It is a measure of French dominance of kitefoil racing that four of the nation’s riders have a lock on the leaderboard going into the final day’s competition at the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) KiteFoil GoldCup in China.
But while the quartet from France—the cradle of kitefoiling—are close friends off the water, and even in some cases Enata foils and kites team-mates, they are bitter rivals on the course seeking any opportunity to best on another when the starting flag drops.
All are at a loss to explain, though, how their sometime training partner Axel Mazella (FRA) has so utterly dominated the third and penultimate stop of the IKA KiteFoil GoldCup in Pingtan, seizing 14 bullets in 15 races.
On the fourth of the five-day competition on the East China Sea Mazella scooped a perfect five bullets. But more than that, in an incredible performance, he led every mark rounding on the two laps of the windward-leeward course on flat water in breezes that varied from 8kts to 11kts.
“We try to train together, we have the same equipment, yet when we try to work out why he [Mazella] is always winning, we have no idea,” said Enata rider Julien Kerneur (FRA), lying fourth overall. “In the races I had pretty clear starts and I was always with Mazella at the top mark. But in the end I was fighting with Theo Lhostis (FRA) for second and third spots.”
The Team Enata trio were only split by their compatriot Theo de Ramecourt, who was keeping pace on Flysurfer Sonic Race kites and a Mike’s Lab foil, finishing the day third on the leaderboard, slipping one place from the start of the day.
In the women’s division—competing in the mixed fleet of 21 riders from 13 nations—Elena Kalinina (RUS) again led her key rival, France’s Alexia Fancelli, but was using the opportunity to focus on the men around her to finesse her tactics and improve her speed.
“I was pleased that I could finish in the top ten of the fleet sometimes,” said Kalinina. “I look at the guys around me and try to figure out who I should be ahead of. I was starting near the committee boat but found I was among the faster men and getting a lot of turbulence from foils and kites. So it was better for me to start near the pin end of the line.”
Short on competition experience this year, Kalinina believes the practise in Pingtan, building on her victory at the IKA KiteFoil GoldCup last week in Weifang, has been invaluable in pushing her to get faster.
The back-to-back KiteFoil GoldCup stops in China set the scene for the globe-trotting tour’s finale in Italy next month at the Sardinia Kiteboarding Grand Slam where the winner will be crowned world champion in the IKA KiteFoil class, with a trophy for the best overall rider of the tour.
Theo de Ramecourt is certainly hoping the French riders can repeat the dominance they have shown so far in Pingtan at Cagliari in Italy. He believes the vibrancy of the French foil scene is one of their big advantages, even though they rarely now train together.
“We are super-motivated,” said de Ramecourt. “We do a lot of competitions together, which gives us a lot of experience. Individually, we’re also working on the development of the kites and foils, and riding the gear that fits us.”
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER 15 RACES (3 DISCARDS)
1. Axel Mazella (FRA) - 12 pts
2. Theo Lhostis (FRA) - 37 pts
3. Theo De Ramecourt (FRA) - 44 pts
4. Julien Kerneur (FRA) -37 pts
5 .Florian Gruber (GER) - 60 pts
TOP RANKED WOMEN AFTER 10 RACES (2 DISCARDS)
1. Elena Kalinina - 128 pts
2. Alexia Fancelli (FRA) - 154 pts
3. Kirstyn O'Brien - 176 pts
Full results and live scoring:www.kitefoilgoldcup.com
Racing continues through to 23 September in tandem with the TT:R Open World Championships.