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Festival of Sails 2024 LEADERBOARD

GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Dakhla 2023 - Day 5

by Ian MacKinnon 27 Sep 03:19 PDT 22 September - 1 October 2023

The leaders in the race for the world title in the Kite-Surf discipline are set to clash in an early round of the GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Dakhla, in Morocco, which could severely dent the loser's hopes of lifting the crown.

  • Outcome of top seeds' battle in Morocco could shatter world title dreams
  • Leading women on track for showdown in deciding heat in the desert

Top seeds Airton Cozzolino (ITA) and Matchu Lopes (ESP) are destined to battle in the fifth round of the world cup in the Oum Lamboiur break on the fringes of the Sahara desert.

The loser of the crucial heat on day six of the competition—a double-header with the GWA Wingfoil World Cup Dakhla—will finish ninth. Lopes won the first two events in Cape Verde and Brazil and led the rankings, but then finished ninth at the third call in Sylt, Germany.

Another ninth place finish for Lopes could prove catastrophic for his title hopes. With the fifth and last stop in Brazil, in November, the Cape Verde-based Spaniard will have just one discard available and his chances of taking the title would be severely reduced.

The mouth-watering match-up sees Cozzolino seeking to avenge his defeat by Lopes in the final in Brazil. A Cozzolino win would see his good friend and bitter rival out of the picture and would be a shot in the arm for his hopes winning the coveted crown.

"Matchu [Lopes] has been so strong and tough to beat this year," said Cozzolino. "It's so hard and honestly, I'm super-happy for him. He's been fighting for it for a long time, and I'm stoked to see him with good confidence this year. But now it's time for me to focus on my game and do everything I can to get it, because the last two years have been hard for me."

On a charge

Cozzolino came out firing on day five. An uncharacteristic loss on the opening day saw him battling for survival in the fourth round in his heat against the Moroccan athlete, Hamza Addi.

The Cape Verde-based Italian was on fire, slaying the shoulder-high surf like there was no tomorrow. Cozzolino earned the biggest wave score of the competition—8.80 out of 10—that took his heat total to a remarkable 17.30 for his two counting waves.

Another standout in this pure surfing competition of the Qatar Airways GKA Kite World Tour was South Africa's Matt Maxwell. His strong heat score earned him the win and a match-up with Canada's Reece Myerscough.

"I'm from Cape Town and I normally ride lefts, so the wave here in Dakhla is taking a bit of adjustment," said Maxwell. "But here, at least, I'm on my forehand. I think if I get the right waves I stand a good chance."

France's Théo Demanez battled his way past Kelton Lopes (CPV) with two solid scores that took and his heat total to 11.13, earning him the chance to face-off against the Moroccan number one, Mohamed Ali Beqqali.

"I think my strategy will be to pick the right waves," said Demanez. "It's been pretty difficult today. And Ail Beqqali knows this spot well. My strategy is to go as long as possible down the wave. I'm excited and looking forward to it."

Tightest battle

On the women's side, the battle seems to be straight fight between the current world champion Capucine Delannoy (FRA) and Moona Whyte (USA). Whyte won the first two stops but sat out the third in Germany, a strapless freestyle contest, enabling the French teenager to go top of the standings after won.

Hawaii-based Whyte opened her account with a massive 8.73 wave score that mocked the tricky conditions of gusty winds and a small swell. That helped her to the quarter-final where her experience in the waves saw her dominate the heat against France's Clémence Derrien and advance to the semi-final.

Her rival Delannoy, 17, also opened with a big wave score and moved on to the quarter-final against her compatriot, Charlotte Carpentier. It was tight battle in the difficult conditions, but Delannoy's 6.0 wave near the end of the heat got her the win and a semi-final berth.

The tightest battle of the women's closing heats pitted GKA Big Air Surfboard World Champion Camille Losserand (SUI) against Serena Luz (BRA). Luz landed the biggest wave score. But less than half a point separated the pair in the end, and Losserand had just done enough to take the win.

"From the beginning I thought I was losing," said Losserand. "So I was surprised when I came to the beach and found I'd won. She's got a good wave, so I wasn't really expecting that win."

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