Sunday, 15 September 2019 14:46

Battle for honours tightens in swelling women’s ranks at KiteFoil World Series in China

The margins separating the top women at the penultimate stop of the KiteFoil World Series being fought out in Pingtan, east China, shrank dramatically in a clutch of breathless races in challenging conditions.

But at the head of the women’s fleet, four-time Formula Kite world champion, Daniela Moroz (USA), retained her convincing lead on the third day of intense battles on the Yellow Sea track, despite dismissing her outing as ‘the worst” she had experienced.

Just three leaderboard places behind her in the 27-strong mixed fleet, reigning KiteFoil world champion, Kirstyn O’Brien (USA), is locked in titanic struggle with Russia’s Elena Kalinina and just kept ahead after five races in punchy 27kts north-easterly breezes and mounting swells.

While the women fought their own private battles, Slovenia’s Toni Vodisek, 19, again looked imperious snatching three bullets to help him stay top of the order despite errors, including a catastrophic crash metres from the finish line while leading in the day’s second race.

France’s Axel Mazella, like most of the other men flying an 11m kite, capitalised by grabbing a bullet, and two seconds and thirds to leapfrog fellow countryman Théo de Ramecourt, closing the gap on Vodisek.

Both Vodisek and Moroz, 18, head the rankings in the globe-trotting International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) 2019 KiteFoil World Series after emphatic victories in Gizzeria, Italy, in July, and at the first of back-to-back China stops, in Weifang Binhai, last week.

The world champions in the “open” IKA KiteFoil tour—a developmental class with minimal restrictions to foster innovation—will be crowned next month at the season finale on the Italian resort island of Sardinia, at Cagliari’s Poetto Beach.

For Moroz, unable to complete last year’s tour depriving her of a title chance, securing the KiteFoil title is a vital piece of unfinished business. Her 2019 title bid is bolstered by her current leaderboard twelfth spot in Pingtan, in a fleet stacked with the world’s fastest men.

“It’s the one title I haven’t gotten,” said Moroz. “So I’m definitely looking for that one. That’s why this event and the final World Series event are my main focus. I feel comfortable in the girls’ fleet. In some races I’m looking back at the girls, but other times when I’m feeling good, I’m competitive with the men’s fleet. My main focus ultimately is to get in the top ten.”

Yet with growing ranks of women kitefoil athletes, thanks to the inclusion of mixed team relay kitefoil racing in the Paris 2024 Olympics, Moroz is taking nothing for granted. Among the more intriguing prospects is the scheduled arrival of multiple former freestyle world champion, Spain’s Gisela Pulido, due to dip her toe in kitefoil racing waters at the Formula Kite European Championships in Torregrande, Sardinia, next week.

The increased competition is acutely evident in the tight battle in Pingtan between O’Brien and former Formula Kite world champion Kalinina, where they sit fifteenth and sixteenth overall respectively. Both relish pitting their pace against the quickest men.

“We’ve got nice wind and swell today,” said O’Brien, who finished strongly after crashing in the day’s first race and subsequently missing the second. “I’m racing against China’s Haoran Zhang and Elena Kalinina. I love being on the course with the guys. It means there’s more people to measure up against. You learn so much, seeing if they’re going for speed or angles, and what works best.”

Slightly further down the order, China’s Jingle Chen, 19, got the jump on newcomer, Russia’s Valeria Garashchenko, 18. But the pair are locked together on the leaderboard when the Russian tangled her kite after a crash and missed the day’s first two races.

For Chen, too, the strong breezes and rolling swell mixed with short chop, are far from the light breezes and flat seas she normally trains in. But having the world’s best come to her doorstep is an invaluable opportunity.

“I’m doing better than I was earlier,” said Chen. “I’m afraid of the foil in these conditions; so different from my training. Also, in training I only have two others near me; here it’s 20 or more going very fast. I’m getting used to it. It’s great training. You also see the lines they’re taking and learn a lot—very quickly.”

Top five overall after 13 races (two discards)

1 Toni Vodisek (SLO)                   17pts
2 Axel Mazella (FRA)                    23pts
3 Théo de Ramecourt (FRA)         34pts
4 Nico Parlier (FRA)                     41pts
5 Maxime Nocher (FRA)              41pts

Top five women after 13 races (two discards)

1 Daniela Moroz (USA)                115pts
2 Kirstyn O’Brien (USA)              147pts
3 Elena Kalinina (RUS)                169pts
4 Jingle Chen (CHN)                   205pts
5 Valeria Garashchenko (RUS)     221pts


Last modified on Sunday, 15 September 2019 14:59
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