None of the favourites to take the IKA KiteFoil World Championship title had it all their own in the opening exchanges on sparkling blue Mediterranean waters off the Italian island of Sardinia.
In a surprise upset to the form books, France’s Axel Mazella scored bullets in the first two races, holding countryman Nico Parlier at bay and pushing him into unfamiliar second spots on each occasion as the shifty breezes vexed the entire fleet.
Yet in the opening day’s third and final race both Frenchmen—arguably the fastest racers in the fleet—came unstuck. Each separately tangled with other riders and had to fight their back way into contention but finished slightly down the order.
That left the door open for reigning IKA KiteFoil GoldCup title holder and Formula Kite World Champion Maxime Nocher (MON) to take the win on his comeback at the Sardinia Kiteboarding Grand Slam after a four-month layoff.
Only Britain’s increasingly quick teenager, Guy Bridge, could split the order with three consistent finishes in the thermal breezes that built to around 12kts and left him third on the leaderboard.
His mother, multiple world champion Steph Bridge (GBR), had a slightly chequered outing missing one start by several minutes after suffering a tangle launching her foil kite on the beach. But racing in the mixed fleet, she managed to keep her nose in front of 16-year-old Anaïs Mai Desjardins (FRA) to give her the edge on the leaderboard.
Still, for all the drama of mixed fortunes on the water, the opening day of the IKA KiteFoil World Championship, which is also the concluding contest of the four-stop KiteFoil GoldCup series that began in May in Korea before proceeding to China for back-to-back events last month, lived up to the hype.
With virtually all the world’s top men on the startline for the first time this year on the first day of the four-day regatta, sponsored by Cagliari city and the Sardinia region, the showdown was bound to produce fireworks.
That Mazella opened his account taking two comfortable victories, leaving Parlier in his wake, was slightly unexpected. On the two laps of the windward-leeward track Mazella took early leads from where he barley looked back using his favoured 15m Enata foil kite.
“I got good starts just in front of Nico Parlier,” said Mazella. “But I needed to control the races all the time. I was just in front of him, so when he took a slightly higher angle, I did the same. If he went deeper, I followed suit. I’m really confident on my 15m kite.”
Parlier had also started the day on a 15m Ozone R1V2 kite that had been big enough for the early winds. But for the racer who favours heavier conditions, the tricky breezes proved slightly troublesome.
“It was pretty light wind,” said Parlier. “But the biggest problem was that I had no idea which part of the course was favoured. In the last race I had a crash into another rider and that really didn’t help, though I managed to get back into it at the end.”
With the two Frenchmen fighting to get back on terms in the final race Nocher, who had switched to a second prototype foil, found another gear that gave him his first cherished victory, just ahead of Theo Lhostis (FRA), Italy’s Mario Calbucci and Guy Bridge, who were hot on his heels.
“After the first two races I changed the foil,” said Nocher. “It had been giving me a lot of trouble, and the third race was way better and I managed to win, so I’m happy. It’s my comeback after four months off, and I’ve only been training for two weeks, so it’s a good start.”
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER 3 RACES (0 DISCARDS)
1. Axel Mazella (FRA) - 9 pts
2. Nico Parlier (FRA) - 10 pts
3. Guy Bridge (GBR) - 10 pts
4. Maxime Nocher (MON) -12 pts
5 .Mario Calbucci (ITA) - 60 pts
TOP RANKED WOMEN AFTER 3 RACES (0 DISCARDS)
1. Steph Bridge (GBR) - 77 pts
2. Anais Desjardin (FRA) - 85 pts
3. Sabrina Schlossnikel (GER) - 111 pts
Full results, LIVE streaming and live scoring: www.kitefoilgoldcup.com
Up-to-date results and minute by minute updates will be available atwww.kitefoilgoldcup.com