Reigning world champion Maxime Nocher put in a stellar shift on the closing day of of the International Kiteboarding Association KiteFoil GoldCup to bag another title in some of the fiercest and most competitive racing of the year.
The Monegasque rider began the day in second spot on the leaderboard just two points adrift of Britain’s Olly Bridge on the for fourth day of the finals of the “open” kitefoil world championship series.
But with two bullets, four seconds and a third spot in the day’s seven races, even as his training partner Axel Mazella (FRA) and Bridge pushed hard and match-raced him, Nocher kept clear and fast to do enough to grab the crown.
With three successive Formula Kite world titles, the latest secured in China in September, the addition of the second successive KiteFoil GoldCup crown now makes it an incredible ten kiteboarding world championships to his name.
Nocher’s jubilation was evident when he punched the air as he crossed the line second in the day’s penultimate race. Even before the last race he knew he had clinched the title as another discard available meant he could not lose whatever happened.
“When I crossed the line I knew I already had the win,” said a beaming Nocher. “The last race for me was free, and for me that’s when I race best. But overall I had a good competition. Perhaps I’m not the fastest, but I am the most consistent and that’s what helps me get there in the end. It was perfect really. I’m very happy.”
The closing day of four in the competition hosted by the Qatar Sailing & Marine Sports Federation off the The Pearl-Qatar island’s Qanat Quartier precinct finally provided unbeatable conditions for the 31 men and six women kitefoilers from 18 nations.
Doha’s characteristic breezes usual in the approach of the desert winter went largely missing for several days. Yet day two delivered sparkling racing when the full potential of hydrofoils teamed with ultra-efficient foil kites manifested itself with scorchingly-fast competition in breezes the rarely reached 7kts.
Slovenian teenager, Toni Vodisek, had his breakthrough moment when he clinched four bullets from the day’s six races, breathtakingly quick on his Levitaz Bionic foil and Ozone R1V2 kite.
Ultimately, his challenge faded as the slightly older and more tactically experienced riders regrouped, while he made a number of errors. But he still posted a bullet and third spot on the final day to give him fourth overall to mark him out as a rider with a bright future.
The 9kts to 13kts blowing over the mirror flat waters of the Arabian Gulf sparked the fastest and closest racing of the contest. The windward-leeward track, with 1.1 nautical miles between top and bottom marks, threw up a raft of photo-finishes even after more than one-and-a-half laps of the course with riders hitting more than 30kts on downwind legs.
As the breeze built, riders increasingly favoured the left track’s side to take the benefit of a lift towards the shoreline, choosing to tack several times to stay on the inside. One of the hydrofoil’s advantages, aside from sheer blistering pace, is that almost no time is lost in the tack.
The tactics of many of the top riders led to nail-bitingly tense duels with the top of the order rounding the windward mark at full speed within metres of one another. Yet there were few incidents despite the huge potential for tangles, testament to the riders’ skill.
Bridge, 18, on his Levitaz Bionic foil and 17m Ozone R1V2 was moderately pleased with his second podium placing, despite starting the day in poll. But he felt the stronger breeze would have played more to his strengths than was ultimately the case.
“I’m quite happy,” he said. “I thought I might have been more in control [of the races] because of the slightly stronger wind. But Nocher and Mazella just seem to a bit faster on their foils with the new wings.”
Similarly, Mazella, also 18, who notched up two bullets and three seconds, was pleased with his day’s performance. On his Banga foil and F-One Diablo2 kite, gear identical to Nocher’s, he was able to leapfrog Vodisek to third in the standings.
“For me it was a good day,” he said. “I like these conditions, gusty and very shifty. But the problem for me was the second day of racing. I’m not so happy about that. I made many mistakes, had many crashes, and chose the wrong options. But in the end that’s all part of the game.”
Russia’s Elena Kalinina, yet another 18-year-old, was the worthy winner of the women’s title, showing her pace, class and experience even when competing among the strong men’s fleet. “I’m a bit tired, but happy,” she said. “I’ve never done seven races in a day. Overall I enjoyed racing among the men. Sometimes I can catch them. But their level is so high.”
Overall standings after 15 races (three discards):
1 Maxime Nocher (MON, F-One/Banga) 21pts
2 Olly Bridge (GBR, Ozone/Levitaz) 28pts
3 Axel Mazella (FRA, F-One/Banga) 33pts
4 Toni Vodisek (SLO, Ozone/Levitaz) 40pts
5 Florian Trittel (ESP, Ozone/KFA) 65pts
1 Elena Kalinina (RUS, Elf/Banga) 193pts
2 Gina Hewson (AUS, Ozone/Levitaz) 270pts
3 Jade O’Connor (IRL, Elf/Banga) 279pts
4 Ariane Imbert (FRA, Ozone/Banga) 311pts