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2023 WingFoil Racing World Cup Brazil - Day 2: Bladder problems fail to deter Ghio

by Andy Rice 8 Dec 2023 10:08 GMT 6-9 December 2023
Fleet get-together at Vila Kalango before a big day on the Atlantic Ocean - Day 2 of WingFoil Racing World Cup Brazil © IWSA media

Seven high-wind races made for another exhausting but exhilarating day two of competition in Jericoacoara, the foiling paradise venue for WingFoil Racing World Cup Brazil.

While teenage sensation Nia Suardiaz of Spain continued her winning ways with a string of bullets in the women's competition, the race wins in the men's fleet went in multiple different directions. Across the three qualifying groups and the seven races there were nine different men's winners.

Part of the reason for that is the high possibility of crashing in the waves. It's really hard to stay stable throughout a whole race, even when the time from start to finish was as little as 5 minutes. So there were many who managed to seize their moment of glory today.

The other factor is staying rested and hydrated enough for a few hours on the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of a hot day in this Equatorial part of northern Brazil. Paula Novotna, who is back after a few months away from the racing circuit, was pleased to have survived the seven races and was headed straight for a massage to help recuperate and regenerate in time for Friday's race schedule.

"Orane [Ceris, fellow competitor] and I are going for a massage now, then we'll eat and go to sleep because we are dead," smiled the reigning World Champion from the Czech Republic. "My legs are sore from the constant squatting and bending, and my biceps are sore from holding the wing when you're going super fast. You need to be strong. And when you're strong, you can go fast. It's important to go to the gym to be very fast on the water." Novotna sits in second place, 7 points behind Suardiaz and 6 points ahead of Maddalena Spanu of Italy in third overall.

Big climbers in the men's fleet were Oscar Leclair of France and Nicolo Spanu of Italy who have risen to second and third overall respectively. They sit just a couple of points back from Mathis Ghio of France who took over the overall lead today. As reigning World Champion, Ghio is seen as the one to beat and the gap is certainly closing on the best in the world.

Ghio was suffering from bladder problems today, however. Problems with the inflatable bladder inside the outer layer of his wing. "I'm not sure what the problem was exactly but I think there was a fault with the bladder near the valve," said Ghio. "It could be the amount of pressure and twist you place on the wing when you're pushing hard in these conditions, and it could be the heat, maybe a few different things."

Ghio's results of 2,1,1,4 were disguising the challenges he was experiencing throughout the morning session. "The wing was deflating during the whole morning. So I was coming back to the beach between every race to pump up the wing again. It was extremely challenging and very stressful. We had a long wait on the water before the first race, and I didn't have that much pressure in the wing."

Not only is a soggy wing slow in a straight line, it also prevented Ghio from doing his usual seaweed clearing trick. "Normally when I get seaweed on the foil and I do a jump, I can use the wing to lift me. But when the wing went soft it wasn't so easy to make the jump and I had a crash because it wasn't as responsive as usual. I didn't have the power to stay on the foil when I landed again."

Having survived the morning session Ghio rushed ashore to replace the bladder. It's a bit like changing the inner tube when you get a bike puncture, except much, much harder. No time for lunch, just straight back on to the water for the afternoon session when Ghio scored 1,2,1 in the medium-length races of about 8 minutes duration.

While Ghio continues to set the standard against which others measure themselves, Leclair feels like things are starting to go in the right direction. "I was feeling good today. I took my 4 metre wing and it felt fast. I've been training in Jeri for a week and I've learned the technique for shaking off the seaweed from the foil. You have to be tactical about when you choose to make your jump. It's all part of the game here."

The top 14 men will progress to Gold Fleet racing on Friday. While the Gold Fleet will be dominated by the strong French and Italian squads, two riders from other nations just squeaked into the top 14, Yannik Holste of Germany and Jose Estredo Perez (aka Golito) of Venezuela.

Golito sailed out of his skin in the last race of the session to score his first win of the competition. "I feel I am getting better with every race," said the superstar from the world of freestyle windsurfing, enjoying his foray into wingfoil racing. "I went full power downwind, it was crazy how fast we were going today. I have made my goal of getting into Gold Fleet so let's see where we can go from here."

It's always painful to be that rider who finishes in 15th, just missing the cut. Golito's race win was good news for the Venezuelan but bad news for the British rider Rafferty Read who just missed the cut. Normally that means the end of any possibility to progress further in the competition. However, for the first time ever the WingFoil Racing World Cup is trialling a new format called the Golden Ticket, of which more in Friday's race report. It opens the door for any rider to be able to win the event on the final day, even those like Rafferty who didn't make it into Gold Fleet.

This evening the riders are enjoying another idyllic evening at Vila Kalango, some even braving the recuperative effects of the ice bath. Competition continues on Friday with a potential eight races on the schedule, before the big Medal Series climax on Saturday.

Event website:

Mens results after day 2:

1. Mathis Ghio, FRA, 9.0 p
2. Oscar Leclair, FRA, 11.0 p
3. Nicolo Spanu, ITA, 11.7 p

Womens results after day 2:

1. Nia Suardiaz, ESP, 8.0 p
2. Paula Novotna, CZE, 15.0 p
3. Maddalena Spanu, ITA, 21.0 p

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