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2024 Formula Kite European Championships at Mar Menor, Spain - Overall

by Andy Rice 24 Mar 23:17 PDT 18-24 March 2024
Max Maeder and Lauriane Nolot celebrate on the beach - 2024 Formula Kite European Championships © IKA media / Robert Hajduk

Winds gusting close to 30 knots brought spectacular conditions for the climax of the 2024 Formula Kite European Championship in Mar Menor, Spain.

Reigning World Champions Max Maeder and Lauriane Nolot respectively won the men's and women's European titles, but for the French woman she had to sail at her absolute best to beat her faster rivals. Jessie Kampman and Poema Newland pushed Nolot hard all week, the French dominating the top three of the leaderboard throughout the regatta.

Coup de Grâce

This was part of the French Olympic selection trials and it showed. The intensity of the racing between these three was something to behold, and it drove the French to a level that the rest of the female fleet just couldn't match.

Except perhaps for Elena Lengwiler. The Swiss rider could barely gybe a foiling kiteboard a year ago, but she has made enormous strides in her ability and at times was the fastest rider on the race track. Finishing in fourth place behind the French, and yet she has yet to qualify Switzerland for a place at the Olympic Games. That task will come at the 'Last Chance' Regatta in the South of France a month from now when Lengwiler will surely earn her place for Paris 2024.

Extreme Measures

In the Final, up against those three French riders, Lengwiler was definitely a contender, not just making up the numbers. But in the end the Swiss rider finished just off the podium. A crash in the first race of the Final for Poema Newland was not what this competitive rider was aiming for, but it was so easy to do on a day when the women were resorting to their rarely-used 9 square metre kites which you only ever see in extreme conditions.

Nolot was the early leader for the first race and looked like she was going to win the Europeans in one race. But Kampman had other ideas and overtook her rival on the downwind leg and held the lead to the finish.

Not the fastest, but the smartest

In the next race Nolot spotted an opportunity for a brave port-tack start across her three rivals. She executed the start perfectly and was rewarded with an early lead that Nolot would never relinquish. For once Nolot lacked an extra gear of speed, but instead she made up for it with brave tactics and fully deserved to take the European title. Together with her teammates, it was a clean sweep of the medals for France, Kampman taking silver and Newland the bronze.

In the men's Medal Series, Italy's Riccardo Pianosi and Bruno Lobo of Brazil fought their way out of the men's semi-finals to go up against Axel Mazella and Max Maeder in the Final. But the 17-year-old from Singapore was just too good, Maeder needing only one race to win the title which he last held in 2022. Silver went to Mazella, an incredible result for the Frenchman only recently returned to kiting after a serious knee injury, and bronze to Pianosi.

Unintimidated

Joining the commentary team for the livestream of the final two days of the Europeans was the 2022 World Champion Toni Vodisek. The Slovenian has already qualified for a place at the Games and was taking time away from the water before getting back into competition for the final push towards Paris 2024. Despite Maeder's almost flawless performance, Vodisek still believes he can beat the favourite at the Olympic Games.

It has been a barnstorming start to the Olympic kiteboarding season, and with the World Championships just a few weeks away, there are more thrills and spills to come between now and Paris 2024.

More info at www.kiteclasses.org. (top three)

Men
1. Maximilian Maeder SGP Gold
2. Axel Mazella FRA Silver
3. Riccardo Pianosi ITA Bronze

Women
1. Lauriane Nolot FRA Gold
2. Jessie Kampman FRA Silver
3. Poema Newland FRA Bronze

More info at www.kiteclasses.org.

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