Swings and Roundabouts

With a slightly cloudy morning, there were a few worried faces around the rigging area, but the confident words from the locals proved correct, with the clouds blowing away and a perfect 16-20 knot gradient breeze blowing through, with the orange flag being displayed at 1105 local time. 

The benchmark in this regatta so far has been Theo de Ramecourt (FRA), whose base strategy has been to focus on his own performance rather than worrying about other riders. Minimising mistakes has certainly proved a good strategy in this regatta, although luck is somewhat involved; with seaweed on the race course, which gets picked up by the riders’ hydrofoils, causes not only drag, but can also cause crash-inducing ventilation, and when the competitors are riding at speeds between 20 and 40 knots, one mistake can cost hundreds of meters.

Guy Bridge (GBR) (left) putting pressure on Theo de Ramecourt (FRA) (right)

In Race 6, Maxime Nocher (FRA) was again putting the pressure on Theo on the first lap. A wind shift on the first downwind saw Maxime gybe out again, gaining back into Theo, resulting in a very tight gate rounding.

With all the leaders on starboard, Maxime opted to leave the tack to the last minute, very close to the peninsula, and keeping a close eye on Theo, not letting him get as far in front as the previous days. Indeed Theo’s winning streak was brought to an end with Guy Bridge (GBR) claiming his first race win in this event. Maxime again was in 2nd and Martin Dolenc (CRO) getting on the podium for the first time in this regatta in 3rd place, with Theo back in 4th place.

Guy Bridge (GBR) scored his first race win of the event today, before equipment damage hampered him later in the day.

Flysurfer kites were dominant at the front of the pack. Featuring flexible cam battens in an effort to remove a lot of the bridle lines in the pursuit of drag reduction, it is a great example of the benefits of being an open development class.

Being a development class provides a whole other range of opportunities to the entire community, as it allows a certain amount of freedom for designers to innovate and try different concepts and prototypes for the next Olympic cycle equipment registration, which will be utilising equipment borne from this development, in the separate, more controlled Formula Kite class. 

There are further benefits to having an open development class. By having multiple different designs of kites, boards and foils, riders are able to select the setup that suits them best. This allows for a lot more riders to be competitive, and means that success is less reliant on the genetic fortune to be born with the optimum body shape.

Safety is always a priority in the sport

Additionally, as this style of sailing is evolving rapidly, the open design concept allows and encourages the sport to develop and grow outside the restrictions that are naturally associated with the equipment rulings of the Olympic Games. This keeps the sport exciting and relevant whilst enabling advancements in other areas, such as safety. Designers work closely with competitors, relying on feedback to improve and alter their designs, which means that quite often there are prototype versions of various equipment present at each regatta, so there is always something exciting and new to look at for everybody.

After a brief interlude for the wind to stabilise, the second race of the day got away in spectacular fashion, with the huge fleet of kites tearing across the water in a beautiful 20 knot breeze. On the first downwind, it appeared that Florian Gruber (GER) had a nutritious breakfast and thus was putting on a stronger performance than previous days, in 2nd place on the downwind, opting to gybe early out of the main leader pack. 

When asked about his performance during the regatta, Florian said “Just feeling a little bit better [today]. I feel like I maybe had a small concussion from a big crash on the first day, and yesterday I just didn’t feel good. Today is a little better, but in one race I got a tangle (sic.), Marcus [Edegran] took me down at the gate. 

Florian Gruber (GER) in his unmistakable orange helmet, flys downwind at speeds around 40 knots

“It is not my favourite conditions anyway, and when you don’t have the best luck then it is not the best result overall, but it is still good racing, good training for next season with the strong wind for me, so keeping the good vibe up!” remarked Gruber, beaming positivity as he prepared to relaunch for more racing in the afternoon.

The big crash between Marcus and Florian kept spectators on the edge of their seat, watching the live stream online around the world. By the finish, Theo de Ramecourt was back on form with a scintillating smile accompanying his victorious fist pumps as he crossed the line with a handsome lead ahead of Maxime Nocher with Martin Dolenc  scoring another 3rd place, followed by Dor Zarka (ISR) who performed well to finish in 4th.

Live streaming becomes more and more an integral part of the IKA's media strategy

Unfortunately for Gisela Pulido (ESP), the local crowd favourite vying for the Women’s Title, equipment damage in the form of a broken control bar forced her back to the beach where she was unable to replace the broken part and relaunch in time for Race 8. Similarly, Guy Bridge, who was in 3rd place overall after Race 7, was left ashore for Race 8. Said a disappointed Bridge “I wouldn’t have come in but my foil was damaged on the rocks.”

Race 8 saw a familiar sight of Theo and Maxime taking out the top two spots, with Florian Gruber on the podium in 3rd. This race also saw good performances from Alejandro Hernandez (ESP) in 4th, Dor Zarka in 5th and Alexander Ehlen (POL) in 6th. 

The difficulty plaguing racing here has been the fact that when the wind shifts left toward the north, or gets affected by the thermal breeze trying to build, the wind on the beach vanishes, leaving a 300m void before the wind line resumes. This area of zero wind occasionally encroaches upon the edge of the race course, affecting the finish line, and also preventing riders from either sailing in to the beach, or sailing out from the beach to rejoin the racing. 

Indeed, this is exactly what eventuated again this afternoon after Race 8, with the thermal wind being enough of a thorn in the side of the race committee that AP over A was displayed again shortly after 1530 local time, ending racing for the day. With the final day of racing tomorrow, all involved are looking forward to it greatly.

Results after 8 races (1 discard)

1    FRA 46    Theo de Ramecourt    7 pts
2    FRA 41    Maxime Nocher 14 pts
3   GBR 60 Guy Bridge 24 pts
4 CRO 37 Martin Dolenc 36 pts
5 GER 55 Florian Gruber 42 pts

Full results: https://www.kitefoilworldseries.com/sailwave/liveresults.htm 

Words: Oliver Hartas