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Formula Kite Mixed Team Relay European Championships at Lake Traunsee, Austria - Day 3

by International Kiteboarding Association 18 Sep 10:41 PDT 15-20 September 2020
Formula Kite Mixed Team Relay European Championships - Day 3 © IKA / Alex Schwarz

A frosty morning was not the only cause for the hairs to rise today, with every race providing plenty of action, lead changes and upsets, Connor Bainbridge and Ellie Aldridge (GBR) sit in first with Guy Bridge and Katie Dabson (GBR) battling with Florian Gruber and Leonie Meyer (GER) for the all important second place.

The chill wind of the morning saw the competitors wrapped tightly against the cold, as the clouds wrapped the mountain tops, looking out hungrily to the race area which showed enough wind to get racing on schedule at 1100 for the first time this event.

Four races for each fleet were scheduled today for the beginning of the Final Series, with the competitors sorted into Gold, Silver and Bronze, and with such experienced riders as Axel Mazella and Alexia Fancelli (FRA) designated to Silver fleet, it is clear that the level of competition here is as high as it gets.

It was as if the weather gods were as excited as the rest of us for the racing, as a massive right shift in the last 30 seconds before the start of the first race of the day saw a hasty postponement for ten minutes whilst the course was adjusted until the wind settled back down and the first race got under way in 7-14 knots. But even this was not without incident, with Connor Bainbridge being spat out at the start.

"Yeah my wingtip got taken out by Florian on the start and it collapsed so I had to pop it back open and at the same time a gust hit me and I got sent down low. I tried to fight back but everyone was too far in front, but then luckily Ellie brought it back forwards for us, back to third," said Bainbridge, although things were no less tense at the back of the fleet it seemed

"At the top mark, with both of us on starboard, the guy in front of me just threw a gybe in without looking backwards, and it's just dangerous when people start doing that," commented Bainbridge, referring to a few friendly words as he crossed the finish line, politely warning his fellow competitor to ride safely or risk a protest.

The second lap saw even more commotion, with a full reshuffle of the positions at the top mark. "There was a big hole at the top mark and suddenly everyone was underlaying. I saw that nobody was going to make it so I just stayed clear and sailed around them and managed to get up to third" said Aldridge.

"Exciting is one word for it!" laughed Katie Dabson, who finished fourth in this race after seeming to struggle in just staying on the foils "It is really gust and really shifty, I think my head just wasn't in it. Going into the tacks you felt really overpowered, yet coming out you felt really underpowered, so it was just a game of trying to keep everything simple, and I hope I can do that better in the next race!"

The second race of the day was even more dramatic, as the men launched off the line in 6-9 knots. Florian led around the top mark, but the winner of the previous race Maxime Nocher (FRA) managed to overtake him in the gybe, the two under constant pressure from both Brits Guy and Connor. All four males crossed the line within as many seconds, and their teammates all performed excellent changeovers to compliment them in an incredibly exciting display of technical skill and time/distance management.

The racing continued to be intense, with the French and German females neck and neck up the course, when the pressure boiled over and a big crash occurred at the bottom mark, with both Lauriane Nolot (FRA) and Leonie Meyer (GER) ending up in the water, kites down and damaged equipment, watching the fleet race away.

Katie Dabson secured their only win of the day, with the under 19's Michal and Magdalena Woyciechowska (POL) matching their performance in the previous race to score second place, with the other British team of Bainbridge and Aldridge taking third. The subsequent protest saw the French team disqualified and redress awarded to the German team.

Silver fleet was no less exciting, with the German team of Jannis Maus and Alina Kornelli registering the only OCS of the event so far. "The first race was really good, we came second in Silver fleet, and the second race was good because we crossed the line in first but I was over early at the changeover. We have done lots of practice of the changeover actually, but I was just too early. These things happen," said Alina, who despite the mistake, was happy with how they have been racing so far given the tight competition.

Men's world #1 Axel Mazella (FRA) and women's world #6 Alexia Fancelli (FRA) also struggled a bit in the silver fleet. Said ALEXIA "Our first few races were not very good. In the first race I crashed because a gust of wind went straight up during my tack, and in the second race I was hit by a really big gust so I was just reaching on the upwind, so I lost some places, but that's the game!"

The incidents seemed to continue for the French teams, for in 7-11 knots, race 3 of the Gold fleet saw collision occurring at the top mark between Guy Bridge and Maxime Nocher. It is alleged that MAXINE rode into the back of GUY at the top mark, damaging Guy's mast and wings in the process, however during the protest hearing, it was later determined that Maxime was clear ahead, and therefore BRIDGE was subsequently disqualified.

The brother sister duo of Toni and Marina Vodisek (SLO) seemed to have found another gear altogether, with a noticeable improvement over past events, winning the final two races of Silver fleet to sit in the lead overall. "Toni sailed well so we had an advantage, and I am super happy with our performance!" beamed Marina. When asked about their training, Marina was quick to claim "Yes! Every day shredding!" with a chuckle, although her brother was quick to correct her; "She has only been on the water at events this year, so maybe 30 days so far," which can only mean that some other significant development has occurred within the team, allowing them to perform at this higher level whilst maintaining some of the biggest grins on the race course.

The final race of the Gold fleet was just as thrilling to watch, with the whole male contingent of the fleet crossing within a matter of seconds, leaving it up to the women to duke it out up the course one last time. Ellie Aldridge streaked ahead to pull out an unassailable lead by the top mark, followed by compatriot Dabson, then the two Polish teams and Lauriane Nolot at the back.

However, in a spectacular shake-up, the world ranked #13 Lauriane moved up to finish second by the end of the race; "All the girls went too far after the top mark, and I decided to gybe early and it was a good solution...The racing is so dramatic, there are so many changes in positions!" said Lauriane, further corroborating the validity of this new racing format.

At the end of the day three points separate the leaders, with Bainbridge/Aldridge (GBR) in first, Gruber/Meyer (GER) in second and Bridge/Dabson (GBR) in third. Racing continues tomorrow with another four races per fleet scheduled.

Racing continues with the opening series through to Saturday, and the semi-finals and medal series scheduled for "Super Sunday".

Top five teams after four final series races: (two carried forward scores, one discard)

1 GBR 14 Bainbridge / Aldridge 11 pts
2 GER 10 Gruber / Meyer 13.3 pts
3 GBR 22 Bridge / Dabson 14 pts
4 POL 21 Wojciechowski / Woyciechowska 15 pts
5 FRA 12 Nocher / Nolot 18 pts

Find full results here.

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