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Moroz keen to get back to winning in Gizzeria

by Andy Rice / IKA 21 Jul 00:02 PDT
2022 KiteFoil World Series Gizzeria © The International Kiteboarding Association

Almost 100 of the most accomplished riders representing over 20 countries from 5 continents are ready to compete in the KiteFoil World Series Gizzeria in the south of Italy over the next four days from 21 to 24 July.

The kitefoiling athletes love Gizzeria, and the sailing waters of the Gulf of Saint Eufemia. As Italian rider and world ranked No.1 Lorenzo Boschetti (ITA) says: "Gizzeria has perfect conditions. Every day it's the same, good wind, flat water, it's why we love this place." For the days leading up to the event the riders have been out in big numbers, lining up against each other in informal races organised by some of the coaches.

While most of Europe is suffering through one of the biggest heatwaves of recent times, Gizzeria in Calabria has been a balmy 31 to 33 degrees celsius, slightly lower than what the riders have experienced in previous years. Even so, only the toughest would dare walk barefoot on the searingly hot yellow sand.

So great is the venue's reputation for foiling, and kitefoiling in particular, that Hang Loose Beach has hosted a grand prix kiteboarding event every year for more than a decade.

This is the second event of the 2022 Kitefoil World Series season and all eyes will be on Daniela Moroz (USA) to see if the American can return to her winning ways. After an unbroken run of 32 consecutive victories at grand prix events over six years, the five-time Formula Kite World Champion has missed the top spot of the podium in the past few weeks. The American finished in the bronze medal position at the first event of the year in Austria.

Having become the rider to topple Moroz from her perch, Julia Damasiewicz (POL) had been hoping to follow up on her Traunsee victory with another great performance on the KiteFoil World Series. Unfortunately the 18-year-old from Poland has had to pull out due to injury. The other rider who beat Moroz in Traunsee is here in Gizzeria. That's Great Britain's Ellie Aldridge (GBR) who has proved herself as one of the most consistent podium performers in the female fleet over the past year. She will be looking to follow up a silver medal in Traunsee with a gold in Italy.

Earlier this month there was another kitefoiling event on Lake Garda in the far north of Italy - Formula Kite Grand Prix, Campione Univela - where Moroz finished runner-up to one of the top performers of 2022 so far, Lauriane Nolot (FRA). The French always have strength in depth and last year's KiteFoil World Series winner, Poema Newland, is another serious threat for the podium. Moroz admits she will have to be at the top of her game if she is to get back to her winning ways. "It used to be that I could operate at 70 to 80 per cent of my game and that would be enough to win," she said. "The level's gone up and that's not enough anymore. I've got a load of things I want to work on technically, but that will have to wait until the winter."

Although Moroz returns to Gizzeria as the defending champion she admits that it's what makes the venue so perfect is also the ingredient that makes it hard to win here. "It's flat water, steady wind, so going fast is quite easy for everyone to do here," she explained. "It's not tricky like sailing in Marseille where you've got areas of chop or patchy breeze. Gizzeria is steady which means it's the small details that end up making the difference."

The other particular challenge of Gizzeria is that often the best route up the race course is to the right. A right-hand race track means it's important to get on to port tack as quickly as possible, and the fastest way to do that is a port-tack start. Now that is a risky enough manoeuvre in a conventional sailing boat. On a kitefoiling board where the athletes on different tacks have a closing speed of around 40 knots, the risks are immense. Get your timing right and you're off and away. Launched! Get it wrong, and you cause the most almighty of line tangles with potentially multiple boards who were all minding their own business on starboard tack.

Moroz didn't rule out the possibility of attempting the port-tack start, but it's certainly not the top of her agenda. For British rider in the men's fleet, Connor Bainbridge (GBR) shook his head grimly: "Been there, done that, got tangled." Axel Mazella, the overall winner of the 2021 KiteFoil World Series, is also ruling it out. "No thank you," he said with a smile but without any hesitation. Will reigning World Champion from France, Theo de Ramecourt (FRA) give it a go? He has made the port-tack start work before.

Aside from de Ramecourt, Bainbridge and Mazella there are plenty of other riders in the mix for the men's podium in Gizzeria, notably Denis Taradin (CYP) who won in Gizzeria a year ago, as well as earning a bronze a month ago in Austria. The wacky, light-airs conditions of Traunsee certainly shook up the typical pecking order in both the men's and women's Formula Kite fleets. Will we see another upset in the more predictable conditions of Gizzeria? It seems unlikely but as the standard of this new Olympic event goes up and up, so it becomes harder to pick a winner.

With €15,000 of prize money up for grabs between the Men's and Women's fleets, there is a lot to play for, although the main focus is the competition itself and checking in on any recent developments in equipment. The KiteFoil World Series events are open to any equipment choices, creating a perfect competitive scenario to test the latest gear.

Also at this event is the European Championship for the A's Youth Under-17 fleet. Gian Stragiotti (SUI) from Switzerland will start as the favourite having won the A's Youth World title in Torregrande, Sardinia, two months earlier.

Racing is scheduled to begin on Thursday at 1300 hours.

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