French foiling titans lead the pack on day one at the final KiteFoil Gold Cup event of the season
Words: Ian MacKinnon / Photos: Alex Schwarz / IKA
France’s Nico Parlier traded blows with fellow countryman Maxime Nocher in the opening exchanges of the KiteFoil World Series final played out in tricky breezes on the Italian resort island of Sardinia. But reigning KiteFoil and Formula Kite world champion Parlier gained the upper hand, taking the leaderboard’s top spot with a bullet and a second in the day’s two races fought out in the shifty and variable breezes that bathed the course off Cagliari’s Poetto Beach. Former world champion Nocher could only manage a third spot in the second race, but had notched up a bullet by the finest of margins over Parlier at the opening of the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) KiteFoil series’ third and final tour stop.
So tight was the action at the final downwind mark, the bitter rivals entered a noisy altercation as soon as they crossed the finish within a split second of one another. Parlier claimed Nocher failed to give him room at the mark. The opening of the five-day regatta -sponsored by the City of Cagliari and Tourism Sardinia, supported by Yacht Club Cagliari- got off to a faltering start with forecast unseasonal thunderstorms keeping the 59 athletes from 17 countries on the beach for safety reasons until early afternoon. But even when the action eventually got underway, a large swell rolled over the Gulf of Angels’ track, which suffered big wind shifts. The breezes hit more than 20kts only to drop to virtually nothing, playing havoc with the schedule.
A big wind shift just before the start of the day’s first race saw many of the fleet go for a pin-end start on port tack. Britain’s Guy Bridge was caught out slightly and ended up in a tangle that ended his race with a broken bridle, though he clawed back some of the deficit with a second in the following race. Fellow countryman Connor Bainbridge was more fortunate, taking advantage of the shift to finish third. He followed that up with a solid fourth spot to leave him lying third overall with a further three days of competition ahead. “I was going for a starboard tack start at the pin end, but the wind changed about 20 seconds before the start,” said Bainbridge. “I ducked the group on port tack and it was a one-tack wonder all the way to the top mark. But I chose wrong on the second lap. It was pretty challenging conditions.” The Cagliari final of the world series will crown IKA KiteFoil world champion for the best overall rider of the three-stop tour that began with back-to-back events in China last month, where Nocher scooped consecutive victories.
That leaves Nocher as firm favourite to lift the title after Parlier was forced to miss the second round through college commitments, despite taking the runner-up spot at the season opener. “It was a good start,” said a relaxed Nocher, firmly convinced he was in the right over his run-in with Parlier. “It was close. He thought I didn’t give him room at the downwind mark. But I thought he was way behind me.”
In the ten-strong women’s group, competing among the mixed fleet, the US’s triple Formula Kite world champion, Daniela Moroz, put in a strong performance that left her ninth overall ahead of many strong and experienced men. The women’s group boasts a handful of Polish teenagers who have come to gain racing experience ahead of KiteFoil becoming an Olympic event, hoping to learn from their idols like former multiple world champion, Britain’s Steph Bridge, who sits in second spot.
Top three men after two races
Nico Parlier (FRA), 3.0pts
Maxime Nocher (FRA), 4.0pts
Connor Bainbridge (GBR), 7.0pts
Top three women after two races
Daniela Moroz (USA), 22.0pts
Steph Bridge (GBR), 46.0pts
Julia Damasiewicz (POL), 77.0pts