TIGHT RACING AT FORMULA KITE WORLD CHAMPS AS NICO PARLIER SEIZES THE LEAD
Images: Toby Bromwich
With the top fleet stacked with the world’s fastest kite racers the battles at the Formula Kite World Championships in Oman just got a lot fiercer in awesome conditions that provided a perfect stage for the riders’ supreme athleticism.
France’s Nico Parlier dominated in breezes that freshened and hovered between 9 and 11 knots for much of the day off Muscat’s Al Mouj Beach on the Gulf of Oman, framed by a dramatic mountain backdrop.
On smooth waters, Parlier was pushed all the way by his friend and countryman Axel Mazella – who managed to overhaul his rival in race one – and Britain’s Olly Bridge. Often with just metres between them, the three had thrillingly-close finishes after high speed sub-eight minute laps of the race track.
In the women’s fleet, the reigning International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) Formula Kite World Champion Daniela Moroz, from the US, showed she is human after all when she missed out on winning two of today’s five races. The 16-year-old’s superiority on the leaderboard is so dominant however, that a second and third place, plus a hat-trick of wins, was enough to cement her top spot.
The epic day at the 2017 IKA Formula Kite World Championships, hosted by Oman Sail with associate sponsor Al Mouj Muscat, was marked by fractious drama on the water when reigning IKA Formula Kite World Champion Maxime Nocher, from Monaco, collided with a number of other riders while on port tack.
The incident, the subject of a number of protest hearings in the jury room, forced the USA’s Riley Gibbs and France’s Theo Lhostis, to withdraw from racing for the rest of the day. Nocher also changed out of his wetsuit and pulled out of the fray for the remainder of the day.
Day three of the championship saw the leading riders divided into gold, silver and bronze fleets for the two-day finals series, seeded on the basis of the opening exchanges in the qualifiers. Day five of the competition, dedicated to a medal series, will pit the top 10 men against one another for the crown and the spoils.
On the basis of Parlier’s near-peerless day, riding on his biggest 19m kite, he would appear to be in the box seat for the title. At one time, Parlier struggled in lighter breezes that perhaps favoured lighter rivals, but he now appears to have mastery of all conditions.
“It’s definitely been a little bit tighter today,” said Parlier. “It’s mostly between me and Axel Mazella as usual, but now that we’re competing with Olly Bridge and some other good riders, it changes everything.”
As overnight leader, Bridge, who had been competing in a different fleet in the opening qualifying series, knew he would have his work cut out for him with the French duo in the mix. He finished in second place on the leaderboard, splitting the pair.
“It’s definitely been more difficult today,” he said. “But I’m getting better. Nico Parlier is just very, very fast. Upwind, downwind, everywhere. But with Axel Mazella, I’m quite close, so I am happy with things.”
Live results and daily minute-by-minute reports from the racing action can be found at:www.formulakite.com
Top five men after six finals series races (one discard)
1: Nico Parlier (FRA) 9pts
2: Olly Bridge (GBR) 15pts
3: Axel Mazella (FRA) 17pts
4: Julien Kerneur (FRA) 47pts
5: Johnny Heineken (USA) 54pts
Top three women after 17 races (three discards)
1: Daniela Moroz (USA) 15pts
2: Alexia Fancelli (FRA) 29pts
3: Elena Kalinina (RUS) 33pts