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2024 Formula Kite World Championships in Hyères, France - Day 1

by IKA Media / Andy Rice 14 May 19:04 BST 14-19 May 2024
2024 Formula Kite World Championships in Hyères: A crashy day © IKA Media / Robert Hajduk

The defending champions emerged mostly unscathed from an opening day of puffy and gusty conditions at the 2024 Formula Kite World Championships in Hyères in the South of France.

Rain clouds wreaked havoc across the race course, according to British rider Lily Young. "You always know it's going to be difficult when the coaches are telling you it's going to be a 'heads out of the boat' kind of day," she said after coming ashore still buzzing with adrenalin after four back-to-back races. "We were doing a B2 outer-loop course and the wind was so up and down and all over the place, you could have used any one of the kites at any point around the course.

"It was super, super windy at the top of the course. Then the reach was just horrible. It's was really, really long and we were on the 11 [square metre kite] and it was really gusty, puffy and quite hard to control. It was really hard on the legs and you were getting around and everyone's trying to keep their kites in the sky and not kill each other! It was quite a stressful day and I'm quite happy that it's all over quite quickly."

Riding on the 11

Through all the chaos, somehow defending world champion Lauriane Nolot from France scored a perfect four wins from four in her qualifying group. On the other side of qualifying another French rider, Jessie Kampman, did almost as well - finishing second in the first heat and following up with three wins.

Kampman downplayed her performance, despite her almost perfect set of scores. "I started off a bit slow, not quite in tune," she said. "In the first race I went to gybe and I put my foot in the wrong place, and did all I could to avoid a big crash. But I enjoyed the fact that my legs were hurting way less than they were a couple of weeks ago at the last regatta. This time the pain wasn't as bad. And I love racing with the 11 [square metre kite].

"It was maybe over 20 knots in some of the gusts but then other times it was quite light and we could have been on the 15s. I had some good races with Daniela [Moroz] and it took me a while to get into my groove, it's taking me some time to warm up and get up to speed, a bit like a diesel."

Moroz, the six-time world champion from the USA, was happy with her first day despite some hairy moments. "I had a bit of a shocker in the last race. I just didn't get a great start and then was kind of playing catch-up and then hit a massive rope, randomly lying in the water, on the first downwind. So I did a tomahawk, had a big face plant, and came in after that. But at least we have a discard [worst race throwout] already."

Foil switch for Moroz

The other races went much better for Moroz who won the first ahead of Kampman followed by two second places. She has been trialling some big equipment changes in recent months including a Chubanga foil. "Honestly I'm really happy. I just recently made the switch to the Chubanga and I've been taking the last few regattas to figure out how to ride it and how to race with it, because it's quite a big change. So I feel like I've definitely improved a lot and made some good adjustments with all my gear and I feel really solid, so I'm looking forward to the rest of the week."

For Moroz the biggest difference with her new foil is when she's operating at maximum push. "When you're at 99 per cent, pushing super hard, then it just feels like it supports you a little bit more, whereas the Levitaz is a bit more high maintenance. Then again I won two of my six World Championships on the Levitaz so it's a good foil, but the Chubanga feels more stable."

Spain's Olympic candidate, Gisela Pulido, was also happy with her day in strong winds. "I love riding with the small kite, it's really technical and very challenging," she said. "I have put on some extra weight, up from 60kg to 64 kg which may not sound like much but I really felt the difference today."

Maeder flawless, almost matched by Lobo and Mazella

Mirroring Nolot's flawless scores in the women's Worlds, defending champion in the men's fleet, Max Maeder, came through his qualifying group with a perfect four wins from four races.

While no one could quite match the 17-year-old from Singapore, Bruno Lobo and Axel Mazella came close in the other two men's qualifying groups, the Brazilian and French riders each taking three wins but with a DNC [Did Not Compete] in their other race. Lobo, who has taken a sabbatical from his job as an orthopaedic surgeon in Brazil to focus on the Olympics, was very happy with his performance. "The strong winds are a good condition for me so I feel very confident. In the second race I was in a fight with Toni [Vodisek from Slovenia] and I had tangle with his kite and crashed and couldn't complete the race. But apart from that I had a very good day on the water."

Behind the front three is Martin Dolenc in fourth overall. "I scored 1,2,3,4 today and that felt like the best I have sailed all season," said the Croatian who trains closely with Maeder. "I made a few mistakes, like going for the 11 [square metre kite] and then got overtaken by Jannis [Maus from Germany] on a 15. But anyway I'm really happy and I hope to do the same or even better tomorrow."

Seagull 1, French Guy 0

Aged 43 and one of the top masters in the world of high-speed kitefoiling, Frenchman Billy Guy is at the Worlds for thrills and for fun. "I was on a 15 kite today, because at 117kg I'm one of the heaviest guys in the fleet. OK I'm 43 years old but I'm still a bit young in my head and trying not to be too scared to hurt yourself because when you're heavy the impact when you crash is pretty solid," he laughed. "I had four or five crashes today and one of them when a seagull almost flew into me. I felt its wingtip brush my face and I lost my balance and crashed."

Wednesday's forecast is also for another day of wind, rain and seagulls. Qualifying continues for the men and women, with the men due to race first at midday local time. The final two days of racing this Saturday and Sunday will be livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook.

Results after Day 1: (top three)

1Maximilian MaederSGP3
2Bruno LoboBRA3
3Axel MazellaFRA3
1Lauriane NolotFRA3
2Jessie KampmanFRA3
3Daniela MorozUSA5

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