French teenager Axel Mazella snatched victory at the KiteFoil GoldCup by the finest of margins after a series misfortunes and mistakes on the contest’s final day that saw his overnight lead evaporate in the tightest races of the world championships’ opening tour stop in Italy.
But the 18-year-old’s performances in the “gold” fleet’s six races were just enough to pip his great rival and training partner, reigning Formula kite world champion Maxime Nocher, by a single point.
Mazella’s victory was assured only at the death. A tangle with Olly Bridge (GBR) in the “gold” fleet’s penultimate race cost both riders dearly. Bridge’s kite inverted as he pushed hard on an upwind leg and Mazella was unable to avoid it, forcing Bridge to retire while Mazella finished last after disentangling himself.
Both were able to dispense with the poor result when discards kicked-in after five races. But for 18-year-old Bridge — who scored four bullets and a second on the day with sizzling pace on his Levitaz foil and Elf Joker kites — the slip may have cost him at least one podium spot, though ultimately he was content with his third overall.
The Italian-Colombian rider Riccardo Leccese, who sat in second spot overnight, was also in with a shout of a podium finish at the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) GoldCup in Italy. But he mistakenly believed the day’s final race had been reduced to two laps and put himself out of contention, slipping to fourth overall.
If anything, the drama and mounting tension of the four-day contest’s finale off Gizzeria’s Hang Loose Beach appeared initially to leave Mazella more relieved than pleased by his triumph. “I’m delighted to win,” he said, slightly unconvincingly. “I train together with Maxime Nocher, so I know him well and he goes very, very fast. I try to be more consistent, like him. But I made so many mistakes. In the day’s first race I had many crashes, then I tangled with Olly Bridge and had lots of poor starts.”
Uncertainty over the final outcome until the very last moment merely added to the spectacle for a crowded weekend beach. Perfect conditions, with the onshore breeze varying from 8kts to around 16kts, saw the 62 riders for 26 nationalities deploy their 15m and 18m kites.
On the three laps of the windward-leeward course, with a blasting reach to the finish just off the beach, spectators were treated to the world’s fastest foilers pushing to the limit and beyond, with sometimes spectacular wipeouts.
The conditions and the desire to win pushed the riders on, with the leaders continually trading places on the course and the leaderboard. But Mazella’s ability to post solid results under intense pressure was enough to clinch the title for him.
Even Olly Bridge was wistful about his slice of ill-luck on an otherwise stellar day. “In the end it was all right,” he said. “I’m pretty pleased. I broke a bridle [yesterday] and my kite inverted. That was my two discards. I’d have been pretty close to top with a bit more luck.”
Germany’s Florian Gruber, who placed fifth, was also able view the positives of his improving performances on his Flysurfer Sonic2 kite and Levitaz hydrofoil.
“Realistically my goal was to get in the top five, so I’m pleased with the result,” said Gruber. “I’m getting closer to the top guys. I made some little mistakes for sure, but so did everyone else. Without those we’d be machines, and that’s not possible.”
For the women competing with the men in the “silver” fleet, Formula Kitefoil European Champion Elena Kalinina showed she is a force to be reckoned with, seeing off challenges from Alexia Fancelli (FRA) and Jade O’Connor (IRL), who was thrilled with her podium finish.
Overall standings after ten “gold” fleet series races (two discards) and eight “silver” races (one discard).
1 Axel Mazella (FRA, F-one/Taaroa) — 22pts
2 Maxime Nocher (MON, F-One/Taaroa) — 23pts
3 Oliver Bridge (GBR, Elf/Levitaz) — 26pts
4 Riccardo Leccese (ITA, Ozone/MikesLab) — 36pts
5 Florian Gruber (GER, Flysurfer/Levitaz) — 44pts
1 Elena Kalinina (RUS, Elf/Moses) — 103pts
2 Alexia Fancelli (FRA, Airush/Flysurfer/Taaroa) — 125pts
3 Jade O'Connor (IRL, Elf/Banga) — 141pts
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