by John Curnow
Imbert Ariane (FRA) Kiteboard class Oceanic Leg of the ISAF Sailing World Cup 2012 Sandringham Yacht Club
After experiencing rough racing condition on a breezy and cloudy Tuesday afternoon, Kiteboarders head into the third day of competition with Florian Gruber of Germany and Ariane Imbert of France still lording on top of the leaderboard. Gruber has so far dominated the men’s kiteboarding class, taking six first place finishes out of six races. On the other hand, Imbert finished the race first in four of five races in the women’s class.
With the ability to sail in virtually all conditions, the Kiteboarders have been making the most of their preliminary rounds at Sail Melbourne over the last two days. In both the Men’s and Women’s events, strong leaders have emerged with a string of first places to their name.
Florian Gruber of Germany has six wins from six races leading in to Wednesday, two points clear of Torrin Bright in second place and eight points clear of Matthew Taggart in third. Florian commented earlier, 'I’m really happy to have the six wins from six races. It’s perfect for me. Going in to the Gold fleet it makes me happy and they all want to beat me. It will be harder, but I want to fight and so I am really motivated.'
Asked what his secret might be, Florian said, 'My little sister is back at home and she is a tremendous fan, so I really like to do well for her. She brings me luck. Conditions on day one were perfect for me, as too were the first two races on day two. The last race yesterday was not my favourite and second place was really close to me.'
The speed differential over their female counterparts is quite noticeable, especially upwind. 'I have three big fins, the board is fast and there is a lot of technique you learn to be able to tack quickly, for instance', said Florian of his phenomenal footwork on board. 'I’ve been racing for four to five years now and worked a lot on tacking quickly, so that if you chose to be on Port tack at the start, it meant you had to be quick to change and then go with the fleet.
'If you train hard you can learn the technique in one year and now everyone knows it, but back then it was all new. Now we share our information and tips, so the camaraderie amongst us is great. We all want to get the sport to a higher level, maybe for the 2020 Olympics', said an enthusiastic Florian.
'They were tricky conditions out there with 2m seas, which made going downwind quite tough. I used my 13m2 kite for the first two races, because I like the power and you need the speed, but when it gusts over 35 knots it is more than hard. We have such a range with our gear, with our safety kite being just 7m2 and largest in the low 20s. This means we can race in just about any conditions.'
There were kites going in and out all day and they made it look easy. 'The race officers did a great job with lots of information and times to go in and out. We even had a small break for when the worst of the weather cells went through. They got three races in for both of the men’s fleets and two for the women, so it was a great job by the team', said Florian.
Ariane Imbert from France leads the women’s event with four wins from five races and a second in Race Four, which she hopes will remain as her drop. Congratulating her on her emphatic performance, Ariane smiles and said, 'Thanks for that. I like racing, but they’re hard conditions out there. Anyway, it’s not easy and we have to do it, so to be on top is really great.'
'I broke my handle in the second race, but still managed to get around, despite a few dunkings.' Ariane is a petite woman, but was still using a 10m2 kite yesterday and said, 'With the big waves I also get to do a lot of flying. I really hope to get the Gold and that my second place remains as my drop. It is really exciting stuff and we’re all happy about being part of Sail Melbourne.'
The ISAF World Cup, which is part of Sail Melbourne from December 2 to 8, 2012, can be found at Sail Melbourne