In the final fourth race on the event’s penultimate day the powerful Vodisek, on his white Ozone R1V3 kite, had led round every mark with scorchingly-quick, assured racing and looked on course for another bullet.
Yet he misjudged the final bottom gate and began to gybe too soon, before thinking better of it. Mazella—who has rarely posted a finish below the top three—fell into the same trap but crashed his kite, allowing Théo de Ramecourt (FRA) through to take the bullet and third spot overall.
The Pingtan regatta—with prize money $40,00—is the second of back-to-back China stops following Weifang Binhai last week. It sets the stage for the grand finale off Cagliari’s Poetto Beach, on the Italian resort island of Sardinia next month, when the men’s and women’s world champions will be crowned.
Four-times International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) Formula Kite world champion, the US’s Daniela Moroz, 18, has her eyes firmly fixed on the prize and comfortably heads the women’s order in Pingtan, sitting 12th overall.
On day four she continued to press the men’s fleet made up of most of the world’s fastest kitefoil racers, squeezing out a 9th place finish in the opening contest that furthered her cause.
Chasing Moroz on the leaderboard is the fast-improving Max Maeder (SNG), at just 13 one of the youngest competitors, who was looking on the bright side of the monstrous conditions in Pingtan that were proving a tough test even for the best.
“People are having way worse days than me,” said Maeder. “I had a good day. I got round cleanly. It’s difficult. But in Pingtan it’s about survival. Luckily I’ve been in Pingtan’s high wind conditions before. I’m just a few points behind Daniela Moroz, but she’s still too powerful for me.”
But it was the enthralling competition at the head of the order that proved captivating, with any of the top-ranked men capable landing bullets even in the face of Vodisek’s dominance.
Reigning Formula Kite world champion, France’s Nico Parlier, jaded and carrying illness after several weeks on the road in China, was getting closer to the blistering pace he is capable of. He earned two seconds and thirds giving him fourth overall, ahead of fellow countryman, Maxime Nocher, who suffered a shoulder injury in a spectacular crash in day three’s gnarly conditions.
The pair’s fourth and fifth spots mean the French lock out four of the top five spots, with Mazella leading their order and intent on pushing to the end in the hope of overhauling a strong Vodisek, though the back-to-back competitions are taking their toll.
“There are still three races tomorrow, but it will be really hard to catch [Vodisek],” said Mazella. “The conditions are really difficult here. I’m really tired. I know I can go faster, but my muscles aren't so sure. Let’s see what happens.”
Top five overall after 17 races (three discards)
1 Toni Vodisek (SLO) 21pts
2 Axel Mazella (FRA) 29pts
3 Théo de Ramecourt (FRA) 42pts
4 Nico Parlier (FRA) 45pts
5 Maxime Nocher (FRA) 64pts
Top five women after 17 races (three discards)
1 Daniela Moroz (USA) 147pts
2 Kirstyn O’Brien (USA) 171pts
3 Elena Kalinina (RUS) 189pts
4 Jingle Chen (CHN) 258pts
5 Valeria Garashchenko (RUS) 271pts