A large fleet of young kitefoil athletes—its ranks swollen by growing numbers of women—has lined up on the spectacular Italian resort island of Sardinia to fight for the coveted European championship titles.
The Mediterranean track, framed Torregrande’s expansive sandy beach on Oristano Gulf, will play host to five days’ intense race action in the Formula Kite class, the format for kiteboarding’s Olympic debut at the 2024 Paris Games' watersports venue in Marseille.
The inclusion of mixed relay kitefoil racing in the Olympics’ elite roster has drawn 90 athletes—30 of them women—to the European championships. All the athletes, including a sprinkling of young teenagers, are eager to hone their skills and pit their pace against the world’s fastest competitors.
One day of the scheduled five has been allocated to mixed relay racing, when the winners on the pristine waters of Oristano Gulf’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) will be crowned European champions in the format for the first time.
The MPA, the second largest in Italy, is a vital habitat for posidonia sea grass that acts as a breeding ground for fish in the gulf, while also protecting the shoreline from erosion. The goal of sustainability meshes seamlessly with wind sports like kiteboarding.
“We’re very proud to have this event here in this area,” said Massimo Marras, director of the MPA. “Our aim is sustainability and preservation. Wind sports are highly sustainable. So we want to promote our area through sports like kiteboarding.”
As part of the sustainability drive, the event organisers have tried to make it as plastic free as possible. Each athlete was given a reusable water bottle courtesy of the Open Water Challenge, a rolling annual collective of watersports events at Oristano, chosen as a 2019 European city of sport.
But for the athletes from 22 countries worldwide, the biggest focus will be the 2019 European championship title race, where the men and women will compete separately. The men will be divided into two flights for an opening “qualifying series” of races to seed the top racers for the closing two days’ “finals series”.
In the keenly-contested men’s fleet, the biggest battle is likely to be among the victors at last week’s “open” KiteFoil World Series in Pingtan, China, where Slovenia’s Toni Vodisek took the top podium step with a dominant display.
Yet on Torregrande’s flatter waters in expected lighter breezes, the French duo of Axel Mazella and Théo de Ramecourt, who took the China stop’s second and third podium steps respectively, will no doubt force the 19-year-old Slovenian to bring his “A” game to lift the crown.
Similarly, in the women’s fleet, the four-times Formula Kite world champion, the US’s Daniela Moroz, who also dominated the World Series, is likely to prove untouchable in Torregrande.
But among the Europeans vying for the 2019 crown, the French pair of Alexia Fancelli and the returning Anaïs Mai Desjardins are likely to find themselves locked in a ferocious battles with Britons, Ellie Aldridge and Maddy Anderson, over the coming days of pulsating action.
Full results: www.formulakite.com