Reigning KiteFoil GoldCup champion Maxime Nocher sealed victory in the year’s first event with a perfect final day, racking up four bullets from four races in light breezes that threatened to die at any moment.
But even the fickle airs that shifted and barely topped 8kts were a welcome relief after three windless days that made for a stop-start competition, the first international kite competition in Korea, staged off Boryeong’s stunning Daecheon Beach.
While the breezes toyed with riders and race officials alike, Nocher (MON) was flawless on the final fifth day on the Yellow Sea’s flat waters, controlling each of the races even as Italian Riccardo Leccese snapped at his heels hoping for an error or mishap that never came.
Nocher, on his unmarked 19m Enata foil kite and Enata hydrofoil, proved unbeatable in the whole regatta marked by a lack of wind, adding the closing day’s four bullets to two he secured on the competition’s opening exchanges.
Riding a Mike’s Lab foil and Ozone R1 prototype kite, Leccese managed a good run of second spots that earned him the podium runners-up slot. Yet in the penultimate race he came momentarily unstuck when he struggled to leave the beach in the failing breeze close to shore and failed to make the start, a result he was fortunately able to discard.
Poland’s Maks Zakowski took the chance to grab a second spot in that race to the peerless Nocher, an opportunism that built on consistent placings throughout the event and won him the third podium spot, his best placing in an International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) KiteFoil GoldCup.
The IKA KiteFoil GoldCup, hosted and sponsored by the Korea Windsurfing Kitesurfing Federation, is the first of four slated globe-trotting stops for 2017, with back-to-back events in China in mid-September next on the cards.
But the wind that refused to play ball during the Korean event played havoc with the Kiteboard Tour Asia Twin-Tip slalom race open due to be staged simultaneously. It proved impossible to get away any races despite interest provoked by the format to be used in next year’s Youth Olympic Games in Argentina.
And while the final day proved tricky at times even for the foilers, they were still able to display scintillatingly-quick pace with their largest 18m and 19m kites in patchy breezes that occasionally dipped below 4kts.
In those zephyrs there is little margin for rider error with every tack and gybe requiring balletic precision. Yet the foilers still clocked almost more than 20kts on the two-lap windward-leeward track off Daecheon Beach.
None did it better than Nocher. But even he—like every other rider—caught debris and seaweed on his foil that threatened to derail his bid.
“In the day’s second race I was leading by far, but I caught a plastic bag and just couldn’t remove it and keep moving,” he said. “Leccese passed me and I still had the bag on my fin. I did that whole leg with the plastic bag, but past the gate it came off. Then I got the lead again.
“So, overall I’m very happy to have won this event. It’s been hard to deal with these conditions, but I’m near perfect in these light winds and Leccese could do nothing.”
Leccese remained happy with his second podium spot, nonetheless, sure it showed he still had pace even in the lighter breezes that favoured neither his physique nor his equipment.
“Overall I’m pleased with second spot,” he said. “It’s solid. I’m attacking the front of the field again. That puts me in a good frame of mind. I felt I was controlling the races at or near the front. Most of the others were on 19m kites, except for me on an 18m, yet I was still competitive.”
For Zakowski, on a Moses Comet foil and Ozone R1V2 kite, the decision to swim and body-drag off the beach just as Leccese came unstuck in the penultimate race’s dropping breeze proved fortuitous.
“I swam 200m to catch the wind to get out and it allowed me to finish that race second,” he said. “But my results have been very consistent, so I’m glad about that. Not up and down. This has been my best result, so I’m pretty happy.”
In the women’s group racing among the men, the novice 16-year-old Anais Mai Desjardins (FRA) caused an upset when she overhauled Alexia Fancelli (FRA) with a good run of results on the final day, with Korea’s Bitna Kim taking the third podium spot.
Overall standings after six races (1 discard):
1 Maxime Nocher (MON, Enata/Enata) 5 pts
2 Riccardo Leccese (ITA, Ozone/Mike’s Lab) 13 pts
3 Maks Zakowski (POL, Ozone/Moses) 20 pts
4 Florian Gruber (GER, Flysurfer/Levitaz) 20 pts
5 Theo Lhostis (FRA, Enata/Enata) 22 pts
1 Anais Desjardins (FRA, Flysurfer/Spotz) 53 pts
2 Alexia Fancelli (FRA, Ozone/Taaroa) 62 pts
3 Bitna Kim (KOR, Ozone/Levitaz) 76 pts
The next stop of the 2017 KiteFoil GoldCup will be in China with two events back to back between 8 and 23 of September, for a total prize purse of more than 100.000 USD