French tighten grip on top of leaderboard at KiteFoil World Series in Italy
French athletes bossed the top of the order at the KiteFoil World Series on the Italian resort island of Sardinia, commanding a remarkable four of the top five spots after the penultimate third day of blisteringly-fast racing in shifty conditions.
Overnight leader Théo de Ramecourt (FRA) extended his lead at the head of the standings after he landed two bullets and two seconds in awesome racing on the fabled Gulf of Angels course in tricky offshore breezes of 11kts to 20kts.
But he was pushed all the way by fellow countryman, the resurgent Nico Parlier, who scooped a bullet and a clutch of high-placed finishes that were enough to go second on the leaderboard and just get his nose ahead of lone Briton, Connor Bainbridge.
The slim margin between the top athletes was underscored by the heart-stopping photo-finishes in front of Cagliari’s Poetto Beach, with the leaders split-seconds apart after around 13 minutes' high-octane racing around the windward-leeward track.
Another Frenchman, Axel Mazella, maintained his fourth spot overall with a second and two thirds that, crucially, kept him in touch with the leaders going into the final day of the Sardinia Kiteboard Grand Slam, sponsored by Regione Sardegna tourism and the City of Cagliari.
But Mazella has his eyes on the prize of the coveted KiteFoil world championship title that will be awarded to the best overall rider of the globe-trotting four-stop World Series tour that began in Italy’s Gizzeria in July and moved to back-to-back events in China last month.
With the unfortunate departure of favourite, Slovenian teenager Toni Vodisek, through injury on day two in Cagliari, Mazella is in pole position at the top of the rankings. Vodisek had dominated the opening three stops, but Mazella’s consistent finishes were enough to keep him in touch.
Mazella knows that with 16 races down and just four scheduled for the regatta’s last day, because of discards available to him he only needs two solid scores to secure the world title victory he last tasted in 2017.
“I know that I just have to finish my races properly without mistakes,” said Mazella. “I don’t want to seem like an opportunist, but the way things turned out a huge part of the work is already done. Tomorrow we’ve four races and I just need to finish two properly.”
De Ramecourt realised from the start of the event, organised by Good Looking Entertainment and Yacht Club Cagliari, the title was beyond his grasp. But he put in another strong performance even as he fought off challenges from Parlier and Bainbridge in the breezes that shifted left and right and demanded constant course alterations.
“I’m really happy with today,” said De Ramecourt. “The last race wasn’t so good. I was in the wrong place on the start and compounded the mistake with more mistakes. But the rest was good. I know there’s no chance of the title, but I’ll just keep going fast and it would be good to win overall here in Cagliari.”
Among the 24 women racing in the 66-strong mixed fleet, Formula Kite world champion Daniela Moroz (USA) had a rather mixed day, though her superiority on the leaderboard is so great it mattered little.
But Poland’s Julia Damasiewicz, 14, continued her stellar run with strong finishes that were enough to keep her second overall just in front of former world champion, Russia’s Elena Kalinina, who crept up into third ahead of Australia’s Breiana Whitehead.
“It’s tricky racing because the wind’s all over the place,” said Whitehead. “I’m trying a new Levitaz prototype foil. It’s super-fast, so I’m happy with how I’m going. This is the first time in a while I’ve been racing with the guys. It’s a different dynamic as there are so many people everywhere. So it allows you to push and see how fast you’re going.”
Top five men after 16 races (three discards)
1 Théo de Ramecourt (FRA) 26pts
2 Nico Parlier (FRA) 34pts
3 Connor Bainbridge (GBR) 34pts
4 Axel Mazella (FRA) 39pts
5 Maxime Nocher (FRA) 67pts
Top five women after 16 races (three discards)
1 Daniela Moroz (USA) 212pts
2 Julia Damasiewicz (POL) 317pts
3 Elena Kalinina (RUS) 335pts
4 Breiana Whitehead (AUS) 338pts
5 Leonie Meyer (GER) 363pts
Full results: www.kitefoilworldseries.com