One of the youngest riders at the KiteFoil GoldCup, Toni Vodisek, stamped his authority on proceedings with four bullets from six in a remarkable performance that marked his best day on the water and left competitors in awe of his sheer pace.
The 16-year-old Slovenian who has been threatening a breakthrough led every race he won almost from start to finish in a stellar outing on smooth waters in gentle breezes that spawned scintillating racing at the “open” kitefoil world championship finals.
Nonetheless, Britain’s Olly Bridge leads the standings after he scored a bullet, three seconds and a raft of consistent other placings on the second day of four at the competition being staged in the Arabian Gulf off The Pearl-Qatar island’s Qanat Quartier precinct.
Reigning International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) KiteFoil GoldCup champion, Maxime Nocher (MON), slipped to third on the leaderboard from his overnight lead, despite a bullet, two seconds and third placing.
Nocher suffered the misfortune of tangling briefly with Poland’s Maks Zakowski who had crashed just metres from the finish line as he pressed hard to clinch a third spot on a blistering final reach. Nocher freed his kite and dragged both himself and board over the line.
The intensely-competitive racing belied the benign conditions. In breezes rarely topped 7kts under cloudless skies, the kitefoils again showed their versatility and mind-boggling speed as racers blazed around two laps of the flat windward-leeward track hitting more than 25kts.
From 22 nations, the 37 riders — including four women — have been racing as one fleet, with Doha’s dramatic skyline serving as a fitting backcloth for the action in the on-set of desert state’s winter.
The tour leader Axel Mazella (FRA) — who took the overall win at the first stop in Gizzeria, Italy, in July — sits in fourth spot. He again scored consistently, but on his Banga foil and F-One Diablo2 18m seemed a little off his usual pace.
Race organisers were able to get two sets of three back-to-back races away after the breeze, largely AWOL in recent days, kicked in on cue before lunch and held steady until just before the early sunset.
That was a perfect opportunity for Vodisek to put the hammer down on his Levitaz Bionic foil and Ozone R1V2. The settled conditions at the contest hosted by the Qatar Sailing & Marine-Sports Federation almost precisely mirror those of his home training waters.
Yet while he was happy with his incredible four wins, in the way of most athletes striving for perfection, the teenager could only see the flaws in his races that he hopes to eliminate in the final two days of competition.
“Sure, it’s the best day ever,” he said. “I’m not really sure what I’m doing right. Probably it’s down to having good speed and good angles. But I’m still making mistakes. And with no-one in front of me, now I have to figure it all out for myself. I’m thinking: don’t mess up, don’t mess up.”
His key rival, Bridge, himself just 18 and riding identical equipment to Vodisek, was equally quick to spot the problems in his racing, but took solace from the fact it had been enough to send him top overall.
“We have the same gear and we’re just as fast as each other,” he said. “But I had one crash in one race. The morning races were good, but not so great towards the end of the day. Overall, though, I pretty happy with things.”
Among the women, Russia’s Elena Kalinina was as fast as ever in the light breeze, ending the day 17th overall after some quick races that left many of the men trailing in her wake.
Overall standings after 7 races (1 discard).
1 Olly Bridge (GBR, Ozone/Levitaz) 14pts
2 Toni Vodisek (SLO, Ozone/Levitaz) 16pts
3 Maxime Nocher (MON, F-One/Banga) 18pts
4 Axel Mazella (FRA, F-One/Banga) 22pts
5 Florian Trittel (ESP, Ozone/KFA) 28pts
1 Elena Kalinina (RUS, Elf/Banga) 83pts
2 Gina Hewson (AUS, Ozone/Levitaz) 134pts
3 Jade O’Connor (IRL, Elf/Banga) 137pts
4 Ariane Imbert (FRA, Ozone/Banga) 168pts