COMPETE – OLYMPIC FORMAT TESTED FOR 2024

WORDS BY EVAN HEFFERNAN / PHOTOS BY OLIVER HARTAS

As the Formula kite fleet looks towards the Paris Olympic Games in 2024 the race format has been a pressing topic. Luckily at the 2019 Pascucci Formula Kite World Championships, we got the chance to test out the official format of a Mixed Kite Relay combining a girl/guy team into one Olympic medal. 

Evan Heffernan rounds the leeward mark.

Evan Heffernan rounds the leeward mark.

No, there is not a baton or a handoff. The way it works is one sailor races the course and sails towards the changeover area. This is a defined zone where your teammate is waiting to start. When your teammate crosses the line you are clear to start. At first attempt, it proved a little challenging as I was over the line before teammate Daniela Moroz came into the changeover. With an OCS (On Course Side disqualification) it was going to be a tough battle as the day went on. 

With 22 national teams entered it was a very competitive format and a huge change for the fleet. In the past we have seen a lot fewer girls competing, however the 2019 world championships almost tripled the number of girls entered from the prior year. France, Great Britain and Poland each had four teams registered as they push to get more girls involved with their federation since the chatter about kiting as an Olympic event. This allowed for many of the top riders to compete in the test event. We saw multiple heated changeovers where three-to-five riders were finishing within seconds of each other. At the end of the event it was awesome to see the top five all finishing within four points of each other. 

We were unbelievably stoked to come away with the win after a rough start to the day, however we know this was only a test event and there is a long road ahead with many teams close behind. For me, it was an amazing experience to be able to team up with Daniela as she is a great teammate and the defending four-time world champion of the female division. A big credit goes out to her for making my job that much easier. 

As this was a test event the focus was on getting feedback from all the sailors and on the water coaches to see how the format could be tweaked and improved. We ran a split fleet in a round robin format, so each race had 11 of the 22 teams in it. I think it would make sense to combine the fleet into a single heat allowing more competitive racing and more racing in general from a time standpoint. Daniela Moroz said, “there was a lot of positive feedback and I think all the riders are pretty excited to see that format in the 2024 games. It will be interesting to see how it evolves from here as there will definitely be some changes made, especially when it comes to the changeover area, but it will be exciting to see that format more often as we move into the new quad.” 

With five years to go until the games, I know everyone in the kite world is super excited. 

MEN 

1 Nico Parlier (FRA) 

2 Olly Bridge (GBR) 

3 Connor Bainbridge (GBR) 

Women 

1 Daniela Moroz (USA) 

2 Elena Kalinina (RUS) 

3 Breiana Whitehead (AUS) 

MIXED KITE RELAY 

1 USA (Daniela Moroz/Evan Heffernan) 

2 FRA (Alexia Fancelli/Maxime Nocher) 

3 RUS (Elena Kalinina/Denis Taradin)