Kitefoil Racing - Focus!
As if they knew about it, the weather gods delivered absolute perfection today, creating ideal conditions for breathtaking competition as CONNOR BAINBRIDGE (GBR) and ELLIE ALDRIDGE (GBR) managed to win GOLD overall, despite a valiant effort from FLORIAN GRUBER (GER) and LEONIE MEYER (GER) who take SILVER, with GUY BRIDGE (GBR) and KATIE DABSON (GBR) completing the podium in 3rd.
The Medal Race 3.0 format once again delivered action-packed racing today, with race 1 of semi final fleet A getting off in stellar conditions with wind at 11-16 knots at 1215. Around the first mark was an all French trio, led by THEO DE RAMECOURT (FRA), followed by MAXIME NOCHER (FRA) and then AXEL MAZELLA (FRA), with ALEJANDRO CLIMENT HERNANDEZ (ESP) in 4th. Coming around the bottom mark, MAXIME tried to get inside and overtake THEO but was unable to complete the manoeuvre before the final gybe mark. MAXIME tried again to get inside his compatriot and take the lead for the changeover when they both got hit by a gust and launched, with THEO recovering better to hold a lead towards the changeover line, where he had a big crash just as he crossed the line, almost as if the pressure from MAXIME was so great that THEO's legs gave out as soon as he crossed the line.
Their teammates kept the pressure on each other all the way up the beat, with LAURIANE NOLOT (FRA) folding under the pressure, crashing on the final tack at the top mark, letting JESSIE KAMPMAN (FRA) extend a handy lead, and letting GISELA PULIDO BORRELL (ESP) through as well before getting back up to speed. The positions remained unchanged as they crossed the line with RAMECOURT/KAMPMAN (FRA) taking 1st, CLIMENT/PULIDO (ESP) in 2nd and NOCHER/NOLOT (FRA) in 3rd. Taking into account that NOCHER/NOLOT (FRA) began the semi finals in 1st, they remained in the top spot after race 1, looking for one more good clean race to see them into the finals.
Race 1 of semi final fleet B was led by GUY BRIDGE (GBR), with TONI VODISEK (SLO) pushing hard right behind him, before also crashing hard at the changeover line, close enough to prompt a video review, as TONI body-dragged back to the beach to replace his mast and foil, as the mast foot seemed to have exploded, leaving the foil dangling on by a few shards of carbon.
Kitefoil Racing - Relaxed Race Face!?
Meanwhile, his sister and teammate MARINA VODISEK (SLO) was pushing hard to make the most of the advantage TONI had given her, but pressure was on from world #1 JULIA DAMASIEWICZ (POL). JULIA rounded in 3rd, hot on MARINA's heels, the pressure proving too great for MARINA as she crashed in a gybe, the unforgiving short-course format putting her from 2nd to 6th in a matter of seconds. KATIE soared across the finish line with a big lead, making it clear that the other teams would have a lot of work to do to stop her and GUY from going through to the finals.
Race 2 for semi finals fleet A produced the most drama by far, with GISELA PULIDO BORRELL (ESP) starting to leeward in the right-of-way position, JESSIE KAMPMAN (FRA) moved her kite up to keep clear, but in the heat of the moment, the kite moved too high, too quickly, not giving adequate time for LAURIANE NOLOT (FRA) , who was to windward of JESSIE, to react and move her kite out of the way. The resulting commotion saw kites in the water, with LAURIANE too far behind to have any hope of catching up, scoring a DNF as they headed straight to the jury to lodge a protest.
Kitefoil Racing - Amazing Location
Meanwhile, JULIA led around the top mark, followed by GISELA, giving CLIMENT a good opportunity at the changeover, which he did not waste, overtaking the younger Polish sailor to power across the line in 1st, with JAKUB JURKOWSKI (POL) finishing 2nd and AXEL MAZELLA (FRA) in 3rd.
Race 2 for semi finals B fleet was tight between MAGDA WOYCIECHOWSKA (POL) and KATIE DABSON (GBR) all the way around the first lap, with MAGDA only able to give a 30 meters lead over KATIE at the changeover, a lead that proved too small for MICHAL WOJCIECHOWSKI (POL). He was unable to stop the charge from GUY BRIDGE (GBR), who moved into the lead by the top mark and was unstoppable as he scored their second semi final win, which moved the British team of BRIDGE/DABSON (GBR) through to the finals.
But 'who would be joining them from fleet A?' was the question on everybody's lips, as all eyes were on the jury as they sorted through the facts of the commotion at the start of their second race. After a short while, the decision was made and the team of RAMECOURT/KAMPMAN (FRA) was disqualified, and no redress awarded to NOCHER/NOLOT (FRA), leaving LAURIANE visibly and understandably upset.
This meant that the Spanish team of CLIMENT/PULIDO (ESP) would be going through to join BRIDGE/DABSON (GBR), GRUBER/MEYER (GER) and BAINBRIDGE/ALDRIDGE (GBR) in the finals, and the teams started to gear up and head out.
With each team able to choose who would start, it was all four men on the line first, jostling for position in the 12-16 knot breeze, GUY electing the pin end with FLORIAN starting at the boat. GUY tacked first, but FLORIAN was furthest to the right with GUY chasing CONNOR hard. Four kites floated up and over, as if tied together, as all competitors tacked simultaneously to round the top mark, with FLORIAN leading ahead of CONNOR, GUY with ALEJANDRO rounding in 4th.
Eager to give his teammate the best advantage possible, FLORIAN stretched to build as much of a lead as possible, eking out a 20 meter gap back to CONNOR by the bottom mark, who in turn was feeling the pressure from GUY who made an impressive charge across to the final gybe mark.
It was edge-of-your-seat racing at its best, as all teams made a good changeover, except KATIE, who struggled a bit to get the timing and speed perfect.
Kitefoil Racing - Down Low
Straight out of the blocks at full speed, ELLIE tacked early, managing to cross ahead of LEONIE already. However LEONIE did not give up and managed to gain back some ground and seemed to be in the lead when they tacked toward the top mark. However, as the whole beach watched, holding their collective breath, LEONIE crashed at the last second, having undercut the layline by a mere meter.
Cheers, groans and awe-struck exclamations filled the air as ELLIE ALDRIDGE (GBR) flew around the top mark, now with a clear lead, and sailed the remainder of the lap without incident to cross the line in first place, winning the overall event in style.
"It was really close on that upwind," beamed ELLIE, "When you're that close behind, the only thing you can do to try and overtake is split, so I thought it was worth the chance. Quite often when you come back on starboard at the top, it puts pressure on them to either tack inside or tack below, so I tacked on a really tight layline, so she had to tack below me. Then even if I overlay, I can get a better rounding than her, and thankfully the plan worked!"
Teammate CONNOR was just as chuffed; "The wind came up today and ELLIE and I are much more confident on our 15m kite than we are on our bigger ones. It is actually really horrible watching your friend and teammate going around the race course, knowing how much hangs on it! But we only had one goal today and that was to keep it simple, and we managed to use our speed and we are very happy with the result!"
Despite the drama with his teammate, and missing out on the chance for the GOLD, FLORIAN was stoked to finish with SILVER; "Super happy with the podium finish; that was the goal. The last few years we always seemed to miss the podium in the final races of the team events but this time we managed to be solid on the podium, and if we train a bit more we can do even better!"
The level of competition was super high at this event and all teams had their fair share of ups and downs. It is clear that the fleet are taking big steps forward with each event, which increases the excitement and anticipation for the next event!