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Barton Marine 2019 728x90

Setting the vibe for Lepanto Formula Kite Europeans

by Anna Zykova / Australian Sailing Team 27 Sep 00:51 PDT 25 September - 2 October 2022
Breiana Whitehead (Formula Kite) competing at Semaine Olympique Française in Hyeres © Beau Outteridge / Australian Sailing Team

From September 25th to October 2nd the Greek town of Nafpaktos will host the International Kite Association (IKA) European Championships for the first time. The competition will unfold on a flat-water bay located 250km west of Athens near the ancient city of Patras. Nafpaktos is connected to Patras by a 2 km suspension bridge that together with bright Greek sunshine and deep blue sea creates a beautiful backdrop for spectacular racing.

The event will feature over 90 male and 60 female riders representing more than 35 nations. Australia is represented by four male and two female riders, including the Australian Sailing Squad duo of Scott and Breiana Whitehead, three Australian Sailing Futures sailors in Alex Landwehr, Hector Paturau and Daniel Self and rider Jane Taylor joining the group from Kiteboarding West Australia.

The Nafpaktos bay is a relatively new international destination that has been christened by some kiteboarders as "hidden paradise". The prevailing winds here are from South and West, with a good breeze usually building up in the afternoon to provide a stable 15-18 knots.

The event commenced with a festive opening ceremony in the heart of Nafpaktos Old Port where evening fireworks over the bay and music by local DJs set the vibe for the week. On Monday equipment inspection will be followed by a practice race in the afternoon. First official racing will start on Tuesday and Wednesday with an Opening Qualifying Series that will consist of up to 8 races. Thursday and Friday are reserved for Qualifying Series Phase 3 with 8 more races followed by Medal Races on the weekend.

Competition will heat up toward the weekend when, on the 1st-2nd October, IKA will be running a live coverage of Semi Finals and Finals. The first two top-ranking athletes after the 3rd qualifying phase - one with 2 wins and one with 1 win in Q3 - will proceed directly to the Finals. The Semi Finals will consist of two fleets with top four riders. They will compete to become the second couple of finalists to join the other two in the final battle, where we can expect up to six races.

All top three winners of last year's Europeans, including the U19's 2021 champion Max Maeder (SGP) and silver & bronze winners Axel Mazella and Benoit Gomez (both FRA), are back to fight for the European title. Top ranked male kitefoilers Riccardo Pianosi (ITA), Florian Gruber (GER) and Lorenzo Boschetti (ITA) are here to challenge the fleet and having performed well this year, they are all top contenders for the Finals. There are others, for example, Theo De Ramescourt, winner of this year's Princess Sofia Trophy, the event that Aussie athletes remember for its challenging weather conditions. Theo was also the winner of the Open European Championships back in 2020. Many other names on the list are among the world top foiling kiteboarders, but Scott Whitehead thinks it's too early to tell who will perform best this week.

"Conditions at this venue are just great," said Whitehead. "The practice race was a perfect 15-meter [kite] weather. The fleet has improved a lot, and everyone is going a lot faster than they have before. Seems like it's going to be a bit more serious with some new people in the fleet."

The female fleet is missing Daniela Moroz this year, the winner of not only five World Championships and last year's Europeans, but this year's Princess Sofia Trophy and the Olympic Week in Hyeres, where Australian Sailing Squad rider Breiana Whitehead finished 16th and 9th respectively.

Breiana feels positive about the upcoming event: "Today was mostly about making sure that everything was properly working. It was good to be out there and see how everything works at this interesting venue. I'm glad we arrived early, got used to the conditions and tuned our gear up. The water here is amazing, it's relatively flat allowing some close racing."

Team coach Shane Smith is confident that Australian athletes will show some good results this week: "We arrived here last week and did some good training in the bay. It's a fantastic venue! The breeze builds up in mid-afternoon and can be quite stable, but we've also seen it change several times during a day, so competition might be tricky," - he said on the opening day.

The forecast to the first racing day is for some strong winds with possible rain in the morning. First warning signal is scheduled for 12H00, but an early notice might delay the start in case the conditions are not suitable for racing.

You can follow the event via the event website, www.formulakite.org/2022europeans and on Australian Sailing Team social media.

Australian Sailing Squad (ASS), Australian Sailing Futures (ASF) and other Australian (AUS) entries in the 2022 Formula Kite European Championships:

Male
Scott Whitehead (ASS)
Alex Landwehr (ASF)
Hector Paturau (ASF)
Daniel Self (ASF)

Female
Breiana Whitehead (ASS)
Jane Taylor (AUS)

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