The IKA kite race worlds went right to the wire, but Monaco rider Maxime Nocher clinched back-to-back world titles in a thrillingly tight final day’s competition on the water in southern Italy.
His victory ultimately hung on a jury call that went against second-placed rider, Britain’s Olly Bridge. He tangled with Blazej Ozog (POL) on a tack while ahead in the third of the day’s four men’s “platinum” fleet medal races and was awarded a costly disqualification.
Ozog, who raced quickly and consistently over the five days of competition hosted by Hang Loose Beach, was given redress for the incident that was enough to ensure he secured the third podium spot.
The jury’s decision after the fleet’s last race was completed was sufficient to give Nocher the edge over Bridge after the Monegasque rider caught an a plastic bag in the water, broke a fin and placed eighth in his day’s final race.
“I’m really pleased to win,” said Nocher. “In this competition you have to be careful and ride fair. You just never know what’s going to happen. It’s about not making mistakes. I’m afraid Olly Bridge made a big mistake when he looped his kite into Blazej Ozog’s lines.”
By contrast Bridge, 17, was inconsolable after seeing his title bid evaporate for the second year in succession. Mother Steph Bridge (GBR), who earned the second podium spot in the women’s “platinum” fleet, accepted that tiny errors through the week had proved costly for him.
Nocher, who was also victorious in the KiteFoil GoldCup Italy a week earlier and hence wins the overall Kite Grand Slam title, offered the teenager consoling words as he lay prostrate on the beach that had witnessed the enthralling battles on windward-leeward track in light airs that struggled to reach 10kts.
The top ten men were seeded into the “platinum” fleet’s four shootout races on the two laps of a shortened track, that the winners scorched around in less than eight minutes.
In the cross-onshore thermal the fastest men on their 18m foil kites invariably chose a port tack start to take advantage of the lift near the beach while where possible avoiding the left side of the track where the breeze tended to be fickle with big lulls.
Nocher scored a bullet, second and third to cement his pole position from the start of the day, when the riders carried forward their points’ tally from the finals’ series of the third and fourth days.
Bridge had begun the final day just three points adrift of Nocher. So, with his stellar speed around the track that secured him three bullets from four, his grief and anger after seeing another title slip from his grasp when so tantalizingly close was perhaps understandable.
If anything, the young Russian Elena Kalinina’s subdued celebrations over her victory in the women’s “platinum” fleet were a model of understatement in comparison to the histrionics elsewhere on the beach.
Kalinina had been pushed all the way by reigning world champion Steph Bridge, but three bullets from four in medal races secured her the IKA Formula Kite World Championship crown and gave her an early present one day ahead of her eighteenth birthday.
“I’m happy it’s over because I am so tired,” she said of her victory. “It was very interesting for me to race against Steph Bridge because she is such a good racer, both tactically and sailing. We were always close and she pushed me always. But I feel happy with the competition. We had no protests, we just raced hard on the water.”
Source: Ian MacKinnon