Why Max makes Mazella mad
© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: Max Maeder continues to set the standard

Why Max makes Mazella mad

- Moderate breeze between 10 to 15 knots
- Maeder continues to set the standard in the men
- Mazella and Bainbridge on the rebound
- So too is Jessie Kampman, women’s winner of the day
- Just who exactly is The Stig?

No matter how much the standard of the fleet improves, Max Maeder continues to be very hard to catch. That was the conclusion from the first day of Gold Fleet racing on day four of the 2024 Formula Kite European Championship in Mar Menor, Spain.

The 17-year-old from Singapore has been setting the standard in men’s kitefoiling for the best part of two years, and after winning all four of today’s heats it’s Maeder who continues to push the bar higher.


Frenchman Axel Mazella commented: “I was ahead in one race and on the last downwind he slowly, slowly overtook me. I was like, ‘Come on man! Give me just one win!’ But there is Max, in front of everyone, like Max Verstappen.”

Like Mazella, Britain’s Connor Bainbridge was pretty happy with his day on the water. “I was racing Max on Thursday and he was hard to beat then. Max is pretty unstoppable. But everyone in Gold Fleet is fast, you can’t afford any mistakes. Everyone in the Gold is capable of getting a top three in any race.”

With that in mind, Bainbridge is thankful to have moved up to 4th overall, just a point behind Italy’s Riccardo Pianosi in 3rd and only 3 points behind Mazella in 2nd overall. “Today I went in with a points deficit, went in 6th and wanted to close the gap. I think tomorrow I have a chance to get into the top 3,” said Bainbridge who is still looking to qualifying Britain for a place at the Olympic Games.
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© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: Valentin Bontus - from clown to contender

He’ll have to be on form at next month’s ‘Last Chance Regatta’ to secure one of five remaining places. “Here in Mar Menor, this is the first big event since last year’s Europeans. I left last season pretty demoralised and demotivated, but my training group - Val [Bontus] and Flo [Gruber] - did a great job and I came into the season with a lot of motivation. There’s more to come!”

Like Bainbridge, for Mazella this event is a regatta of rediscovery, of re-establishing some shattered confidence after a knee injury from a ski-kiting accident at the start of the year. “I had a big injury to my knee in January, half broke my ACL, so now I’m super happy to be on the water with all the boys again. This has been really stressful, the first competition of the year, so I’m really proud to be in the game, feeling confident and going well.”
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© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: Maggie Pescetto (background) leading the Italian selection trials

This week is about regaining the drive and the confidence to believe Mazella can again be world class. There is also the challenge of being in a highly competitive trial for that coveted place at the Olympic Games in Marseille this summer. This week has put the smile back on Mazella’s face as he currently leads the trial to take that place. “I don’t feel pain, I’m super confident with my knee. OK, I’m missing some power because I didn’t train a lot this winter.”

Mazella is also impressed with some of the new faces appearing at the front of the fleet. Bruno Lobo [from Brazil] is super fast in these gusty and strong conditions. Deury Corniel [from Dominican Republic] was so fast on the first lap. I didn’t recognise him with his mask on, I was thinking, ‘who is this guy? He’s so fast!’”
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© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: Nolot in control - but only just...

To judge by her results, you might think that Lauriane Nolot is a rider at one with the conditions in Mar Menor. But, says the reigning World Champion from France, that’s not the case at all: “There’s something about the water here, I’m getting a lot of ventilation here, you never know what’s going to happen next. When we were training Fuerteventura there were no problems like that, so all winter we have been push-push-pushing, going fast and stable. You can’t do that here, so you’re not putting so much pressure through the board because you’re can’t be sure.”

Nolot suffered such a loss of control towards the top mark rounding of the first race of the day. “I was leading and went into a tack and then I lost lift and my board nosedived into the water. I tried to get back control and a couple of people went past me and then I was getting back up when Daniela [Moroz] smashed into my kite. We got into a huge tangle and we were stuck there. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, it was one of those things, but we had to leave our kites and get back to the beach to get new kites in time for the next race.”
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© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: Ellie Aldridge (left) leads the charge of the light brigade

Nolot won the next race and was second in the next two, retaining the lead from Poema Newland with a 7 point gap. Winner of the day with two 1st places and two 3rds was Jessie Kampman who is still in 3rd place but now on equal points with fellow French rider Newland. To be the best rider from the first day of Gold Fleet competition would have been unthinkable for Kampman a few months ago when - in her worst moments - she must have been wondering if she would ever be able to race kites again, let alone be world class.

“I’m quite happy, quite surprised,” said Kampman. Possibly the understatement of the week. “I spent most of the winter just trying to get back to my level and I don't feel like I had time to work on the stuff I wanted to work on. So I feel better than I could have expected, but I haven't really got an explanation how this is happening.”
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© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: Who exactly is The Stig? Soon to be revealed on the LiveStream

Joining expert kiter Jemima Crathorne and sailing journalist Andy Rice in the commentary booth is a kitefoiling expert who will bring his or her own interpretation of the action to the final weekend of the Europeans. Tune into the action on Saturday at 1200 hours local time (Spain) on YouTube and Facebook.



Maximilian Maeder


13.0 p


Axel Mazella


28.0 p


Riccardo Pianosi


30.0 p




Lauriane Nolot


15.0 p


Poema Newland


22.0 p


Jessie Kampman


22.0 p

More info at kiteclasses.org

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© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: Singapore's Speed Demon - Max Maeder