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Olympic kitefoilers ready to race at 2022 Formula Kite World Championships in Cagliari, Sardinia

by Andy Rice / IKA 11 Oct 2022 02:13 PDT 11-16 October 2022
2022 Formula Kite World Championships © Robert Hajduk / IKA media

A total of 150 riders representing 44 nations from every continent are set to contest the 2022 Formula Kite World Championships in Cagliari, Sardinia, over the next seven days.

Taking place from 11 to 16 October, the Worlds is the biggest test of the year as the kiteboarding athletes continue their journey towards the Paris 2024 Olympic Games less than two years from now.

With the athletes foiling above the surface at speeds in excess of 30 knots in short races that last 12 minutes, and even shorter finals of just 6 minutes, this is the fastest kind of sailing ever seen in Olympic competition.

10 years on: higher and faster

It's 10 years since the Formula Kite World Championships last took place on Poetto Beach in Cagliari, widely recognised as one of the best places in the world for kitefoiling. Some of the same competitors are back a decade later, such as Jannis Maus from Germany. "I was only 15 or 16 at the time, racing in the youth competition," he recalls. "It's great to be competing here again, but the level is much higher and it's going to be intense on the race course."

France's Maxime Nocher was 18 years old in 2012 and finished fifth overall. Just over a week ago the Frenchman finished fifth at the Formula Kite European Championships in Nafpaktos, Greece. "If I could finish top five here at the Worlds I will be very happy," he said. "It's not going to be easy, but let's see."

The Formula Kite concept permits controlled development of equipment within the fleet, managing a delicate balance of trying new ideas and adopting new technology while keeping campaign costs within a sensible budget. Hydrofoiling on a kiteboard was barely a thing back in 2012, as Justina Kitchen (NZL) remembers. "Ten years ago we were racing the Worlds with tube kites and triple-fin boards," said the Kiwi rider. "I remember it being very bouncy and quite a different ride to being on a foil," she laughed.

German rider Flo Gruber is considered one of the 'old men' of the fleet, even though he's only 28 years old. He has seen a lot change over the past decade, but says some of the fundamentals have remained the same.

"The excitement for racing is the same today as it was then, just that it's with much faster equipment. The same passion for kiting is here, and it's great to see some old, familiar faces from 10 years ago as well as the young guns like Max Maeder (SGP) showing up with the same young passion that we had back then."

Maeder, the 16-year-old from Singapore, won the Open European Championships at the start of the month and starts as one of the big favourites. Defending world champion in the men, Theo de Ramecourt (FRA) retired from the Europeans as he focused on recovering from a training injury that he picked up last month. De Ramecourt is one of a number of French riders who could threaten for the title, and the French will also be very strong in the women's fleet.

Strong women

Lauriane Nolot (FRA) and Jessie Kampman (FRA) took the top two places at the Europeans and are looking in form for Cagliari. However, the five-time World Champion from the USA, Daniela Moroz, has taken a different tack in her defence of the title. The San Franciscan has been training for a number of weeks at the Worlds venue and missed the opportunity to defend her European title in favour of familiarising herself with Poetto Beach. Now we get to see which approach - regatta experience or training time - has been the best preparation for this big event.

A number of big names from the more conventional sailboat racing world are in Cagliari as coaches or technical experts. Olympic medallists from dinghy classes such as the USA's John Bertrand and Charlie McKee, Spain's Iker Martinez and Joe Glanfield from Great Britain are among the experts looking to help lift their athletes to the ever-increasing standards required for podium success in this still very young Olympic sport.

Racing begins at 1pm local time on Tuesday, with the riders splitting into qualifying fleets for the first three days of the six-day competition. The final three days will be livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook.

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