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Five US Kitefoil squad athletes ready to roll for World Championships in Italy

by US Sailing Team 10 Oct 20:13 PDT
Formula Kite World Championship © Luca Piana

Five members of the US Kitefoil Squad are ready for action in Italy for the 2021 Kite World Championships after numerous intensive training camps as a squad and countless hours of preparation on their own.

Announced in June of 2021, the newest Olympic discipline set to make its debut at the Paris 2024 Games, the Formula Kite, has attracted 92 men and 51 women to the west coast of the island of Sardinia.

On the water for the United States:

  • Kai Calder (Alameda, Calif.)
  • Will Cyr (San Diego, Calif.)
  • Markus Edegran (West Palm Beach, Fla.)
  • Evan Heffernan (Santa Barbara, Calif.)
  • Daniela Moroz (Lafayette, Calif.)
This year's World Championships will hold a lot of "firsts" for both the US group and the international fleet, as the discipline advances and professionalizes as an Olympic Class.

First Major Event for the USA Kite Squad as a Group

The 2021 Formula Kite World Championships marks the first major event for the American Kite Squad, the top US kiters who have been managed and supported under the US Sailing Team Development Program. As a pre-Worlds scouting trip, Moroz and Edegran traveled to Montpellier, France in September with Coach Charlie McKee for the 2021 European Championships with the goal of bringing back as many lessons as possible, and the three debriefed with the squad during their final training block in Long Beach, California before heading for Italy.

"As a squad, this is our first major event of the quad," said Heffernan who placed 22nd in his first World Championships in 2019 at Lake Garda, Italy. "This will be a great opportunity to display the progress of our training and see that the process is working. This event is the start of a new chapter for our squad as we transition to a more structured race program. We are excited to have these resources on our team and are looking forward to the continued growth."

"The squad has been really emphasizing a strong decision-making process," said McKee. "They have been really good at using the power of 'Team' to figure out the conditions quickly each day, and enact a simple tactical plan so they can focus on speed and technique."

Making his Formula Kite World Championship debut, Markus Edegran reflected on the benefits of the squad training over the past nine months: "It's been great to have a bit more structure with a coach to incentivize everyone to get together more often and more seriously for some good training before a big event like this. Having the starting and small racecourse training with a bunch of other athletes has been great to simulate the situations we'll have at these events."

New Format

Competing in the Formula Kite Europeans to gain experience with the new regatta format was a primary goal for Moroz, Edegran, and McKee last month in Montpellier, and the rest of the group is ready for their first shot at the same structure that will be utilized at the Paris 2024 Games.

"I'm pretty stoked on the new format," said Calder. "It gives you an opportunity to sail with a game plan and not the have the pressure of needing to sail a perfect regatta from day one. Although everyone would love to sail a perfect regatta, things happen, and this new format allows you to clear your head and know that you can still make it in the medal races."

Heffernan, with a bit more experience in the new format having sailed it once before at the 2019 Association of National Olympic Committees World Beach Games, said "The format puts a focus on top finishes and winning races which is not the case for a normal sailing series where consistency is king. The format greatly affects the sailing mentality and I'm excited for the challenge."

First World Championships with the New Olympic Discipline Designation

With four World Champion titles to her name, Daniela Moroz is no stranger to this event and has witnessed the evolution of the class at the highest level over the years.

"This Worlds is very different," said Moroz. "It's the first Worlds in the Olympic quad so everything is much more competitive, and all the countries have been building their teams. They all have coaches and the sport is getting much more professional overall. It's really cool to see it develop in that way. I'm excited for the sport and to see where it goes from here."

First Time Back at a Worlds for the International Fleet Since 2019

Since Covid-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 World Championships, this year's event will be a reunion for the sport's top kiters. Notable competitors with success on the world stage include two-time World Champion Axel Mazella from France, two-time World Champion Nicolas Parlier from France, eight-time World Champion Florian Gruber from Germany, and our own Daniela Moroz with four World Champion titles and two Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year awards. Other regular podium finishers are in attendance and include current men's European Champion Maximillian Maeder from Singapore, Russia's Elena Kalinina, Great Britain's Oliver Bridge, and Conner Bainbridge.

The format for the Formula Kite Olympic discipline is currently as follows:

  1. Both men's and women's fleets initially seeded into equal groups. Men will begin in evenly divided small groups, and women begin in evenly divided small groups.

  2. All competitors race up to 12 races over three days then get sorted into bronze, silver, and gold for the men, silver and gold for the women, for 4 additional races with points carried over.

  3. Upon completion of gold fleet day two racing, the top two kiters from both men's and women's divisions automatically advance to the Final.

  4. Places 3 through 14 in both men's and women's gold fleets go into semifinals where they race two races in two groups of six, with the winners of each group advancing.

  5. The Finals consists of the top 4 racing until someone gets to 3 race wins

  6. The leading kiter enters the Finals with two points and must only win one race to bring the regatta to a close

  7. The second-place kiter enters the Finals with one point and must win two or more to take the title.

  8. Third and fourth place kiters that entered the Finals with zero points must win three races. (This exact scenario played out in the men's fleet of the European Championships where Maximillian Maeder from Singapore entered the Finals with zero points, won three consecutive races, and won the 2021 Formula Kite European Championships)

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