The US’s Daniela Moroz closed out a remarkable five titles in a row at the Formula Kite World Championships on the Italian island of Sardinia, coming from behind in the finals shootout on the sparkling Gulf of Oristano, to seize the coveted crown.
France’s Théo de Ramecourt entered the medal race final in pole position, but took several attempts in utterly engrossing competition to secure the bullet that gave him the first world title he craved.
Both athletes were completely elated by their triumphs after five days of intensely-tight racing on the glorious track off Torregrande, in the first International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) Formula Kite Worlds of the Olympic cycle.
“I’m really happy to make it five,” said Moroz, 20. “It feels really surreal and I haven’t processed it yet. I’m still kind of absorbing it and enjoying it. It was a really tough week in all of the conditions. Then, in the end it all comes down to the last race. I was definitely a bit nervous this morning, but we got through it.”
De Ramecourt was acutely aware of the approaching Olympics, when kiteboarding will make its debut in his home country at the Paris 2024 Games, further raising the stakes and shining the spotlight on his victory.
“I’m just super-happy,” said De Ramecourt. “It was intense in the final, but I tried to take it step-by-step and just do my best. It feels so great. Really, really happy. It makes a big difference because the Olympics are getting closer.”
The edge-of-the-seat drama of the finals came after 138 athletes -89 men and 49 women from 34 countries and six continents- lined up to fight for the IKA world titles after a two-year break because of the pandemic. It is the biggest kitefoil fleet assembled, courtesy of burgeoning worldwide interest because of the Olympics.
The Formula Kite Worlds in Torregrande, supported by the Region of Sardinia and the City of Oristano, showcased an exciting format for the climactic battles that crowned the men’s and women’s world champions.
Intense stadium races close to the beach, for the benefit of the spectators, added to the final day’s drama. The deciding medal races were made up of semi-finals and finals. The top two from the opening series went straight to the finals, while places three to 14 went into two semi-finals. Only the winner of each semi-final race advanced to the final, making a total of four racers competing on a super-short track.
In the final, the top seeded racer began with two wins, the second with one win, and the semi-final qualifiers with none. The first racer to accumulate three race wins and hence the first over the line in the last race, would be the overall winner, maintaining suspense to the end.
The two rounds of the men’s and women’s semi-finals, with six athletes in each heat, got underway in 7-8kts of intensely shifty breeze blowing over flat waters, sparking awesomely-fast racing by the competitors on their biggest 19m and 21m kites.
In the men’s semi-finals, Italy’s remarkable 16-year-old Riccardo Pianosi squeezed out more experienced opposition, like Britain’s Connor Bainbridge and Germany’s Florian Gruber, to take two bullets that ensured he moved forward to the final.
France’s Benoît Gomez went to the final thanks to a bullet that came as a result of his favoured port-tack starts that gave him the edge on the right side of the course. Gomez thrillingly overhauled Singapore’s Max Maeder on the last downwind leg to take one win.
Gomez and Pianosi found themselves up against leaders, De Ramecourt and fellow countryman Axel Mazella, in the four-man final. As leader, De Ramecourt needed only one win to secure the title, while Mazella needed two, to the others’ three.
De Ramecourt led almost all the way around the windward-leeward track in the first finals race, only to find himself passed by a scorchingly-fast Mazella on the last downwind leg. But De Ramecourt put the matter to rest with a bullet the second time around, seeing off Pianosi, who took third overall just behind Mazella.
“The final was pretty intense,” said Mazella. “I managed to win the first race just at the end. At the second I tried a port-tack start and it didn’t work out. But in the end I’m still super-happy about my consistency. I’m also really happy for my mate, Théo de Ramecourt.”
The phenomenon of the 2021 Worlds, Pianosi, was still trying to process his third step on the podium after beating some of the world’s best.
“This is my first world championship and I can’t quite believe it,” said the teenager. “The emotions are just so strong. When I got the two bullets in the semi-finals it was an incredible feeling. But I knew in the final it would be tough. Théo de Ramecourt is really, really fast, especially in these conditions.”
The women’s semi-finals, with four Polish riders in the two groups, were equally absorbing. Two, Magda Woyciechowska and Izabela Satrjan, scooped bullets with incredible racing on their 21m Flysurfer kites. But it was not enough to stop France’s Lauriane Nolot and Poema Newland advancing to the final.
The French pair faced the formidable force of Moroz and Britain’s Ellie Aldridge. But Moroz did not have it all her own way. Nolot led round the first lap of the track with Moroz some way back, before the American took the lead on the last downwind leg to give her the single bullet she needed to earn the title.
Behind the pair, the race ended in drama as Newland crashed on the upwind leg, only to see Aldridge pass her and also crash a tack in a gust. As Newland rounded the last downwind mark ahead, she crashed a second time, while the trailing Aldridge did the same, but recovered more quickly to finish third and already had enough advantage to secure the second podium step, ahead of Nolot.
“I’m really happy, though it feels a bit weird after having such a bad last race,” said Aldridge. “But in the end it was a good week, and I’m pleased that I managed to take a few bullets from Daniela Moroz.”
Nolot was delighted that she had done enough to take the third overall in what was only her first world championship.
“I can breathe now,” she said. “I’m so happy. It was such a bad day yesterday, I wanted to do everything I could in the final to come back to the podium. I can’t wait to do more races with Daniela Moroz, because we just learn so much from her.”
2021 Formula Worlds RESULTS
Formula Kite World Championships Torregrande – Men
1. FRA – Théo de Ramecourt
2. FRA – Axel Mazella
3. ITA – Riccardo Pianosi
Formula Kite World Championships Torregrande – Women
1. USA – Daniela Moroz
2. GBR – Ellie Aldridge
3. FRA – Lauriane Nolot
Formula Kite World Championships Torregrande – Men Masters
1. TUR – Ejder Ginyol
2. DEN – James Johnsen
3. BUL – Chavdar Alexandrov
Formula Kite World Championships Torregrande – Women Masters
1. THA – Benyapa Jantawan
2. ESP – Marta Sanchez
3. BRA – Maria do Socorro Reis
Formula Kite World Championships Torregrande – Men Grand Masters
1. DEN – James Johnsen
2. BUL – Chavdar Alexandrov
3. SUI – Kari Eisenhut
Text Credits: 2021 Formula Kite World Championships
Photo Credits: 2021 Formula Kite World Championships
Full rankings: www.formulakite.org/results