Kitefoil World Series Italy reached a crescendo of drama as the top 10 men and women contested the new Medal Series format in the south of Sardinia. Ultimately the pre-event favourites, Max Maeder and Lauriane Nolot, prevailed to win gold in the men’s and women’s events, although there were plenty of twists and turns along the way.
All day long the thermal sea breeze was fighting a battle with the stronger offshore Mistral breeze, which made it very hard to set a fair race course. It also made it very difficult for the riders and their caddies to choose the right kite for the ever-changing conditions.
The day’s competition started with the knockout rounds of a new Medal Series format that was trialled at Kitefoil World Series Traunsee a week earlier in Austria. But this would be the first time both the men and women would contest the knockout format which involves a series of four-rider knockout races, where the first two finishers progress to the next stage while the last two are eliminated from the competition.
To break out of the Repechage, through to the Quarter-Final, the Semi-Final and to the four-rider Final would demand great consistency and ability to deliver under pressure. Yet one man and one woman were able to do exactly that. Denis Taradin of Cyprus and Julia Damasiewicz of Poland are two individuals that probably shouldn’t have found themselves so far down the running order in the first place, but neither rider had sailed particularly well by their usual standards during the Opening Series with 45 boards on one busy start line.
However the four-rider race course is a different game that is more speed oriented with a different emphasis on tactics. The port-tack start, for example, can be a strong move on a more open race course. With the wind constantly changing in wind strength and direction, it was a tense afternoon on Poetto Beach which possibly played into the hands of experienced kiteboarders like Taradin and Damasiewicz.
It was a marvel to see the Cypriot and Polish riders muscle their way through one round and into the next, and eventually into their respective Finals. Similarly the other qualifiers to the Finals had their own stories to tell. Cameron Maramenides has been a revelation this week, the Greek rider showing that he can take on the best in the world and give them a good run for their money despite his lack of experience.
Sofia Tomasoni managed to sail through from third to first place in the blink of an eye on the final downwind leg of her Semi-Final to take her place alongside
Damasiewicz and the two who had qualified from the Opening Series – Nolot and Breiana Whitehead of Australia.
In the first race of the women’s Final, Damasiewicz decided she was going to do her own thing as she started on port and blasted out to the right-hand side of the course while Nolot, Whitehead and Tomasoni raced out to sea on the left. When they came back together at the top mark the Polish rider was well ahead of her rivals.
However, the irrepressible Nolot just has that extra click of pace, particularly on the upwind leg. On the second lap the French rider exerted her superior pace and height to overtake the Polish pretender. So Nolot won the race, won the championship and celebrated another victory in a hugely successful season for the French favourite. Whitehead took her second silver in two weeks and bronze for Damasiewicz.
In the men’s Final it didn’t take long for Maeder to establish an early advantage. Lorenzo Boschetti of Italy along with Taradin were always pushing the Singaporean hard all the way to the finish but it wasn’t enough to take the contest any further. Maeder won the race, won gold and said: “That feeling of winning never gets old!”
Boschetti had been in second place all week and earned a well deserved silver medal on home waters with Taradin claiming his second bronze in a week after achieving the same in Austria on the previous Sunday.
From the freshwater contest on Lake Traunsee to the salt-water showdown in Sardinia this weekend, the riders have come through two very different challenges, and now a third one awaits in late November. After two events in quick succession in Europe, the circuit moves next month to its big prizemoney conclusion in Zuhai where the 2023 Champions will be crowned at Kitefoil World Series China.
1. Maximilian Maeder SGP Gold
2. Lorenzo Boschetti ITA Silver
3. Denis Taradin CYP Bronze
1. Lauriane Nolot FRA Gold
2. Breiana Whitehead AUS Silver
3. Julia Damasiewicz ITA Bronze