Prospect of mouthwatering KiteFoil World Series showdown as racers seek to avenge defeats
The stage is set for a thrilling showdown at the third act of the 2019 KiteFoil World Series that will play out on the roiling waters off Pingtan Island, east China, with the globe’s fastest athletes going head-to-head.
In expected high winds whipped up by a typhoon skirting the track off Fujian province, many will be looking for redemption after watching teenagers, Slovenia’s Toni Vodisek and the US’s Daniela Moroz, close out victories earlier in the week in very different conditions in Weifang Bihai.
The globe-trotting tour’s Pingtan event—with a prize purse of $40,000—is the second of back-to-back stops in China and the penultimate leg of the four act drama that will reach a finale off Cagliari’s Poetto Beach on the Italian resort island of Sardinia next month.
After triumphs at the first two tour stops—including the season opener in Italy’s Gizzeria in July—both Vodisek, 19, and Moroz, 18, appear to be on track to secure the “open” KiteFoil world championship crowns.
But first Vodisek, in particular, will have to contend with an ultra-competitive kitefoil fleet of 28 athletes from 13 countries breathing down his neck. Margins separating the top men in the mostly-light breezes of Weifang were wafer-thin, with all leading men alternately winning bullets.
Reigning KiteFoil world champion, France’s Maxime Nocher, held the lead for the opening half of the Weifang contest in the face of fierce competition. He is relishing the howling winds forecast for the regatta’s coming five days in Pingtan, which he believes will play to his strengths.
Former world champion Germany’s Florian Gruber, who took the third podium step in Weifang and a fourth overall in Gizzeria, has found a new lease of life and renewed pace that mean he will be a strong contender, especially in the stronger breezes.
France’s Axel Mazella, who won the 2017 World Series’ crown and was just squeezed out into fourth spot in Weifang, will also be eager to improve his standing, especially since Vodisek admits he rarely trains in strong winds.
Yet with reigning three-time Formula Kite world champion, Nico Parlier (FRA), Théo de Ramecourt (FRA) and Connor Bainbridge (GBR) in the mix the leading pack need to be looking over their shoulders.
On the other hand, four-time Formula Kite world champion Moroz, finished 12th overall racing in the mixed fleet in Weifang and is in a women's league of her own. The keenest battle in the eight-strong women’s fleet in Pingtan will likely be between Elena Kalinina (RUS) and Kirstyn O’Brien (USA), the defending World Series' title holder.
O’Brien, who favours stronger breezes, finished just a three points adrift of former world champion Kalinina in Weifang and will be keen to avenge her defeat. But newcomer Ellie Aldridge (GBR), who took a second in Gizzeria, could again produce a surprise.