Top Foil Racers Back Formula Kite as Best Option for Level Olympic Playing Field

The world’s leading kite hydrofoil athletes favour Formula Kite as the equipment of choice for the 2024 Paris Olympics if World Sailing backs the decision of its Council to include kiteboarding at the upcoming annual meeting.

    Formula Kite, roughly a “box rule” that limits racers to series production registered foils and kites produced by any brand, is a compromise between the “one design” concept and “open” unregulated equipment in an effort to ensure the best athlete and not the best material wins.

    Many of the top kitefoil racers are among 27 athletes from 16 countries competing in the second Act of the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) KiteFoil World Series on Fujian province’s Pingtan Island, China, for a prize purse of $40,000.

    But on the first scheduled day of four high winds and big seas, the result of a typhoon bearing down on the East China Sea track, meant racing was impossible because of safety concerns for the competitors.

    With the Olympics decision on the horizon in November, most of the athletes are focused on the boon that inclusion could prove for kiteboarding. World Sailing (WS)—governing body of sailing, including kiteboarding and windsurfing—has accepted a mixed team kiteboarding event for the Paris Games.

Separately WS’s Equipment Committee indicated support for the established Formula Kite option, already used in Regional Games and Sailing World Cups, with its four-year registration cycle in line with the Olympic quad. But equipment will ultimately be part of the discussions among the Member National Authorities (MNAs) at the November meeting.

    All the athletes who have journeyed to China are firmly against “one design”, whereby a kite and foil would be chosen for manufacture either by one or multiple brands, as a way of apparently ensuring a level playing field.

    Britain’s Connor Bainbridge, also a veteran sailor and Olympic squad windsurfer who is working with F-One to develop their newest foil kites, cited the drawbacks of some of the current Olympic classes.

    “In an ideal world the idea of a ‘one design’ kite and foil would be perfect,” said Bainbridge. “But the reality is far removed from that. In one class I can think of there are multiple manufacturers. But to be competitive, in practice there is only one manufacturer to buy from and it’s very expensive.

    “Likewise, in kiting we could take, say, a MikesLab foil and F-one Diablo kite and licence any brand to make them. But the reality is that not every company is capable of making it equally to ensure the desired effect.”

Similarly, while the athletes are highly competitive and will seek any small advantage to win, they recognise that an “open” KiteFoil class would put all but a small fraction at the top of the order at a disadvantage and is unfeasible as an Olympics proposition.

    “Completely ‘open’ is not the solution,” said former Formula Kite World Champion, Germany’s Florian Gruber. “Otherwise you’ll have the top guys turning up with prototypes a week before the Games.”

    The choice of Formula Kite, with a limit of four registered kites and one foil from multiple manufacturers, seems to most a fair way to maintain competition even as the gap between brands narrows, while easing access to younger, unsponsored racers.

    “I think the ‘box rule’ Formula Kite works best as it still allows brands to develop and catch up outside the Olympic cycle,” said former Formula Kite World Champion, Russia’s Elena Kalinina. “It also encourages competition between brands, while the racers can choose the equipment that suits their style and weight.”

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