Former Title Holder Gruber Revels in Tricky Conditions at KiteFoil World Championships Opener
Hang Loose Beach, Gizzeria —
Hang Loose Beach, Gizzeria—Germany’s Florian Gruber shrugged off the mixed bag of weather that played havoc with the racing schedule at the KiteFoil GoldCup in Italy to snatch a flawless two victories from two races.
In a break-neck dash for the line in his day’s final race the former Formula kite world champion crashed spectacularly just as he crossed to see off rival, reigning International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) KiteFoil GoldCup title holder, Maxime Nocher (MON).
It was the second time of the day the invariably imperious Nocher had just lost out to Gruber, who feels he is finding his a winning grove on his prototype Flysurfer Sonic foil kites and Levitaz Aspect Bionic hydrofoil in the shifty and gusty conditions that mirror his home training spot.
Day two of the four-day competition, the first of a four-stop world tour, began with light on-shore breezes that built quickly to allow the three fleets out on the track off Gizzeria’s Hang Loose Beach on their biggest 15m and 18m kites.
But after three races, one for each fleet, racing was suspended with the approach of squalls that swirled around the Calabrian hills overlooking the venue. Racing recommenced when the showers cleared, with the on-off wind steading to between 20kts and 25kts.
It was not to last and the flukey winds forced organisers to call a halt to racing after just another three races. With a total of seven races for each fleet, the riders will now be seeded into “gold”, “silver” and “bronze” flights for the medals races of the concluding two days.
Stellar performances again were put in by Riccardo Leccese (ITA) and Axel Mazella (FRA). Each scored bullets in two races in their respective fleets, adding to their perfect tally from day one and leaving them joint top in the standings.
Despite Nocher coming of second best to Gruber, the Monegasque rider lies in third place overall and is well positioned to find a new gear on his clearly fast F-One Diablo foil kites and Taaroa Sword2 hydrofoil.
Gruber’s sheer pace and tactical nous around the two laps of the windward-leeward, in winds that varied during the day from 8kts to 25kts, propelled him up the leaderboard to sixth spot.
“Up until the end of last year I was still on both the course board and the foil,” said Gruber. “Now it’s just foil and I really love it. The equipment is really important. I’m lucky that both Flysurfer and Levitaz are just a couple of hours’ drive from home, so I can easily discuss technical changes with them.”
Gruber’s strong showing left him just adrift of Mario Calbucci (ITA) and Olly Bridge (GBR) who again both had good days in their fleets, leaving them fourth and fifth respectively overall. Like all riders they will start the medals races with a points deficit of two times their position from the qualifying series.
Poland’s Balzej Ozog also put in a good shift on his Moses Vorace foil and Flysurfer Sonic kites after a shaky start to the day, eventually taking a second in his day’s final race that pushed him up the standings to tenth spot.
“In the first race I made a mistake at the downwind gate,” he said. “I was trying to catch to many guys and crashed. My fault. But I like these difficult conditions. The harder it gets with wind shifts and big waves, the better I get. Then it’s more about the rider than the equipment.”
Among the women, who are racing among the men, one of the surprises in that multiple world champion Steph Bridge (GBR) failed to make it to the “silver” fleet, where Jade O’Connor (IRL), Alexia Fancelli (FRA) and reigning Formula kite world champion Elena Kalinina (RUS) will occupy slots as they sit neck-and-neck in the standings.
Overall standings after seven qualifying series races (one discard).
1 Riccardo Leccese (ITA, Ozone/MikesLab) – 6 pts
1 Axel Mazella (ESP, Elf/KFA) – 6 pts
3 Maxime Nocher (MON, F-One/Taaroa) – 8 pts
4 Mario Calbucci (ITA, Elf/Banga) – 13 pts
5 Oliver Bridge (GBR, Elf/Levitaz) – 13 pts
1 Jade O’Connor (IRL, Elf/Banga) – 76 pts
2 Alexia Fancelli (FRA, Airush/Taaroa) – 76 pts
3 Elena Kalinina (RUS, Elf/Moses) – 78 pts
4 Steph Bridge (GBR, North/Levitaz/Volvo) 83pts
Writer: Ian MacKinnon
Photo Credits: Alexandru Baranescu