Lighter breezes that nevertheless fuelled scintillating downwind slalom racing in the kiteboard TwinTip class saw some of the leaders who had dominated their divisions over the opening days come unstuck and slip down the order.
In particular the US’s Daniela Moroz, the 16-year-old Formula Kite Foil world champion, ceded the overall lead after several poor heats put her down the order and threatened to derail her bid for the crown in the girls’ division of the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) TT:R Kitesurf Europeans in southern Italy.
On the fourth of the five-day competition being hosted on the flat waters off Gizzeria’s Hang Loose Beach in Calabria, the French rider Victor Bachichet, 17, took an opportunity to seize the lead in the boys’ division with an especially gutsy performance in his last elimination final of the day.
But in the Open division, Croatian rider Martin Dolenc, also 17, remained unflappable and blisteringly quick even as his closest rivals found better pace and consistency, chipping away at his overall lead.
The penultimate day of the contest that is employing the format to be used at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Argentina next year was marked by breezes that took time to build and rarely struggled above 12kts.
Yet the 112 riders from 21 nations—including 68 boys and 28 girls who will be eligible for the Games in Buenos Aires—were easily able to post searingly-fast times on the track of five downwind legs, completing each of the dozens of eight-person heats in a little over three minutes.
The slightly softer airs forced race officials to leave out the jumping obstacles that had added to the already spectacular format. But the scorching mark roundings, with riders barely metres apart, led to a clutch of tangles as the pressure mounted on competitors unprepared to give any quarter with a European crown in their sights.
Yet in the girls’ division China’s Jingle Chen nosed her way into the top five of the girls’ standings after a carefully-calculated performance that secured wins in both her day’s elimination rounds, laying to rest her forgettable foray of opening rounds when she crashed or tangled pushing too hard at the wrong times.
“In the first three days I just crashed too many times,” said the 16-year-old who has her sights firmly on the prize of YOG qualification. “I’ve learned that I don’t need to push it to the limit in early rounds and risk not qualifying for the crucial elimination finals.”
Twice on day four Daniela Moroz failed to reach the elimination round finals, ensuring she was knocked off her perch at the top of the leaderboard. Rival, 15-year-old Nina Font Castells (ESP) took that honour even though she, too, had a mixed day at the races.
But Bachichet, one of the riders sporting snowboard-type goggles against the ferocious amount of spray thrown up by other competitors, held his nerve too, to go top of the boys’ standings in a nerve-jangling elimination final.
The French teenager, who took up TwinTip racing just three months ago with YOG qualification his goal, had led the final until the first mark when Toni Vodisek (SLO) squeezed past on the inside in audacious move.
Both tussled all the way down the course’s next four legs until Bachichet finally overhauled his 16-year-old rival in photo-finish after a drag race to the line. It earned Bachichet the boys’ top spot overall, just ahead of Cameron Maramenides (USA) and Vodisek.
Britain’s Olly Bridge also narrowed the gap to Dolenc in the Open division, but with the Croatian commanding the top of the leaderboard since the opening round, he appear to be in pole heading into what will surely be a gripping finale.
Girls’ IKA Europeans top five after 5 elimination rounds (1 discard)
1 Nina Font Castells (ESP) - 10pts
2 Daniela Moroz (USA) - 15pts
3 Alina Kornelli (GER) - 15pts
4 Isotta di Domenico (ITA) - 18pts
5 Jingle Chen (CHN) - 25pts
Boys’ IKA Europeans top five after 5 elimination rounds (1 discard)
1 Victor Bachichet (FRA) - 13pts
2 Cameron Maramenides (USA) - 15pts
3 Toni Vodisek (SLO) - 16pts
4 Anthony Picard (FRA) - 18pts
5 Benoit Gomez (FRA) - 21pts
Open IKA Europeans top five after 10 elimination rounds (two discards)
1 Martin Dolenc (CRO) - 13pts
2 Olly Bridge (GBR) - 19pts
3 Florian Gruber (GER) - 27pts
4 Axel Mazella (FRA) - 37pts
5Theo de Ramecourt (FRA) - 37pts
All heat results and overall rankings are available through the LIVE scoring at