Reigning KiteFoil GoldCup title holder Maxime Nocher has been putting the final touches to his campaign to defend his crown in the season’s eagerly-awaited opening clashes in Korea.
Nocher (MON) — who is also the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) Formula Kite (Foil) world champion — and some of his keenest rivals have been testing conditions off Daecheon Beach, Boryeong.
The five days of racing due to commence tomorrow (WED, 17 May) will mark the first time the IKA GoldCup has graced east Asian waters in what is sure to be a thrilling contest as the foilers do close-quarters battle in breathtakingly fast action on the Yellow Sea’s smooth waters.
In another Korean first, the Kiteboard Tour Asia (KTA) will simultaneously stage a Twin-Tip Racing competition in the format that will be followed in the Youth Olympic Games to be held in Argentina next year.
The dual events being hosted and sponsored by the Korea Windsurfing Kiteboarding Federation, with the support of Boryeong City, will perfectly showcase Daecheon’s endless talcum powder beach framed by scenic islands and blue waters.
To mark the events’ kickoff, the Korea Windsurfing Kiteboarding Federation staged a dramatic opening ceremony, complete with exuberant traditional drumming signalling the fierce battles ahead.
Yet, as spectacular as the setting and the opening proved, it will inevitably be matched by the thrills and spills of the 20 foilers from 13 countries, and 22 Twin-Tip racers from 15 nations, fighting for glory and giving no quarter.
With Nocher on relatively-new and little-tested Enata foil kites, it will be intriguing to see if he can maintain his edge over Riccardo Leccese (ITA) on his super-quick set-up of Mike’s Lab foil and Ozone R1V2 kites.
Former Formula Kite world champion Florian Gruber (GER) has also set out his stall aiming to get his GoldCup season off to a storming start on new Flysurfer Sonic Race kites teamed with newly-designed wings on his Levitaz Bionic foil.
“I’m really looking forward to racing here in Korea,” said Gruber. “It’s a little different from China and it’s always nice to race somewhere new. It’s also important for me to come to the first event of the season and get points on the board, as you never know what will happen later in the year.”
The top riders in this year’s IKA KiteFoil GoldCup’s slated four events will earn themselves a spot in the IKA KiteFoil class world championship due to be held at the close of the year.
In Daecheon the likes of Maks Zakowski (POL) and the speedy French duo of Julien Kerneur and Theo Lhostis will be pushing hard to ensure their leading rivals do not have things all their own way on the windward-leeward track.
The five women will race in one fleet with the men but be classified separately, with France’s Alexia Fancelli a strong contender looking to build on her momentum of 2016 by concentrating her efforts on the KiteFoil GoldCup season.
But Bitna Kim (KOR), with the advantage of home turf despite spending the winter months training in La Ventana, Mexico, hopes she will be able to keep the French woman in her sights while savouring the moment.
“For me it’s interesting and exciting to race here,” said the 24-year-old from Incheon. “It’s not exactly my home spot, but at least it’s not far from home. I’ll just try to enjoy myself.”
In the Twin-Tip Race (TT:R) class Thailand’s Narapichit “Yo” Pudla, who recently clinched the Asian title at the inaugural event in his Pranburi home spot, hopes to follow the Korean’s lead.
“This TT:R is really a new discipline for me, but I really like it,” he said. “It’s very fast. The border cross element is exciting: ride fast and jump over obstacles. That’s the best bit. For the spectators it’s spectacular and easy to see.”