Traunsee tantalises with broken promise

The fickle lake winds tantalised the riders with the prospect of racing on day two of the KiteFoil World Series Traunsee in Austria, only to send their hopes crashing to the water.

Time and again the race committee attempted a race start for the men in yellow and blue qualifying groups, but the disappearing breeze at the top of the course made it impossible for the riders to keep their kites in the sky.

© Robert Hajduk / IKA: catching kites 

Singapore’s Max Maeder summed up the day with a twinkle in his eye. “It was a day of broken hope and souls filled with disappointment. Today the forecast was really good and everyone was looking forward to some good racing. But every time the fleets were sent out, especially yellow, we were gutted because we couldn’t round the top mark and finish the race. People ended up swimming, me included. The wind has been teasing us a lot today and it was just really, really frustrating for everyone involved, except for the ladies maybe. They had a wonderful day, relaxing at the beach, enjoying watching the men just struggling on the water.”

© Robert Hajduk / IKA: summer camp vibe in Traunsee

While the women didn’t manage to get racing at all today, the mood remains high in the fleet. Traunsee is a popular place with the kiteboarders who always manage to fill their time with fun and laughter even when the main event struggles to get underway. British rider Jemima Crathorne said: “Obviously it’s disappointing when you don’t get any racing done, but as the prospects look like it’s not going to happen, you see people go pump foiling, the e-foilers come out, and it turns into a summer camp vibe. Everyone is such good friends, we love hanging out together, so we still had a good day today.”

© Robert Hajduk / IKA: kites fluttered hopelessly to the water...

There are 26 nations and five continents represented at this World Series event. For Xantos Villegas from Mexico, KiteFoil World Series Traunsee offers the best opportunity to learn from the top Europeans. “I think the highest level in this sport is here in Europe,” said Villegas. “So if we want to do something good in the Olympics 2024, this is the place to be, to understand where the top level is, and to learn how to get to that level.”

© Robert Hajduk / IKA: Xantos Villegas (MEX) challenged by the light winds

Even on a no-race day like today, Villegas is still learning vital lessons. “For me, the light wind conditions are the most challenging because where I train in Mexico it’s 18 to 20 knots every day, so I never fly the big kite. For me, especially, it's very hard trying to fly the 23-metre kite in less than 8 knots of wind. So it's difficult, but that’s a good thing. You do challenging things so you can grow and learn and keep improving.”

© Robert Hajduk / IKA: Flo Gruber (GER) in the flow

Villegas particularly admires the ability of German riders Jannis Maus and Florian Gruber to keep their kites in the air and their boards above water in fluky, marginal conditions. “They have got great technique and I’m watching them to see what I can learn from the way they handle these difficult conditions. Today was a big learning day even if it was frustrating not to complete a race.”

© Robert Hajduk / IKA: Fist bump between Johan Beckett (DEN) & Jannis Maus (GER)

Gruber doesn’t exactly feel comfortable in these conditions, although he’s more comfortable than most. “I do quite a lot of training on the lakes and you learn how to avoid the patches of no wind, when to tack away from a wind hole and so on. You have to be super-sensitive on the kite in this light breeze and you have to put a lot of effort through every manoeuvre, and to be so focused through the whole race. I did a few line-ups with Guy Bridge on the water and you still learn every time you go out. We made the most of it today.”

With two days of racing remaining, the schedule is getting tighter. The forecast looks more hopeful for Saturday, when racing is scheduled to begin at 1115 hours. Watch the action from Traunsee on the livestream which goes out on the internet for the final two days of competition on Saturday and Sunday.