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2023 KiteFoil World Series Final in Zhuhai - Day 3

by Andy Rice 2 Dec 2023 09:58 PST 30 November - 3 December 2023
World's best men and women racing off one busy start line - 2023 KiteFoil World Series Final in Zhuhai, Day 3 © IKA Media / Robert Hajduk

According to the Old Testament legend of Samson, when Delilah cut his hair he lost all his power. The opposite appears to be true for Martin Dolenc. Having had his hair cut on Friday evening in the Chinese city of Zhuhai, the Croatian rider finally got his mojo back.

After two difficult days on the water, not least an exploding kite in a particularly nasty gust at the end of a blustery day two, day three of the Lakewood Hills KiteFoil World Series China was when things came good for the freshly-shorn Dolenc.

Mind over Maeder

"Finally I found my groove," smiled Dolenc. "I didn't hit any fish! I think I sailed well the other days but had bad luck. Today I felt I was going fine, always battling with the top two. After a good first race I felt I had the speed and just happy to have had a good day overall." Today's scores of 3,1,4,2 lift him to fourth overall, a few points behind Denis Taradin of Cyprus, but some way back from the front two - Slovenia's Toni Vodisek and Singapore's Max Maeder.

It came as some relief after the treacherous conditions of Friday - when the gusts were squalling up to 30 knots - to get back to more manageable breeze between 10 to 13 knots. However, that doesn't mean the obstacles beneath the surface - the fish or the plastic bags - were any less of a threat. Where Vodisek had struggled with bad plastic bag luck on the previous day, today it was Maeder who felt like he had the bag magnet on his foil.

Crash, bang, wallop

But, as Maeder was the first to admit, some of his ill fortune was down to his own judgement, not least picking up a UFD disqualification for starting a fraction too early on a congested line. "I was pushed and I wanted a good start," shrugged the Singaporean teenager whose last UFD came more than four years ago in 2019. "I was adamant in keeping my good start, so I stuck my nose out - and paid the price."

At the climax of the last of today's four races, it was a photo-finish between Maeder and Dolenc as they powered across the line in excess of 30 knots. "I was cheering a little bit for Martin because I wasn't sure about the points," admitted Vodisek, although even with Maeder edging the win over Dolenc, it's still Vodisek who leads by a point going into the final day. It's a critical advantage to be wearing the leader's yellow bib as this puts the Slovenian on two wins compared with Maeder's one, meaning Vodisek is just one race win away from taking the title in Zhuhai.

Maeder conceded that he has his work cut out on Sunday if he's to turn the tables on his arch-rival. "It's certainly an advantage that Toni has over me. We'll have fun in the finals. We can't complain, because the others have to fight through the repechage, everyone else has to battle through to the final." Vodisek joked that it's his turn to take a win off Maeder. "Max already beat me when we were playing Mario Kart two days ago, but I can even out the wins tomorrow on the water."

Of course there are other riders in the mix, not least Dolenc who will be looking to carry through the momentum of today's success into the Medal Series, as well as other top riders such as Taradin, Flo Gruber of Germany and a strong squad of Chinese riders led by Qibin Huang, who beat Maeder last weekend at the Formula Kite Asia & Oceania Championships in Shenzhen.

In the women's contest, Lauriane Nolot must have been wondering why she was dogged by such bad plastic luck in the early races today. "I couldn't avoid the plastic in the water, crashing all the time, five or six plastic bags in the first three races. But in the final race I avoided all the plastic and I'm happy to have finished with a good race."

This puts Nolot in second overall behind Jingle Chen of China. Just as Huang enjoyed an important psychological breakthrough last week with his historic victory of Maeder, Chen is hoping she can beat the reigning Formula Kite World Champion from France in Sunday's four-rider showdown. "I'm very excited for tomorrow, it will be just four people which makes it easier to show your level, competing close to each other. Let's see! I hope to win, because if I beat Lauriane in this event, it will make me more confident for next year." Next year being Olympic year, the debut for kiteboarding in the Games.

While today was a setback for Nolot, she's not giving up the fight easily. "Jingle is doing an impressive job. She is pushing hard and it's a good fight between us. This afternoon I will rest and have a massage, and then I will come back tomorrow with as much power and energy as possible, and smash it."

Results Men

    1. Toni Vodisek, SLO - 14.0 p
    2. Maxilimian Maeder, SGP - 15.0 p
    3. Denis Taradin, CYP - 29.0 p

Results Women

    1. Jingle Chen, CHN - 128.0 p
    2. Lauriane Nolot, FRA - 138.0 p
    3. Wan Li, CHN - 143.0 p

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