International Foil racing leaps to the next level in Italy
WORDS – Matt Pearce
Five days of intense competition in Sardinia drew to a close on Sunday 22nd May with Maxime Nocher and Elena Kalinina coming away with the top spots – two riders firmly entrenched at the top end of the world’s course racing elite.
The Mistral winds were finicky during the first two days, switching to offshore on occasion and constantly varying in strength, which made for challenging conditions. Competition was fierce throughout with up to ten races per day in each fleet in the early stages and, while Elena Kalinina managed to take the win ahead of the very experienced Steph Bridge straight away and hold onto it throughout the entire competition, it was less clear cut in the men’s fleet.
Olly Bridge, Riccardo Leccese and Maxime Nocher were in the top three from day one and traded blows throughout some hotly contested heats but, while Nocher managed to top the leader board at the end of most days, Leccese caused an upset when he took a provisional lead at the end of Day four. Nocher then took 4/4 wins on the penultimate day ahead of the Platinum fleet race day, putting him in a commanding position.
With only the top ten riders in the platinum fleet, the race committee of the Yacht Club Cagliari with Race Director Andy Curnow set up a six minute two lap course, providing new challenges to the fleet. With a spacious start line, tactics at the start played an important role.
Nocher went into the medal races with a comfortable lead, and didn’t take any risks to cause upset.
The expected battle ensued between second ranked Olly Bridge (GBR, Elf / Levitaz) and Riccardo Leccese (ITA, Ozone / MikesLab) who was leading the event after the qualifying series. Separated by only three points, and with 40 points up for grabs throughout the four races, this was the highly anticipated match race.
However, the young Briton played very well, winning two races and scoring another 2nd and 6th, while Leccese lost ground in every race, never finishing higher than 5th. Florian Trittel (ESP, Elf / KFA) showed a consistent performance coming from 15 points behind to claim a surprising 3rd place, nudging out Leccese. That all came down to the final race in which Leccese only had to stay within four places of Trittel, but Trittel scored a third place while Leccese lost ground in every manoeuvre, finishing in 8th, tied on points with the young Spanish rider. The tie was broken through the better results in the medal series, and Trittel found himself on the podium – a nice early gift on the day before his birthday.
On the women’s side of things, Kalinina (Russian Champion) never got in trouble, finishing a flawless event with another four bullets.
Although Noche dominated the men’s division for the most part, his control over proceedings wasn’t as absolute as 19-year-old Kalinina who led from the start of the competition. The young Russian defending Champion put in a strong performance throughout and consistently strengthened her lead over the UK’s Steph Bridge. Bridge maintained her second place from start to finish, although closely followed by Jade O’Connor from Ireland who pushed past Australian Gina Hewson on day three of the event to claim her place on the podium. Nobody, however, could come close to Kalinina, who finished the competition with an 11.5 point lead over her closest competitor.
It was a fantastic end to a supremely hard-fought event and, as Miro Babini, the president of the IKA put it, “Despite the fact that the wind during these days has been particularly challenging, all the athletes are very happy with the championship and surely one can’t deny that regattas are thrilling!”. He went on to add, “Cagliari is one of the best locations in the world and the International Kiteboarding Association is considering holding yet another global event next year too”.