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RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Kites flying high

by Mark Jardine 19 Oct 10:00 BST
Théo de Ramecourt (FRA) / Riccardo Pianosi (ITA) - 2021 Formula Kite World Championships in Torregrande, Sardinia - Final Day © IKA Media / Robert Hajduk

I'm not going to lie; I was disappointed when the International Olympic Committee raised concerns about the Mixed Offshore Doublehanded event at the Paris 2024 Olympics. I thought this had the potential to be a great event, with the chance to show offshore sailing at its best, but the writing was on the wall when World Sailing were asked to come up with an alternative, and having separate Men's and Women's Kiteboarding was probably the best solution in the circumstances.

Over the past couple of weeks 138 of the best kite foilers from 34 countries and six continents gathered in Torregrande, Sardinia to battle it out for the World Championship titles. For many 'traditional' sailors, the racing may seem completely alien, with many of the close-up photos showing a rider holding a short bar in their hands on a board just over a metre long heeled heavily to windward, but the tactics are just the same.

This is still a young discipline, but the favourite moves of each of the sailors is taking shape. France's Benoît Gomez favours port-tack starts, fellow countryman Axel Mazella shows bursts of blistering speed and Théo de Ramecourt is incredibly consistent.

In the Women's fleet the United States' Daniela Moroz is the undisputed queen of kite foil, winning her fifth world title in a row. Oh... and this veteran is just 20 years old. This really is a young discipline.

I do have concerns over the stance the riders have to take while kite foiling, with their bodies bent heavily at the waist, but my guess is that it's a lot kinder on the joints and bones than other new Olympics events such as BMX and skateboarding.

Whether the kite foiling captures the interest of the TV networks in three years' time at the Paris Olympic Games is yet to be seen. Hopefully the characters and the colour will shine through, drawing more people into sailing. It may not be sailing as many of us know it, but things move on and the traditionalists need to embrace it. Mixed doublehanded offshore yachts and kite foilers really are opposite ends of the spectrum in sailing, but they both highlight how lucky we are with the diversity of our sport.

Welcome out of lockdown Australia!

It's been a long, long few months for Australians, especially those in Sydney. With my regular chats with John Curnow and Peter Rendle, plus the experience we had of lockdown in the UK, I know how frustrating and boring being cooped up at home is, and I really hope with the increased vaccination rates that Australia is through the worst of the pandemic.

The sailing season there is now waking up, and thoughts are turning quickly towards the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, with hopes that it will return in 2021 following the cancellation of the 2020 event. The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia is well prepared to host a Covid-safe race if given the green light by the NSW and Tasmanian State Governments.

Plans are also in place for an alternative race should decisions on state borders and conditions deem it necessary, but let's hope that the great race can return this year. The Boxing Day start is one of the great spectacles in sailing and it would be fantastic to see the yachts once again departing Sydney Harbour, surrounded by the massive spectator fleet which turns out for this event.

SailGP delivering

For anyone who didn't watch the Spain Sail Grand Prix live I highly recommend watching the highlights video. It's just under 18 minutes of high speed action, incredible boat control, and seeing the best sailors in the world pushing it to the very limit, and past it on more than one occasion.

Tom Slingsby is the sailor on top form right now, coming from his utter domination of the International Moth World Championship on Lake Garda; he helmed the Australian SailGP team to victory in Cadiz to take his third event win of SailGP Season 2.

The sailors really are pushing F50 foiling catamarans to the edge, as the Great Britain team demonstrated in the podium race. They'd nailed the start and were leading into the bear-away, but a problem releasing the jib sheet led to them going down the mine into a dramatic pitch pole. The Australian and United States teams did well to avoid the Brits, including a huge 'skid' for Jimmy Spithill's US team.

As Ben Ainslie said: "It's really hard to explain to people just how tough the F50s are to sail. You can see we've got great sailors on our team, we had a great start, we got into the lead. Unless you're absolutely perfect with your trim and balance of the boat, you can just lose control like we did. Tough one for the team but we take it on the chin and hope to come back stronger."

I'm certainly looking forward to seeing the teams racing in the natural amphitheatre of Sydney Harbour on December 17th & 18th. Let's not forget this was the opening event of SailGP Season 2, way back in February 2020, before the season was cancelled and restarted. On that occasion Ben Ainslie got the better of Tom Slingsby, with a masterclass of top-level sailing, and there's no doubt the Australian team will be wanting to have revenge on home waters.

Patience wins 60th Endeavour Trophy

On the same weekend as the SailGP, a stellar fleet of the UK's dinghy class champions gathered in Burnham-on-Crouch for the Endeavour Trophy Champion of Champions event. With this being an anniversary event, Olympians were invited as well and I was so happy to see Luke Patience and Mary Henderson take their win.

Sailing Mary Henderson's dad's 21 year old RS200, they came back from being over the line at the start in the first race - using their discard straight away - to knock in four bullets and a third to comfortably win the prestigious title.

You won't meet many nicer people in sailing than London 2012 470 medallist Luke. He's so passionate about sailing at all levels and was priceless during the lockdown virtual racing that we ran in 2020, sailing 'Wee Pearl'.

Patience so nearly won at Burnham in 2019, which made the win this year all the sweeter: "Indeed, it almost feels like a bit of redemption from when we almost won two years ago but mucked up on a gybe on the last run. In a way it makes it even more special to have finally won the Endeavour. It was really great racing."

So, despite it being October, a month where things are either winding down in the northern hemisphere or building up in the south, the past fortnight has seen a plethora of sailing events taking place in a huge range of sailing craft. We really are lucky to be involved in a great, diverse sport.

Mark Jardine
Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com Managing Editor

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