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Kiwi flyer Armit threatens Franco-Italian dominance

by Sardinia Sailing Cup 21 Oct 2023 10:05 PDT 17-22 October 2023
Getting ready for a day of frenetic offshore action © IWSA media / Robert Hajduk

Six short-course qualifying races in offshore wind varying from 6 to 28 knots. Maddalena Spanu of Italy has yet to be beaten in the women's competition.

France's Julien Ratotti maintains a slender lead in the men. Big improver of the day was Josh Armit with three wins for the Kiwi. The Men are now split into Gold, Silver & Bronze Fleet for Saturday. Six short-course races in offshore winds varying from 6 to 28 knots kept the international riders on their toes - or tipped them into the water - on a dramatic second day at WingFoil Racing World Cup Sardinia.

Selecting the perfect sized wing for the day was impossible because conditions were ever-changing. Perhaps that's why newcomer to wingfoil racing Josh Armit fared so well in the ever-variable conditions. Currently campaigning for the Olympics on the one-design iQFOiL windsurfer, Armit is used to having to muscle his way around the race course with the same rig size, regardless of the conditions.

One of the luxuries of wingfoil racing is you can choose whatever size of gear you like. Which means that choosing the right gear is very hard. But perhaps there's something to be said for learning to work with your equipment and make it work even when it's far out of its design range. "It's been fun just learning what equipment is going fast and how to race the course when the races are only four minutes long," said Armit, who fell foul of a black flag disqualification for starting too soon but managed to win three heats towards the end of the day.

With the men's fleet split into three equally balanced qualifying groups, Armit found himself in a battle with Julien Ratotti of France who had dominated both long-distance races on the previous day. Meanwhile in the other two qualifying groups there were some familiar wingfoiling names winning races, Francesco Cappuzzo from Italy winning all three of his heats in the afternoon session after lunch on Poetto Beach.

Also in dominant form was the reigning World Champion from France, Mathis Ghio, who won five out of six heats across the two sessions. "It was good to get into the short-course format again today because I know I am strong in the shorter heats," said Ghio who puts in a phenomenal work rate into his racing and is operating at the cardiovascular limits as he pumps the wing and the foil around the race course almost continuously. Not only does this make him faster through the water but it also enables him to get around the mark even when he's undertacked the lay line.

Tactically Ghio's high workrate is a very strong weapon. "I have been doing this for a while but many other riders are pumping a lot too, so the standard is really going up and the competition is getting closer," he said. "Sometimes you see a gust ahead of you downwind and you want to pump to try to catch the gust and get into the stronger wind. It's not easy but it's worth it if you can pump your way to the better wind."

Despite such a great day, Ghio still sits in third overall on 8 points, equal with Cappuzzo in second, and Ratotti clinging on to first place by less than a point. Tomorrow however, the frontrunners will all square up to each other in Gold Fleet for the first time.

With the wind so gusty and variable, it was inevitable that there would be some disgruntled riders who felt the luck had gone against them. Some might have thought the last race should have been abandoned as the dwindling breeze saw riders dropping off the foil and helplessly into the Mediterranean while others foiled all the way to the finish. But that's the nature of foil-borne competition where the gap between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' is amplified by the huge difference speed. If you're foiling, you could be doing over 30 knots as you skim across the surface even in soft breeze, but if you fall off the foil, you're dead in the water with little hope of redemption.

Whatever the conditions were thrown at the riders, Maddalena Spanu remained unstoppable in her dominance of the women's competition. The 16-year-old Italian has yet to be beaten in a race. Her hard work in the gym is paying off, although she still admitted to being exhausted as she stepped ashore in the late afternoon. "I am hungry, but enough of Italian food! I need a burger, an American burger! Just for one day, then back to Italian," she laughed.

Maybe it's burgers all round for the girls if they want to try to catch up on Spanu. Behind her, two French riders swapped places as Manon Pianazza overtook Orane Ceris for second place, and Poland's Karolina Kluszczynska moved to fourth overall.

While the women continue to race in their own fleet, the men are now reordered into Gold, Silver and Bronze Fleet racing. The top 14 men will contest Gold Fleet on Saturday, with the top 10 men and women progressing to the knockout rounds of the Medal Series on Sunday when the podium places will be decided on Poetto Beach.

Results Men (Day 2)

    1. Julien Ratotti - FRA - 7,2 p
    2. Francesco Cappuzzo - ITA - 8 p
    3. Mathis Ghio - FRA - 8 p

Results Women (Day 2)

    1. Maddalena Maria Spanu - ITA - 8 p
    3. Manon Pianazza - FRA - 22 p
    2. Orane Ceris - FRA - 25 p.

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