The battle at the head of the order intensified as the changeable breezes caused the otherwise flawless French kitefoil racer Nico Parlier to skip a beat even as he cemented his overall lead on the Italian island of Sardinia.
As the breeze dropped and shifted in the day’s final race at the Sardinia Kiteboard Grand Slam, Parlier’s countryman Axel Mazella finally turned the tables and took a precious bullet that left his rival trailing in second.
No matter, Parlier had already notched up two bullets in the stronger 11kts-to-15kts breezes of the opening two races that stretched his advantage on the leaderboard on the penultimate day of competition on the sparkling waters of Sardinia’s Gulf of Angels.
The moderate north-easterly breezes that bathed the track off Cagliari’s Poetto Beach eventually dropped, preventing further racing in the afternoon, but were in stark contrast to the blustery offshore Mistral winds that hit 40kts the previous day.
With the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) KiteFoil World Championship to be awarded on the final fourth day of competition, the crown would appear to be Parlier’s to lose due to his healthy overall lead.
Similarly, as the regatta is also the final fourth stop of the globe-trotting IKA KiteFoil GoldCup, Mazella seems on course to take the trophy for the tour’s best overall rider after seamless victories at back-to-back stops last month in Weifang and Pingtan, China.
Even Maxime Nocher (MON), lying third overall, will be unable catch Mazella for the winners’ trophy despite winning the opening GoldCup stop in Korea in May. Nocher, the reigning GoldCup title holder and Formula Kite World Champion, missed the two China events and cannot make up the points difference in the standings.
But the coveted titles and €20,000 prize money up for grabs at the Sardinia Kiteboard Grand Slam—sponsored by the City of Cagliari and Tourism Sardinia, supported by Yacht Club Cagliari—have drawn virtually all the world’s fastest men competing in a 39-strong fleet from 14 countries.
France’s Anaïs Mai Desjardins, 16, is one of three women fighting for places racing among the mixed fleet. But she has been struggling in the conditions and failed to finish the day’s last two races, one after her 11m Enata kite unexpectedly collapsed in the gusty breezes.
Britain’s multiple world champion Steph Bridge suffered the misfortune of getting stuck in a wind hole after coming back to the beach to change up to a bigger kite between races and was several minutes late for the start of the final race. But she is still able to stay on terms with many of the men in the highly competitive fleet.
“I thought I was doing better, but I’m still finishing about 20th,” said Bridge. “I’m pretty close to the chasing pack and I’m fine with that. But I’m still making to many mistakes.”
Local favourite, Italy’s Mario Calbucci, is one who has been beating expectations after almost a year off the race circuit to help develop Moses’ Comet foil that he has been using to good effect. Currently sixth on the leaderboard, his goal at the outset was a top ten finish.
“I’m really pleased with my position, but I think I can still do better,” said Calbucci. “My feeling is that I’m fast, and this is great training to improve because we have all the top riders here in Sardinia to test yourself against. I’m learning all the time.”
Just ahead of Calbucci on the leaderboard is another Frenchman, Theo de Ramecourt, who is pleased with his overall position, but like all he feels there is room for improvement in his performance.
“I’m happy with my results, but oddly I’m way better on one tack than the other,” said de Ramecourt. “I’ll need to see my physiotherapist when I get home. I have good speed, and some good results, like a fourth in the last race. The wind was shifty, but then it’s more like sailing: more tactical, and more interesting.”
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER 9 RACES (1 DISCARDS)
1. Nico Parlier (FRA) - 11 pts
2. Axel Mazella (FRA) - 23 pts
3. Maxime Nocher (MON) -26 pts
4. Guy Bridge (GBR) - 31 pts
5 .Theo de Ramecourt (FRA) - 36 pts
TOP RANKED WOMEN AFTER 9 RACES (1 DISCARDS)
1. Steph Bridge (GBR) - 178 pts
2. Anais Desjardins (FRA) - 256 pts
3. Sabrina Schlossnikel (GER) - 311 pts
Full results, LIVE video streaming and live results: www.kitefoilgoldcup.com