PARLIER HOLDS HIS LEAD AND RETAKES THE TOP SPOT ON 2017 HFPT AS STEPH BRIDGE TAKES FIRST AND TEAM BRIDGE CLEAN UP
Report: Matt Pearce / Photos: Joern Pollex – Act Agency
The 33 riders competing at the Fehmarn stop on the 2017 HydroFoil Pro tour had had a busy three days of racing by the time the fourth and final day of competition rolled around but the wind would prove too light for any racing.
It kept everyone guessing until mid-afternoon though and as six knots would have been enough for the race crew to call the competitors to the water it looked hopeful for a while but, with highs of four knots, it was not to be.
Although there was no racing on the last day it takes nothing away from the quality of racing displayed during the three days before it and it’s been a pivotal event on this year’s tour as Nico Parlier finally took the overall lead with just two more events to go. In the women’s division the young American phenom and current tour leader Dani Moroz was conspicuous by her absence and the three women registered would compete in the same fleet as the men albeit with their own ranking.
Steph Bridge, perhaps one of the most experienced competitive racers in kiteboarding, led the division with a solid 62 point lead over her nearest rival Leonie Meyer from Germany and Sabrina Schlossnikel, also German, finished third with 42 points between her and Meyer. The conditions tested all the competitors to an extent and Meyer and Schlossnikel racked up a number of DNFs as a result but Steph showed her class with an 18th place finish overall and the only time she didn’t complete the course was in the second race of day two when she gave her kite to her son Guy after he broke his in the first race of the day
In the men’s division Parlier took two bullets from three races on day one in stormy conditions after Axel Mazella won the first race of the day. Conditions were challenging and this would prove to be a constant during this event with thick clumps of seaweed on the course that caused some heavy crashes when foils collided with them at speed and the gusty, cross-offshore winds meant riders had to choose between taking a bigger kite for guaranteed power and riding out the gusts or risking a smaller wing which could hold them back on the long straights.
Parlier lengthened his lead on the second day and won the first two races as the top three cemented itself with Axel Mazella and Olly Bridge doing their level best to wrestle first place from Parlier’s grasp. However, baring a disqualification for a false start in race three Nico never gave them an inch and outside of the top three Florian Gruber continued his run of solid finishes taking fourth in two races and a third place finish in the last race of the day. Guy Bridge and Julien Kerneur were never far behind and Julien can be doubly happy with his performance given that he’d just finished fourth in the GKA event here in Fehmarn a couple of hours before the first races began.
The last day would be the clincher though in lighter winds ranging from 12-18 knots and this was when the battle between Parlier and Mazella intensified with six races in rapid succession. Nico won the first two races but Mazella won the third and then in race four, when a serious line tangle took place at the start of the race and Parlier’s wetsuit was gashed open when he was struck by a foil, Mazella took his second bullet of the day.
Nico resumed normal service in the last two races though as he surged back into another first place finish with the fastest time of the event so far – completing the course at breakneck speed in 10.15! Axel tailed him in second and Olly third with both riders rounding out a successful few days of racing. Axel was never once absent from the top three in any of the 12 races and Olly only had three finishes outside the podium positions.
The youth divisions also competed in the same fleet as everyone else with some solid placing in the overall rankings. Guy Bridge won the Juniors 18 division and took fourth overall right behind his brother Olly rounding out a successful event for Team Bridge and Theo Lhostis won the Youth 21 category in eight place overall. James Johnson won the Masters Division ahead of Australian/German transplant and HFPT tour manager Marvin Baumeister with Reinhold Gehrer from Germany in third.
And, to top things off, after the main event Florian Gruber set a record as he raced Adrian Geislinger around the island completing the full 75km route in 1h 45 minutes – that’s over an hour faster than the previous record!
All eyes are now on Mauritius where Axel Mazella will no doubt be gunning hard to take back his overall lead from Parlier as the end of the tour comes into view!