The keenly-awaited first act of the KiteFoil GoldCup kicks off in just two weeks with the planet’s leading racers honing their skills and tuning equipment in preparation for what is sure to be an utterly engrossing contest.
With southern Italy’s rolling Calabrian hills framing the blue Mediterranean race track, the riders from all corners of the globe will line-up on the warm, flat waters off Gizzeria’s party-fuelled Hang Loose Beach.
The venue — with its reliable summer thermal winds that regularly hit 15kts to 18kts — is fast becoming a favourite for the racers, many of whom are returning to do battle again following last year’s exhilarating International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) GoldCup tour stop.
The Monegasque rider Maxime Nocher, who proved peerless over four days of hard-fought racing last July and went on to triumph in the KiteFoil GoldCup series, will again be on the starting line.
But since the Formula kite class has now essentially been transformed into a hydrofoil discipline, most of the highly-accomplished racers who had previously focused on course boards have switched their attention solely to foils.
None more so than Britain’s Olly Bridge, 18, who demonstrated his ability to learn fast at the first stop of the Hydrofoil Pro Tour in La Ventana, Mexico, and the kitefoil European Championships in Sardinia, where he snatched the second podium spot, growing quicker and more consistent as the event progressed.
Only Nocher on his F-one Diablo foil kites and Taaroa Sword2 hydrofoil outpointed the British teenager riding for Northkiteboarding, but using a Levitaz Aspect Bionic hydrofoil and Elf foils kites.
Spain’s Florian Trittel will also be a force to be reckoned with on his KFA hydrofoil and Elf Joker kites after his increasingly-assured performances as the Europeans reached their thrilling climax, earning him the third podium spot.
With World Sailing’s decision not to bar a number of riders who participated in prohibited IFKO events, the stage is now set for leading French racers Axel Mazella and Julien Kerneur — who placed second and third last year — to enter the fray. Compatriot Nico Parlier, injured last year, is also eligible.
Yet the wild-card could still be Riccardo Leccese, the veteran Italian-Colombian racer. On his Ozone R1V2 foil kites and MikesLab hydrofoil he dedicated himself to foil racing last year and placed fifth overall in the GoldCup Italy stop and fourth in this year’s Europeans after a blistering start where he racked up numerous bullets.
For the women the battle is bound to be tight in the warm breezes of southern Italy in July. Multiple Formula world champion Britain’s Steph Bridge has the pedigree and clinched the Italy GoldCup win last year, trumping Russia’s Elena Kalinina.
But the reigning Formula world champion Kalinina, just 18, repaid the compliment at the recent kitefoil Europeans, besting her old foe to grab the top podium spot. Bridge admitted she has yet to fine tune her riding in the new foiling environment if she is not to see her teenage rival disappear into the distance.
For riders and spectators who will pack the weekend beach for the Sunday showdown finale of the opening IKA GoldCup stop, it will inevitably be an enthralling encounter.