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Sardinia Grand Slam IKA KiteFoil World Series


Sardinia Grand Slam IKA KiteFoil World Series

Press Info

9 ott 2021

The world’s fastest kiteboard racers are set for a dramatic showdown as they go head-to-head in the third act of the KiteFoil World Series which is to be fought out off the magnificent Italian resort island of Sardinia.

With the prospect of mouthwatering duels over four days’ high-octane racing at the 2021 KiteFoil World Series Cagliari, the event has again won the highest-level support from Sardinian authorities eager to project the island on the world stage.

It is the globe-trotting tour’s fourth edition to be staged off Cagliari’s Poetto beach on the peerless Gulf of Angels. Key sponsors, Sardinia Region and City of Cagliari, seized on international kitefoil racing on the iconic waters as a perfect vehicle to showcase the Mediterranean island.

But for Sardinia Region, backing the World Series Cagliari stop to the tune of €400,000, the motivation goes beyond sport. It regards the support as an investment which will reap a healthy dividend for the region’s economy.
Giovanni Chessa, Sardinia Region’s head of tourism, said: “Even just looking at it in terms of competitors, their families and coaches who come, each spending many hundreds of euros, it adds up. So it’s an investment; a calculation.”

Yet Sardinia Region also sees that cutting-edge kitefoil racing, which is due to make its Olympic debut at the Paris 2024 Games, has the capability of capturing the spotlight and turning it back on the island.

“Events like the KiteFoil World Series also have a media value,” said Chessa. “That’s always a bit more difficult to calculate. But it helps tourism and it’s an important way to keep the region highlighted as much as possible".

“I’m happy to support all the sports. With so many different events you get different people. So, it’s a wide audience. All the sports start to be linked with Sardinia Region. Eventually people think of Sardinia and of sport, and the two things go hand-in-hand.”

Bruno Perra, president of Sardinia’s Olympic Committee, sees the backing of sport at the highest level by the island’s tourism authority as a crucial driver of growth.

“Sports and tourism are working together and represent the mainstay of the island,” said Perra. “We have already shown that we have everything that is needed for hosting a great event. Thanks to the tourism board, which is really helping, we are all hoping that we can continue to grow.”

Sardinia Grand Slam IKA KiteFoil World Series -
Day 1

Only the finest margins separated the top men and women in the opening salvos at the 2021 KiteFoil World Series Cagliari, as tough conditions tested the mettle of the elite athletes to the limit.

In the gusty and shifty Mistral breezes that hit 33kts off Cagliari’s Poetto beach on the Italian resort island of Sardinia, the leading men and women racing in one fleet traded bullets and the overall leads.

But on his birthday, Britain’s Connor Bainbridge did enough in searingly-quick racing, to take the lead with two bullets and a second place in the opening day’s five races on the stunning Gulf of Angels, as the breeze built from 17kts.

Bainbridge, riding a 10m F-one Diablo 5 that he had a hand in designing, saw off challenges from the French trio of Axel Mazella, Théo de Ramecourt, and Benoît Gomez. Each scored their own bullets, but lie just behind the Briton.

“That’s the first time I ever had to de-power a 10m kite,” said a bemused Bainbridge. “It was pretty full on. I haven’t raced in big breezes for a long time. It certainly blew the cobwebs away. The level’s amazing now. Two years ago we’d all have been just surviving in these conditions, now everyone’s pushing as hard as they can. So, I’m pretty happy.”

With the women racing in one fleet with the men, competing for an equal share of the €25,000 prize pot up for grabs at the four-day regatta, the overall lead continually changed hands.

Yet, after a rocky beginning in which she was late for the day’s opening two races after indecision over her kite size, Formula Kite European champion, France’s Poema Newland, managed to top the women’s standings.

Once she had finally settled on her 9m kite, she was able to profit in the building breeze. In the closing three races she leapfrogged her fellow countrywomen, Jessie Kampman and Lauriane Nolot, who lie just behind her in the standings.

“Finally, in the third race I got to the startline and I found that I was there with everyone else, for a change,” said Newland. “That was cool. But the conditions were tough. I was just trying to finish the races without crashing and hurting myself. I’m happy.”

Forty-two athletes - 29 men and 13 women from 19 countries and five continents—have journeyed to battle in the third act of a scheduled five of the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) KiteFoil World Series. Overall tour winners will be crowned IKA KiteFoil world champions.

Few have ventured further or come with more diverse experience than New Zealand’s Justina Kitchen and Argentina’s Catalina Turienzo. Kitchen, 32, is a former windsurfing RSX Olympian, while Turienzo, 15, is at her first competition.

But both in their own different ways have come to the World Series Cagliari to learn. Kitchen, a mother of two daughters aged four and six, fits her training around their schooling. She has the Paris 2024 Games, when kiting makes its Olympic debut, firmly in her sights.

For Kitchen the inspiration to drive herself to an Olympic kitefoil campaign is her father. He won gold in the Tornado class in 1984, and his exploits ensured she always kept her Olympic dreams alive.

“When the children are really young it’s hard,” she said. “I drop them at school at 8.30am and pick them up later. I go and do all my training in between. It’s great to have the opportunity to be a mum and do my training.”

Kitchen first raced in Cagliari in the Formula Kite worlds in 2012, when kiteboarding was briefly slated for the Olympics. But when she had a family she turned her back on competition, only to find her kitefoil racing ambitions rekindled when she went kiteboarding for fun.

Now she has been coaching the New Zealand men’s youth kitefoil team for the past two years, complementing her own Olympic training.

“I find coaching really, really good for my own racing,” she said. “I see them making mistakes and tell them. Then I make the same mistakes myself and quickly realise, so it short-circuits the learning process. Now they’re getting faster than me, so I have to be smarter.”

But the pandemic and New Zealand’s isolated location have made travel difficult in the past two years. Still, despite the challenges, Kitchen knew it was vital to come to Cagliari to rediscover how her skills stacked up on the world stage.

The young Argentinian Turienzo is also at the World Series to pit her skills against the best, whose levels have advanced dramatically as Olympic fever has gripped athletes and swelled their ranks.

“This is my first-ever competition,” she said. “I’m definitely a bit nervous and anxious, but really happy to get the chance. But I really wanted to see how it is to race in the environment of a competition. My goal is to go to the Olympics in Paris.”

For all the pressure that goes with competing at the top level, Turienzo has discovered the other athletes receptive and helpful on her journey.

“I’m trying to get my tacks and gybes down,” she said. “The experience of the other racers has helped me a lot. It really helps to see how the others do everything. It’s been really helpful to be with them.”

All the races of the KiteFoil World Series Cagliari, which reaches its finale on Sunday, will be featured on Facebook Livestream.

Sardinia Grand Slam IKA KiteFoil World Series -
Day 2

France’s Axel Mazella and Russia’s Denis Taradin engaged in an absorbing battle full of drama, on day two of the KiteFoil World Series Cagliari, on the Italian resort island of Sardinia.

With one victory each at the tour’s previous two stops, both Ozone riders traded bullets in the day’s five races, being fought out on the Gulf of Angels, off Cagliari’s Poetto beach, in onshore breezes that climbed to about 13kts.

No race better illustrated the intensity of the duels between the pair, than the day’s final, climactic race. Taradin’s better angle and speed upwind saw him lead around the weather mark on both laps of the windward-leeward course, only for Mazella to overhaul his rival on the downwind legs with his superior pace.

The intense pressure on Taradin, forced him into an error when he gybed too early on the final downwind leg, almost collapsing his kite as he struggled for power. It was a costly mistake that enabled the Frenchman to scythe past his rival to land another bullet.

“I was first to the top mark twice, but every time on the downwind he had the edge,” said Taradin. “I knew I had to gybe on that last leg to keep my advantage, but I went too early and was too shallow on the mark. Still, overall it was a big improvement on the first day. I’m pretty happy and there are two more days to go.”

Taradin moved three places up the standings to second overall, while Mazella climbed to the top of the order, courtesy of three bullets, a second and third place, switching between his 15m and 19m kites between races.

The Frenchman, who leads the tour standings and is hunting a third International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) KiteFoil world title, conceded he had been in a battle royal with the Russian.

“It was quite a game with Denis Taradin,” said Mazella. “I had some really nice match racing with him. So, congratulations to him, because it was really nice from the start to the finish. But I managed to get three bullets and take the lead, so it was a really good day.”

The duo managed to leapfrog overnight leader, Britain’s Connor Bainbridge, who could not match his stellar performance of the opening day. He dropped to third place in the four-day regatta with its prize purse of €25,000.

Italy’s Riccardo Pianosi, 16, showed he is a force to be reckoned, with a raft of high-placed finishes that included two fourth spots against the world’s fastest kitefoil racers. His outing on home waters made up for a forgettable first day in the gusty and shifty conditions that hit 33kts.

“In these winds we had today, I’m really good,” said the tall teenager. “It was a great day and I’m super happy, especially in this place with the best guys in the world.”

France’s Poema Newland retains her overnight lead in the women’s fleet, which is racing with the men. But by her own admission, she was off the pace and saw countrywoman Lauriane Nolot close the gap on her, with assured racing in the lighter conditions.

“It was so much better today,” said Nolot. “I just love my 15m kite. In these conditions we had fun. It was shifty, so you had to make the right tactical decisions. That mainly meant going to the right, where there was a lift near the headland.”

Forty-two athletes - 29 men and 13 women from 19 countries and five continents - are battling in the third act at the World Series Cagliari, with the IKA KiteFoil world champions crowned at the close of the slated five stops.

For some of the young athletes from far-flung places, the globe-trotting tour is an unrivalled opportunity to hone skills and improve pace against the best in the world. The goal is bagging coveted qualifying spots for the Paris 2024 Games, when kiteboarding will make its Olympic debut.

None more so, than Jean de Falbaire. He hails from the African island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, but has spent this past summer training in Arcachon, France, and competing in international kitefoil competitions.

The 23-year-old has been lucky enough to become friends with the world’s best, reigning Formula Kite world champion, France’s Nico Parlier, and countryman Benoît Gomez, with whom he can train when they are not with their national team.

But the journey has not been an easy one. The young athlete spent years couch-surfing and borrowing equipment to allow him to compete at events in Europe, enabling him to get the competition that does not exist in Mauritius.

A private-public initiative in Mauritius, Horizon Paris 2024, pinpointed 13 athletes most likely to win medals at the forthcoming Olympics. De Falbaire was one of the lucky ones chosen, providing him with the funds to travel and buy equipment.

“My real project is to qualify for the Olympic Games and bring home a medal for Mauritius,” he said. “I’m so lucky to be able to train and grow in Europe and I’m immensely grateful for the help I’ve received, especially from the French guys."

“In Mauritius the sailing community is not as developed, because the structure is not there yet. I think I’m the first professional sailor. So to get sponsored is a big deal and I’m truly grateful. I hope I can give something back to inspire and help younger sailors on Mauritius.”

All the races of the KiteFoil World Series Cagliari, which reaches its finale on Sunday, are being featured on Facebook Livestream.

Sardinia Grand Slam IKA KiteFoil World Series -
Day 3

By the time Britain’s Connor Bainbridge dons his competition shirt on the final day of racing at the KiteFoil World Series Cagliari, he will have had the dubious honour of having worn all three of the leaders’ coloured jerseys, such is the intensity of the battles on the water.

On the penultimate of four days of spectacular racing on the strikingly-beautiful Gulf of Angels track on the Italian resort island of Sardinia, the Briton’s performance in the day's four races was enough to move him up to second place overall.

Bainbridge began the day on his 21m kite, in the 10kts sea-breeze blowing over the Devil’s Saddle headland, to the right of the course. But by the third race in keenly fought contests with the French duo of Axel Mazella and Théo de Ramercourt, the Briton went down to his 15m kite as the breeze picked up to 12kts.

“To be honest it’s been a bit of a mixed bag for me,” said Bainbridge. “My aim was to stay consistent. But so far I’ve been through the yellow shirt of the leader and the red of the third placed rider. Tomorrow I’ll be in blue that signals second place.”

On day three of the regatta, De Ramecourt also moved up the standings to third place, after searingly-fast racing on his 21m kite in all four races. He recovered from a tangle at the start of race one, going on to collect two subsequent bullets and a third place.

“I was happy that I managed to make the top 10 in that first race after the tangle,” said De Ramecourt. “Then I got two bullets. I managed to read the wind shifts and use the gusts. So I was pleased. I forced myself to stay on my 21m registered kite in practice for the upcoming Worlds.”

Still, despite the turmoil on the leaderboard below him, Mazella was an island of calm precision as he retained and extended his overall lead with two bullets and two seconds as he hunts down victory and a share of the €25,000 prize pot.

Remarkably, 16-year-old Italian Riccardo Pianosi almost robbed Mazella one of his bullets in the dying and increasingly-shifty breezes of the day’s last race. Pianosi led at the first top and bottom marks of the two-lap, windward-leeward course, but was just overhauled by Mazella on the second upwind leg.
“I had a 100-metres gap on Axel Mazella,” said Pianosi. “I was ahead at the top and bottom marks. But he read the wind shift on the upwind leg and I didn’t see it. He’s an animal; a monster on the track.”

If anything, the racing among the women, racing in one fleet with the men, was even more turbulent. With two high-placed finishes, France’s Lauriane Nolot moved past countrywoman Poema Newland in the standings.

But Nolot and Newland failed to complete the day’s last race. Newland had also got in a tangle with Italy’s Tiana Laporte in the first race, though both were able to recover and finish. Laporte is a kitefoil racing novice and relished the second-place finish she managed among the strong French women’s squad.

“I’ve been kiteboard racing for just a year,” said Laporte, 25. “But I’m doing all the regattas I can. Kiteboarding is a passion and my dream is to go to the Olympics. I’m addicted to speed. At first it was a bit of a rollercoaster as I didn’t really know how to manoeuvre well. But it’s great. I love it.”

Forty-two athletes -29 men and 13 women from 19 countries and five continents- are battling in the World Series’ third act in Cagliari. The International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) KiteFoil world champions will be crowned at the close of the slated five stops.

The Czech Republic’s Vojtech Koska, 16, is another young athlete cutting his teeth at the top level at the World Series Cagliari, his first big competition. The lure of an Olympics’ berth on his national team pushed him to take on the challenge.

Koska has been kitefoil racing for just a year and began his journey at the Formula Kite Youth Worlds in Gizzeria in July, where he placed a creditable 15th overall. The Czech teenager was up against stiff opposition that included the likes of winner, Max Maeder (SGP), who went on weeks later to become European champion at 15.

But Koska has already tasted victory with a win at a major open kitefoil racing event just a week ago in Greece, while he attends school at the World Class Kiteboard Academy that combines academic study, athletic achievement and travel.

Koska, who began kiteboarding at the age of nine, had spent the past two years on the Canary Island of Tenerife where his passion was freestyle and “big air”. But when kitefoil racing got its place in the Olympics, debuting in the Paris 2024 Games, Koska made the switch.

“I decided to change to kitefoil racing because of the Olympics” said Koska. “I saw much more potential in racing than freestyle. Right now I’m trying to get as much experience, as fast as possible.”

Koska and his parents have been in discussions with the Czech sailing federation and already get a little financial backing to help him compete and grow. But for now the veteran racer from Russia, Ivan Doronin, has been coaching him.

He has been learning fast. On the first day of the World Series Cagliari, in gnarly conditions when the offshore Mistral breezes hit 33kts, Koska was in his element. In one race on day one he managed to place 11th battling the world’s best, though the lighter more technical conditions of day two were less to his liking.

“This is my first big competition,” said Koska. “The first day was good for me. I like the stronger wind, which I’m used to from Tenerife. The second day was harder. For me now, it’s all about understanding what the others are doing so that I can improve. The starts are difficult. Being in the right place on the line and not getting in a tangle is tough. But it’s great experience.”

All the races of the KiteFoil World Series Cagliari, which reaches its finale on Sunday, are being featured on Facebook Livestream.

Sardinia Grand Slam IKA KiteFoil World Series -
Day 4

Frenchman Axel Mazella clinched victory at the third stop of the KiteFoil World Series in tricky offshore breezes that faded towards the close of the regatta’s dramatic final fourth day in Cagliari on the Italian resort island of Sardinia.

The faltering breeze that dropped to 6-8kts in the last race, left Mazella swimming when his kite collapsed after not managing to clear the top mark, despite pumping his foil furiously, though he was able to recover and finish down the order.

But by then he had already carved out an insurmountable lead with clinical performances in the previous 16 races on the Gulf of Angels track, off Cagliari’s Poetto Beach. He had fought off testing challenges from countryman Théo de Ramecourt, Britain’s Connor Bainbridge and Russia’s Denis Taradin, who finished just behind on the leaderboard.

Mazella’s win earned him a share of the €25,000 purse and cements his overall lead in the tour following his triumph at the second act last month in Traunsee, Austria. It keeps him firmly in the hunt for a coveted third International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) KiteFoil World Championship title.“I’m happy about winning this event, for sure,” said Mazella. “I’m pleased about my performance, too. But I know I have some things to work on again after this. Because of the shifty winds, I didn’t make good decisions. It was hard. Winning takes me a step closer to the title, and this is the one where I earned big points in that quest.”

His compatriot De Ramecourt advanced one place in the standings on the final day, climbing to second overall. The Frenchman ended the four-day regatta with a strong finish, in which he claimed three bullets and two thirds in the closing seven races.

The competition, in its fourth edition in Cagliari, was marked by diverse conditions that varied from 33kts offshore Mistral winds, to lighter, shifty onshore breezes, that saw De Ramecourt become more assured and quicker after a mixed opening to his campaign.

“I’m really happy because I eventually found my rhythm,” said De Ramecourt. “Especially in the last two days. On the final day I had one of my best wins, but I also had some really bad races earlier. So, I’m really happy with my performance and mindset.”

De Ramecourt’s profit came at the expense of the Briton, Bainbridge, who took the third podium step after dropping one place on the last day. Bainbridge had a rollercoaster ride that began with the overall lead in the punchy conditions of day one, moving up and down the order.

“I’m glad that on the closing day I’m still on the podium,” said Bainbridge. “I felt I was going pretty fast and pushing Axel Mazella. But I felt the last day was a bit of pot luck with the breeze. There was no real predicting of what was going to come.”

The 16-year-old Italian Riccardo Pianosi did better than most reading the shifts. Pianosi, who will represent his home country at the World Sailing Youth Worlds in Oman in December, sped past the downed Mazella in the final race, taking a third placed finish and sixth overall that earned him the U19 Youth crown.

“I’m so happy with my result,” said Pianosi. “It’s a bit of a surprise, but a good surprise. Racing with this level of guys, the best in the world, is difficult. I just try to do my best every day.”

The IKA KiteFoil World Series Cagliari attracted 42 athletes, 29 men and 13 women, from 19 countries and five continents. It was the third of five scheduled acts, with the overall men’s and women’s winners crowned IKA KiteFoil world champions.

With the women racing in one fleet with the men and competing for an equal share of the World Series Cagliari prize pot, the battles between the leaders were intense with the top two spots changing hands during the contest.

But ultimately the dominance of the French team was never in doubt as they took all three podium steps. Victor, Lauriane Nolot, eventually got the better of countrywoman and recently-crowned Formula Kite European champion Poema Newland, with Jessie Kampman making up the trio.
Nolot’s win in Cagliari in the sometimes tricky conditions also gives her two World Series stops in succession after her victory in Austria. She was pleased to overhaul Newland who held the lead for several days.

“I can be happy with my performance,” said Nolot. “I did the job I came to do. I survived the conditions. It’s pretty good training for the Worlds as we had all conditions, everything from 9m to 21m kite weather.”

Newland, too, took comfort from her second podium step that preserved her place in the rankings. She also used it as a learning experience that she hopes will help her eradicate the costly mistakes.
“Every day was a bad day for me,” said Newland. “I made a lot of mistakes, made bad choices about strategy, about kite size, everything. But I came here to learn and keep my place in the rankings, so I’m pleased about that at least.”

Most of the athletes will now make their way up the Sardinian coast to Torregrande, where even stiffer challenges await at the 2021 IKA Formula Kite World Championships this coming week.

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