deemed a perfect 14kts to 18kts under low grey skies.
France’s Axel Mazella, nursing an ankle ligament injury, could not push as hard as he wished in the fresh conditions that he would normally regard as ideal. With his taped ankle, he suffered a big crash when he missed a gybe in the day’s third race while in third approaching the finish.
But fellow countryman Théo de Ramecourt had more luck grabbing a brace of second spots that gave him a comfortable third overall, leaving him pleased with his outing on the windward-leeward East China Sea course.
“I’m really happy with these conditions,” said de Ramecourt. “There’s a bit of a swell and chop. But everyone is going really fast, and the breeze was perfect for my 11m and 13m kites. It’s a little bit tricky, but a good start for me.”
Nocher, too, revelled in the conditions that delivered four bullets. “The wind is pretty constant, so you can push and go very fast. They’re perfect for me. To win every race of the day is really superb.”
Top three men after four races
1 Maxime Nocher (MON) 4.0pts
2 Connor Bainbridge (GBR) 11.0pts
3 Théo de Ramecourt (FRA) 13.0pts
Top three women after four races
1 Elena Kalinina (RUS) 50.0pts
2 Kirstyn O’Brien (USA) 81.0pts
3 Natalie Flintrop-Clarke (AUS) 96.0pts
Full results: http:/www.kitefoilgoldcup.com