Mazella Nearly Untouchable in Opening Foil Races
Words: Ian MacKinnon
Pingtan Beach—If the venue had changed, the storyline remained the same. France’s Axel Mazella was almost flawless in the first clashes of the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) KiteFoil GoldCup on Pingtan Island, eastern China. Mazella racked up an incredible eight bullets from nine races in Pingtan, picking up where he had left off a few days earlier in Weifang at the first of the two back-to- back KiteFoil GoldCup stops in China. But if the Frenchman had been composed to take victory at the second stop of the KiteFoil GoldCup tour—scoring a clutch of bullets—he appears close to peerless in the third and penultimate act of the drama in Pingtan on the East China Sea. He opened his account on day one of the five-day regatta that is part of the China International Kiteboarding Festival with two wins from two after much of the time was given over to the IKA TT:R World Championships which are being run in tandem.
Yet on day two in light, shifty breezes that started at around 10kts and eased slowly as the races progressed Mazella, on his 21m Enata kite and foil, took six of the seven races with apparent ease to leave clear blue water between him and the chasing pack on the leaderboard. In the women’s division—racing among the mixed fleet of 21 riders from 13 nations—Russia’s Elena Kalinina was battling with Alexia Fancelli (FRA) and for the most part seemed to have he measure of the Frenchwoman, though their races were hard fought. With the finale of the globe-trotting IKA KiteFoil Gold series just two weeks away in Italy at the Sardinia Kiteboarding Grand Slam, with the trophy going to the tour’s best rider, and KiteFoil World Champion title going to the event winner, none are anxious to put a foot wrong.
In Mazella’s wake, his countryman Theo de Ramecourt was closer than most to giving the leader a run for his money. He pushed Mazella hard in race after race and often led for large parts of the two laps of the windward-leeward course, only to lose out on the last down-wind leg and reach to finish. De Ramecourt, on his 21m Flysurfer Sonic Race kite, scored a bullet and a handful of second and third place finishes to leave him second on the leaderboard. But in day two’s first race he felt he had a win in the bag only to catch some debris that derailed his opportunity. “On the last downwind leg I caught something in the water and ended up way back,” said de Ramecourt. “But apart from that I love the conditions here because they’re a bit more technical than we saw in Weifang. It’s a bit choppier, there are wind holes and it’s shifting, all of which I like.”
Bulgaria’s Alex Bachev, on his Mike’s Lab foil and 19m Ozone R1V2 kite, had another good day that built on his overnight second spot courtesy of two third place finishes on day one. Perhaps his day two foray was not quite so fortuitous, but consistent high-placed finishes kept him in the hunt even after he crashed and lost his board in one race just before crossing the line. “I had a good opening day, and I think we’re all quite close performance-wise,” said Bachev. “So in the end it’s all about not making any mistakes and good strategy. You’ve got to read the wind shifts. Sometimes it was stronger outside, sometimes inside. When you’re going upwind, you can feel the power and make a call where it’s likely to be best.”