The opening exchanges of the fast-paced kiteboarding twin-tip European championships in southern Italy delivered the expected high-drama that left some of the title favourites licking their wounds as they grappled with the new format and unfamiliar equipment.
One of the biggest surprises came when the US’s Daniela Moroz, the 16-year-old Formula KiteFoil world champion, fell rounding the final mark as she was well clear and cruising to certain victory in the girls’ final.
The crucial mistake after she had easily won her earlier two races in the tricky, shifting thermal breeze that eventually built to 14kts, put her down to third place overall. But with four days of the five-day International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) TT:R Kitesurf European Championships to come, the teenager knows she can rectify her error.
“I just totally messed up my gybe at that last mark,” said Moroz, ruefully. “I had to body-drag for quite a long time to get my board. But at least I was able to get places back on the reach to the finish line and got third in the end.”
The twin-tip slalom format, the same as that to be used at the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina next year, has prompted a huge field of 112 riders from 21 countries to converge on Hang Loose Beach, Gizzeria, to hone their skills in preparing for qualification events that could secure a place in Buenos Aires.
Fast and furious downwind races over five reaches that are wrapped up in barely three minutes require no specialist equipment beyond a twin-tip board and kites, make the competition easily accessible to the average kiteboarder.
But the added excitement of close fought contests with heart-stopping mark roundings and finishes close the shore, make the drama on the perfect, flat Mediterranean waters bathed by reliable thermal breezes compelling viewing.
Croatian Martin Dolenc, 17, competing in the mixed Open division in the fickle breezes that saw the wind back and veer, forcing race officials to take several breaks to reset the course, suffered none of the misfortunes that dogged some of his rivals.
The teenager took two bullets in the two Open finals of the day, leaving him top of the leaderboard in the division courtesy of several good starts and his scorching pace on the short legs that left others in his wake.
“I know I have really, really good speed and I made solid starts that are so important,” he said. “I was on my 18m Flysurfer [kite] which is really good and makes me quick, I think. my gybes around the mark are quite bad, so I really need to work on those.”
With many races still to go and forecast strengthening breezes for the coming days, Germany’s Florian Gruber lies second in the Open division with a third in the first final. But in the second final a spectacular tangle on a blistering reach to the last mark that led to disqualification for France’s Axel Mazella and ended the German’s race, could have cost him dearly.
In the end the jury gave Gruber redress that left him with a nominal third place finish, putting him just ahead overall of racing novice Kirstyn Obrien (USA) who scooped a third and a seventh spot in the two finals.
The boys’ division is led by Britain’s Tom Bridge, the 16-year-old former junior world freestyle champion, who just pipped Slovenian Toni Vodisek and France’s Victor Bachichet, who lie second and third overall respectively.
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER 1 ELIMINATION (BOYS AND GIRLS) / 2 ELIMINATIONS (ADULT OPEN)
1. Tom Bridge (GBR) - 1 point
2. Toni Vodisek (SLO) - 2 points
3. Victor Bachichet (FRA) - 3 points
4. Anthony Picard (FRA) - 4 points
5. Tiger Tyson (ANT) - 5 points
1. Poema Newland (FRA) - 1 point
2. Nina Font Castells (ESP) - 2 points
3. Daniela Moroz (USA) - 3 points
4. Claudia Leon Martinez (ESP) - 4 points
5. Chiara Adobati (ITA) - 5 points
1. Martin Dolenc (CRO) - 2 points
2. Florian Gruber (GER) - 6 points
3. Kirstyn O'Brien (USA) - 10 points
4. Theo de Ramecourt (FRA) - 12 points
5. Stephane Ribert (FRA) - 13 points
All heat results and overall rankings are available through the LIVE scoring athttp://www.twintipracing.com