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Wingfoil Racing world titles to be decided in Paradise

by Andy Rice 6 Dec 2023 10:32 GMT 6-9 December 2023
Wingfoilers leaping for joy at being back in Jericoacoara © IWSA Media

The WingFoil Racing World Cup Brazil is about to begin, with four days of high speed foiling competition from 6 to 9 December. A world-class field of international competitors is looking forward to competing in a combination of long distance and short course races at one of the most idyllic venues in the world, the oasis of Jericoacoara in the north of Brazil.

  • 4 days of long-distance and short-course racing out of Vila Kalango in Jericoacoara in the north of Brazil
  • Open competition with a wide array of different wing and foil equipment
  • Defending men's and women's World Champions, Mathis Ghio and Paula Novotna, among the competitors
  • The final of five events in 2023 to determine who will take this year's world titles

Even if this wasn't the most important event on the wingfoil racing calendar, riders would still fly from every corner of the world to race out of Vila Kalango, the luxury resort that makes the athletes so welcome in Jericoacoara. It takes more than 20 minutes driving by 4x4 through the sand dunes to reach this idyllic seaside village. It's seclusion is what makes Jericoacoara so seductive.

More importantly for the riders, the warm trade winds reliably blow pretty much every morning and every afternoon. Today's practice racing took place in typically strong breezes of 18 to 25 knots, delivering some exhilarating conditions.

Some of the riders have been training at the venue for some time already. All was going well for Ernesto de Amiciis until a camera drone fell out of the sky and severely damaged the Italian's wing during a long downwind session with his Italian teammates yesterday.

"It was not a good experience but my wing has been repaired and a new wing is being delivered here, so it should all be OK," said de Amiciis who was one of the breakout performers at the previous event in the season, WingFoil Racing World Cup Sardinia which took place in October. "I still think about that last day a lot, it makes me smile," said the teenager who sailed out of his skin to rise from 8th at the start of the Medal Series day to finish with the bronze medal by the end of a dramatic afternoon. "I have been training hard and I hope we can do it again in Brazil."

Another Italian rider Luca Franchi arrived in Brazil to discover that his carbon-fibre race board hadn't made it across the Atlantic. "It's stuck at the airport as far as I know," said Franchi. "But I've been lucky enough to borrow a board and a foil from some friends here in Brazil and I'm glad I'm still able to go racing. I have had some time to tune the equipment and get used to it, so I think I will be OK."

Racing begins on Wednesday with two long distance races using a rabbit start. It requires different skills from the short-course racing that becomes the standard format for the following days. While reigning men's World Champion Mathis Ghio is strong across the board, if there's any slight chink in the Frenchman's armour, it is in the long distance race. Ghio doesn't like to rely on the harness to take the strain, preferring to maintain direct control of the wing through his arms alone. But that technique is very tiring over the course of the long distance races.

Meanwhile another Frenchman Julien Rattotti will be looking to exploit the technical advantage of this double-skin wing which he used to great effect in Sardinia six weeks ago at the last event. Rattotti won both long distance races thanks to superior upwind speed, able to point higher than the opposition whenever he needed to.

While Ghio is paying attention to the technical gains going on in the fleet, he's hoping his existing equipment will be sufficient to bring him another victory in Jericoacoara. Since winning in Brazil exactly a year ago, Ghio says the standard has gone up immensely. "I look back at some of the footage from last year and it was laughable how I was sailing," he said. "I think the whole fleet has moved on a lot, and I'm not sure if I would finish in the top 10 if I had stayed the same as I was a year ago."

Paula Novotna won the women's competition a year ago, the Czech superstar going on to win the overall world title too. But the standard has also gone up a lot in the past 12 months and it's the 16-year-old Italian Maddalena Spanu who has been the new force on the circuit in 2023. Having won on home waters in Lake Garda and Cagliari in Sardinia, now it will be interesting to see if Spanu can continue that winning form in Brazil.

There is some significant talent in the women's fleet including Polish former Olympic campaigner Karolyna Kluszczynska, Spain's Nia Suardiaz and Montse Solé, and the French riders Kylie Belloeuvre and Orane Ceris. Ceris was second in Jeri last year and second on the overall tour but a recent knee injury means Ceris is unlikely to be at her best this week.

"The doctor told me I can't do any more damage to the knee at the moment," said Orane, her knee protected in a brace, "so I wanted to come here and try to protect my place in the season rankings." Weirdly the knee injury came from dancing. "I do all these extreme sports and I'm fine, and then I go dancing and this happens," she laughed.

Competition begins on Wednesday with two long distance races out of a high-speed rabbit start.

More information here...

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