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Sunday, 18 March 2018 18:00

The Philippines’ Christian Tio secured an inaugural kiteboard racing spot for his country at the upcoming Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in the tightest Asia boys’ qualifying group fought out on the Gulf of Thailand’s peerless waters.

But in the end after five frenetic days of thrilling competition in the TwinTip:Racing (TT:R) Slalom discipline where the lead continually changed hands, 17-year-old Tio stretched his lead to win comfortably with  assured and consistent performances over the final two days.



“It’s been a tough week,” said Tio. “It’s been a goal to get to the Olympics and we’ve been waiting for kiting to get in to the Games for some time, so it feels pretty good to qualify and have the honour of representing my country. Now I’m it, I’ll do my best to win it.”

By contrast China’s Jingle Chen, reigning International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) TT:R Slalom World Champion, was so dominant in the girls’ Asia division that she was able to sit out the final day’s last few races and still coast to victory overall with a comfortable margin.

Yet she is already looking forward to what she will knows will be harder tests at the forthcoming TT:R Slalom Youth Worlds and the Youth Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in October, and is preparing to knuckle down to even more intense training.



“The Olympics are so important to me, so I’m happy to be going,” said Chen, 17. “But right now I feel my level is going to down, so I’ll have to train hard. I was up against the European girls in Italy last year, and they’re very fast.”

In the Oceania boys’ group disputed on the warm waters off Pranburi’s Paknampran Beach, seasoned kitefoil racer Mani Bisschops enjoyed a similarly dominant role, rarely putting a foot wrong and winning almost every one of the division’s 20 races to take the regional berth.



“I’m stoked to get the spot,” said Bisschops. “The Olympics is so prestigious, and now kiting has made it in. To be one of the first people going is amazing. I’ve always looked up to people who made it to the Olympics.”

Racing novice Pia Kitchin Gordon (NZL), the sole Oceania girls’ entrant, was competing  among the tough, mixed fleet of boys and developed in bounds. She bagged the Oceania girls’ spot by virtue of competing.



Yet the Iconic Kitesurfing Youth Olympics Qualifiers, being organised by Kiteboard Tour Asia (KTA) and the Kiteboarding Association of Thailand (KAT), were filled with five nerve-jangling days of racing that showcased the TT:R Slalom format specially-developed for YOG at its finest.

With just four YOG spots available—two for boys and two for girls each from Asia and Oceania—the competition was bound to be intense. Another eight of a total of 24 spots available had already be allocated in qualifiers in Cabarete, Dominican Republic, and Dakhla, Morocco.

But it was the Pranburi qualifier’s Asia boys’ division that threw up the most enthralling battles, with local favourite, Sarun “Nai” Rupchom (THA), leading the standings and looking tough to beat over the opening days.



In the last two days, though, as the breezes moderated from the perfect 20kts of the opening days, Rupchom’s challenge went awry as the pressure seemed to get to him and he suffered several disqualifications for crossing the startline early.

The mistakes cost the Thai rider dearly and he finished third overall, overhauled by China’s Haoran Zhang, another early leader. Zhang’s gritty performances kept him in the hunt and he took the second step on the podium.



Both Rupchom and Zhang will be looking to set matters right when they go to the IKA TT:R Slalom Youth Worlds in Hainan, China, in May, when the last eight YOG places will be on offer for those who top the standings.
  
Top three boys Asia division (after 20 elimination rounds, four discards)
1 Christian Tio (PHI)                           26pts
2 Haoran Zhang (CHN)                       34pts
3 Sarun Rupchom (THA)                    41pts

Top three girls Asia division (after 20 races, four discards)
1 Jingle Chen (CHN)                           16pts
2 Kewen Li (CHN)                               32pts
3 Nichanan Rodthong (THA)               43.3pts                                   

Top three boys Oceania division (after 20 races, four discards)
1 Mani Bisschops (AUS)                     16pts
2 Aaron Kenny (AUS)                         31pts
3 William Barlette (AUS)                     54pts

Top girl Oceania division (after 20 races, four discards)
1 Pia Kitchin Gordon (NZL)                    53pts

Saturday, 17 March 2018 16:25

China’s Jingle Chen again proved untouchable at the Asia and Oceania Youth Olympic Games (YOG) kiteboard racing qualifiers, putting in another flawless shift to win all her races on the warm, flat waters of the Gulf of Thailand.

None of Chen’s rivals in the girls’ Asia division seemed to have any answers for the pace and consistency of the reigning TwinTip:Racing (TT:R) Slalom Open World Champion in the lighter 14kts breezes on day four of the qualifiers being staged off Pranburi’s glorious Paknampran Beach.

Chen has barely put a foot wrong and won every one of her races in the girls’ Asia division, giving her a commanding lead that almost assures her the qualification spot going into the final day.



But she will be looking to measure herself against the rather stiffer competition of the world’s fastest girls at the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) TT:R Slalom Youth Worlds in Hainan, China, in May, where the last eight YOG qualification spots will be on offer.

“This may not be the hardest racing for me, but it’s really good training,” said Chen, 17. “At home in China, we don’t really get to train courses of obstacles and buoys. I’m having fun and still learning a lot, jumping the obstacles with better pop and down-looping the kite faster at the marks.”

Her closest rival at the Iconic Kitesurfing Youth Olympics Qualifiers, team-mate Kewen Li, has misfortune of following in Chen’s wake in every race. But as a kiter of just eight months’ experience she feels lucky to have chance to be part of the ambitious Chinese team.



“I’ve only ever done racing, but here with every heat I feel I’m learning so much,” said Li, also 17. “Having Chen in front of me always gives me something to aim for and I try to get as close to her as possible. I’m definitely getting faster and faster.”

In the girls’ Oceania division Pia Kitchin Gordon finds herself racing in a mixed fleet with the Oceania boys as she is the only entrant, guaranteeing her a qualification spot for the Games in Buenos Aires in October.
           
But the determined 17-year-old who has been racing for just three weeks has been getting quicker, notching up a clutch of third places finishes that had taken her to third on the leaderboard. But she slipped to fourth on day four after hitting the obstacle that pushed her down he order.



The highly-competitive Asia boys’ fleet at the qualifiers, organised by Kiteboard Tour Asia (KTA) and Kiteboarding Association of Thailand (KAT), threw up yet another change of lead after the Philippines’ Christian Tio topped the standings.

Tio, a rising kiteboard freestyle star, bagged a trio of first place finishes in the key elimination round deciders, to push local boy and overnight leader Sarun “Nai” Rupchom (THA) into third spot overall.



Tio’s consistency was in contrast to Rupchom, who seemed to be feeling the pressure, crossing the startline early and earning himself a costly disqualification in the day’s last elimination round decider.
           
The Philippines’ rider’s performances also gave him a clear lead in the standings over second placed Haoran Zhang, of China. Tio has clearly learned quickly since the opening exchanges of the competition, growing faster and fine-tuning his TT:R Slalom race craft.


           
“To tell you the truth I was a bit surprised at the start, seeing the level being so high here,” said Tio. “But I think I’ve now adapted to that level. I also know to hold a bit back and conserve energy in the heats, so that I can go for it in the elimination deciders.”

Top three boys Asia division (after 16 elimination rounds, four discards)
1 Christian Tio (PHI)                           18pts
2 Haoran Zhang (CHN)                       24pts
3 Sarun Rupchom (THA)                    26pts

Top three girls Asia division (after 16 races, four discards)
1 Jingle Chen (CHN)                           12pts
2 Kewen Li (CHN)                               23pts
3 Nichanan Rodthong (THA)               35.3pts                                   

Top three boys Oceania division (after 16 races, four discards)
1 Mani Bisschops (AUS)                     12pts
2 Aaron Kenny (AUS)                         24pts
3 William Barlette (AUS)                     38pts

Top girl Oceania division (after 16 races, four discards)
1 Pia Kitchin Gordon (NZL)                 39pts

Full results, all elimination series results, and live scoring atwww.twintipracing.com

Saturday, 17 March 2018 04:16

None of the top contenders in the hotly-contested boys’ Asia division at the Youth Olympics Games (YOG) kiteboard racing qualifiers in Thailand had it all their own way in a day of dramatic ups and downs.

But local favourite Sarun “Nai” Rupchom—whose home waters off Pranburi’s Paknampran Beach are hosting the unfolding drama—again climbed to the top of the leaderboard, but only by the finest of margins.



Rupchom notched up two wins in the vital elimination round deciders in kiteboarding’s fast and furious International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) TwinTip:Racing (TT:R) Slalom discipline, but crashed and suffered a poor start in two others that put him down the order.

Yet his performances on day three of the Iconic Kitesurfing Youth Olympic Qualifiers for the Asia and Oceania regions were enough to keep him just ahead of his Philippines rival, Christian Tio.



Both leapfrogged overnight leader, China’s Haoran Zhang, who won the day’s last elimination decider in perfect breezes of 20kts, only to discover he had been disqualified for being over the startline within one minute of the “go” signal.

Yet with two days of competition remaining and just one point separating the leading Asia boys’ trio, any of them could yet claim the sole spot and earn the right to go to the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires in October.

Three other spots, one for the Asia girls’ division and a boy and girl each from Oceania, are up for grabs at the competition, organised by Kiteboard Tour Asia (KTA) and the Kiteboarding Association of Thailand (KAT).

In the Asia girls’ division, reigning IKA TT:R Slalom World Champion, China’s Jingle Chen, 17, was untouchable with another flawless day to keep her head of the leaderboard, a performance matched by Australia’s Mani Bisschops, who tops the boys’ Oceania division.



In the girls’ Oceania division New Zealand’s Pia Kitchin Gordon is the only entrant and is racing in a mixed group among the boys. But with growing confidence and speed she took several third places and a second that illustrated a marked improvement on her opening days’ forays.

Like all but five of the other competitors at the Pranburi qualifiers she is riding an Upeksha Gawa board specially designed for the downwind TT:R Slalom format that was crafted for YOG to foster excitement and spectacle.



Uniquely, of all the kiteboard manufacturers, the boutique Upeksha brand based locally in Pranburi was the only one to submit a specialist slalom design—the Gawa—for registration with the IKA for the Youth Games.

Coaches at well-funded and ambitious teams have had their riders testing the long and slender carbon-fibre Gawa boards for several months and quickly realised it could give their team members a crucial edge in speed and control.

Dahui Zhai, head coach of the Chinese national team, discovered the board could be a vital one or two percent faster—though others reckon as much as six percent quicker—and put his boys  and girls on the Gawa.



“We’re really prepared to look for any advantage within the rules because this is so important to us,” said Zhai. “Take Jingle Chen, she’s been kiting since 2012, but some of our boys only started in 2016. So we have to try our best to find the best equipment to win the events and the places. I think it’s totally fair because the IKA made the rules. If it’s faster, that’s good for the event and for kiting.”

Bong Fernando, the Philippines’ team coach, is also sold. “For sure there’s a reason the team is using these boards. In my experience in TT:R the Upeksha Gawa has much better performance compared to a normal twin-tip. It has more speed and more grip. The other companies only registered normal twin-tips, but the Gawa is specially designed.”

Upeksha’s founder and director of engineering, Craig Chandler, has been excited by the reaction as more and more teams from around the world have been seeking out Gawa boards in the hope of securing places at the Youth Games.



“Right now, of the 10 places so far allocated for Argentina, six of the riders will be on our Gawa boards. By the finish of the event here in Pranburi, we very much hope we’ll add another three to that as most of the riders competing are on the board. It’s way beyond our wildest dreams.”

Top three boys Asia division (after 12 elimination rounds, four discards)
1 Sarun Rupchom (THA)                    13pts
2 Christian Tio (PHI)                           13pts
3 Haoran Zhang (CHN)                       14pts

Top three girls Asia division (after 12 races, four discards)
1 Jingle Chen (CHN)                           8pts
2 Kewen Li (CHN)                               15pts
3 Nichanan Rodthong (THA)               24.3pts                                   

Top three boys Oceania division (after 12 races, four discards)
1 Mani Bisschops (AUS)                     8pts
2 Aaron Kenny (AUS)                         16pts
3 William Barlette (AUS)                     24pts

Top girl Oceania division (after 12 races, four discards)
1 Pia Kitchin Gordon (NZL)                 24pts

Full results, all elimination series results, and live scoring atwww.twintipracing.com

Thursday, 15 March 2018 17:07

Intense battles at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) kiteboard racing qualifiers being played out on the Gulf of Thailand’s pristine waters saw the leaderboard reshuffled as the top young athletes got faster, with little between the leading trio.

China’s Haoran Zhang climbed to the top of the standings in boys’ Asia division in a day of gripping action on the water that ensured the lead swung back and forth in the tight TwinTip:Racing (TT:R) Slalom discipline that will be used in the upcoming Youth Olympics in Argentina.



His ascendency gives the strong Chinese team control of the Asia division, with reigning senior International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) TT:R Slalom World Champion, Jingle Chen, in pole position in the girls’ group.



Day two of the Iconic Kitesurfing Youth Olympic Qualifiers being staged off Pranburi’s majestic Paknampran Beach again offered perfect thermal breezes that quickly built from 16kts to more than 20kts, ideal for TT:R Slalom’s short, sharp downwind races that include obstacles for added drama.

The winners of competition, being organised by Kiteboard Tour Asia (KTA) and the Kiteboarding Association of Thailand (KAT), will earn the right to fight for kiteboarding’s first Olympic medals in Buenos Aires in October.

Two boys and two girls from Asia and Oceania will go through from the Pranburi event, which follows other regional qualifiers in Cabarete, Dominican Republic, and Dakhla, Morocco, with the final eight slots available at the TT:R Slalom Youth Worlds in Hainan, China, in May.



In the Oceania division the seasoned kitefoil racer Mani Bisschops (AUS) appears to have the spot in the bag barring disasters as he has won every one of his races and is clear at the top of the leaderboard, while Pia Kitchin Gordon (NZL), racing in the mixed fleet, is assured of a spot as she is the only girl in the group.

But with three days of competition left, there is everything to play for in the boys’ Asia group. The second day delivered excitement in spades as the overnight leader Sarun “Nai” Rupchom, who had looked unassailable on day one, faltered.

In the day’s first elimination final Rupchom broke a bridle line on his 13m kite in the dash for the first mark and was out of the race. His ill-luck was compounded by a series of poor starts that left him playing catch-up with his closest rivals.



But in his efforts to close the gap in the other elimination deciders, he made more errors, hitting the obstacles or crashing in the increasingly-gnarly conditions, leaving him second on the leaderboard, a point adrift of Zhang.

“It’s just not my day today,” said Rupchom. “In one of the elimination finals I started third and got to second. But in pushing for first place I hit the obstacle and crashed. But there’s plenty of racing left and I believe I can come back.”

Zhang capitalised on Rupchom’s mixed fortunes, using his growing experience of the track and the conditions to take three first spots on the day.

“It feels good,” said Zhang. “I had a great day. It wasn’t perfect, but I feel I’m getting faster. I definitely feel a lot more confident than I did on the first day, though the racing’s getting closer and closer.”

Zhang also sits just ahead of rising freestyle star, the Philippines’ Christian Tio, who also upped his game on the second day of competition with a win and a clutch of seconds to take third spot on the leaderboard, equal on points with Rupchom.



“I think I’m getting used to the conditions here now,” said Tio, explaining his improved showing. “I liked today’s stronger winds. I had good power in the kites. But the Chinese guy is very fast. I just have to go faster to beat him.”
            
Top three boys Asia division (after eight elimination rounds, three discards)
1 Haoran Zhang (CHN)                       7pts
2 Sarun Rupchom (THA)                    8pts
3 Christian Tio (PHI)                           8pts
  
Top three girls Asia division (after eight races, three discards)
1 Jingle Chen (CHN)                           5pts
2 Kewen Li (CHN)                               9pts
3 Maebelle Gaisan                              15pts                          

Top three boys Oceania division (after eight races, three discards)
1 Mani Bisschops (AUS)                     5pts
2 Aaron Kenny (AUS)                         10pts
3 William Barlette (AUS)                     14pts

Top girl Oceania division (after eight races, three discards)
1 Pia Kitchin Gordon (NZL)                 17pts

Full results, all elimination series results, and live scoring atwww.twintipracing.com

YOG qualification events

North and South America: Cabarette, DOM, 15-20 January 2018
Europe and Africa: Dakhla, MAR, 20-25 February 2018
Asia and Oceania: Pranburi, THA, 13-18 March 2018
2018 TT:R Youth Slalom World Championships: Boao, CHN, 03-08 May 2018

Wednesday, 14 March 2018 17:23

The opening exchanges in the hotly-contested battles to secure a spot to fight for kiteboarding’s first medals at the upcoming Youth Olympic Games (YOG) saw young riders push to the limit in glorious racing conditions in Thailand.

In thermal breezes that freshened to about 20kts under clear tropical skies, the young competitors fought tooth and nail for the four slots available for the Asia and Oceania regions.

With such high stakes due to the limited number of places—just two for boys and two for girls—the contests in the fast-paced TwinTip:Racing (TT:R) Slalom discipline was intense, with white-knuckle photo-finishes and spills as the wind picked up.



But on the first of five days of competition at the Iconic Kitesurfing Youth Olympic Qualifiers, organised by Kiteboard Tour Asia (KTA) and the Kiteboarding Association of Thailand (KAT), several riders signalled their intent with dominant performances that saw them top the standings in the respective boys’ and girls’ divisions.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was Thailand’s Sarun “Nai” Rupchom. He won almost every one of this races. With near impeccable timing he seized the vital lead at the startlines, allowing him to round the first mark ahead. From there he dominated the five downwind legs, had clear water at the obstacles, and took the wins.



Yet even Rupchom showed he was not infallible. In the day’s last elimination round decider Rupchom crossed the startline fractionally early and was disqualified OCS, though the error was not too costly as the 17-year-old was able to discard the score from his tally.

“I’m getting good starts,” said Rupchom, just before he faltered. “The start’s so important because it means I can get to the first mark in the lead. Then after that it’s very difficult for anyone to pass if I don’t make a mistake.”

In his day’s last race his mistake allowed the Philippines’ Christian Tio, a freestyler more than a racer, to take the elimination decider win and push him up to second overall in the Asia boys’ division.



With each race he believes he is improving his tactical appreciation. But he acknowledged he faces fierce competition from the Thailand team and the strong Chinese riders in the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) TT:R Slalom format specially design for YOG in Argentina in October.

“It’s really tough, much tougher than I expected,” said Tio,16. “Everybody’s been training really hard for the Youth Olympics, and now everyone’s fighting really hard for that place. I’ve adjusted my tactics a bit to try to get better starts. I’ve also been trying to tum more quickly at the marks.”

In the girls’ Asia division China’s Jingle Chen, the reigning senior TT:R Slalom World Champion, blotted a perfect record in her day’s last race when she crashed her 11m kite rounding the second mark at full speed in the lead, allowing her team-mate Kewen Li to take the win.



But Chen, who had otherwise dominated the group with her pace and tactical nous, could laugh off the slip up. She, too, was able to discard the score to give her the overall lead.

“I feel comfortable that I’m controlling the races,” said Chen. “But I realise the other girls are getting faster and faster the more they race. So I’ll I have to be on my guard in the days ahead.”

If anything it was a day of minor slip-ups for the leading contenders. Australia’s Mani Bisschops, in his last race in the Oceania division, seemed to have a clean sweep of wins in the bag when he caught a piece of chop and briefly crashed.



But he fought his way back into contention and was lucky enough to see his rival, Arron Kenny (AUS) suffer the same fate on the next downwind leg allowing Bisschops to regain the lead and take the win to stay top of the leaderboard.

“I think my kitefoil racing experience has really helped me a lot,” said Bisschops. “Although the TT:R starts are quite different from foiling, being able to use your watch and timing efficiently is really important.”
           
Top three boys Asia division (after four elimination rounds, one discard)
1 Sarun Rupchom (THA)                    3pts
2 Christian Tio (PHI)                           7pts
3 Haoran Zhang (CHN)                       7pts

Top three girls Asia division (after four races, one discard)
1 Jingle Chen (CHN)                           3pts
2 Kewen Li (CHN)                               5pts
3 Nichanan Rodthong (THA)               9pts                            

Top three boys Oceania division (after four races, one discard)
1 Mani Bisschops (AUS)                     3pts
2 Aaron Kenny (AUS)                         6pts
3 William Barlette                                9pts

Top girl Oceania division (after four races, one discard)
1 Pia Kitchin Gordon                           11pts

Tuesday, 13 March 2018 16:00

The fastest young riders from across Asia and Oceania are lining up to battle for the chance to compete for kiteboarding’s inaugural medals at the upcoming Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Argentina.

Kiteboarders from seven countries around the region have been fine-tuning their TwinTip:Racing Slalom skills on the warm, flat waters off Pranburi’s glorious palm-fringed Paknampran Beach on the Gulf of Thailand’s western flank.



The International Kiteboarding Association’s (IKA) YOG qualifier for Asia and Oceania is set to take place over five days of gripping action on the water that will earn the winners—one boy and girl each from Asia and Oceania—the right to take the starting line in Buenos Aires in October.

The Iconic Kiteboarding Youth Olympic Qualifier, organised by the Kitebaord Tour Asia (KTA) and the Kiteboarding Association of Thailand (KAT), is the third of four scheduled events and follows those in Cabarete, Dominican Republic, and Dakhla, Morocco.

The final of the total of 24 YOG spots available—12 for boys and 12 for girls—will be up for grabs at the TT:R Slalom Youth World Championships in Hainan, China, in May, where many of the quickest racers so far unlucky enough not to bag one of the limited spots will compete.

In Pranburi a total of 18 riders, 14 from Asia and four from Oceania, will go head-to-head in the high-octane downwind slalom races of five short legs, with buoys to be jumped to add to the drama and spectacle, in the format specially designed for YOG.



Riders are restricted to four registered inflatable “tube” kites and one registered TwinTip board that must fit within certain dimensions. The TT:R Slalom format, with simple equipment used by most kitesurfers, aims to make it as accessible as possible for the young riders, all born between 2000 and 2003.

With a good forecast of moderate, 15kts thermal breezes for the coming days in Pranburi, the competition is bound to be intense, with the biggest teams from China, the Philippines and Australia.

In the girls’ Asia division China’s Jingle Chen, the reigning senior IKA TT:R Slalom World Champion, a title she snatched on home turf in Pingtan last September, must be a hot contender to  qualify.



But she could find herself pushed hard in the Asia division by the Philippines’ Maebelle Gajisan, who also posted strong showings in the windy conditions in Pingtan.

Among the boys’ Asia division the Philippines’ Christian Tio, a rising international freestyle star, must be considered a good bet to be at the top of the order, though local favourite Sarun “Nai” Rupchom will also be looking to build on the back of a win in the warm-up TT:R Slalom Thailand Championships this last weekend.



In the Oceanic division, young kitefoil racer Mani Bisschops, of Australia, will be keen to see if his experience will give him an edge in the very different TT:R Slalom discipline.

Competition will commence daily from 14 to 18 March with a first possible start at noon.

Monday, 26 February 2018 00:42

Young riders from Europe and Africa earned their chance to compete for the inaugural kiteboarding medals at the upcoming Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Argentina in a nail-biting finale to the qualification event in Dakhla, Morocco.

Italy’s Sofia Tomasoni’s performances were so dominant in the girls’ European division that she had her slot in the bag even before the last races at the climax of the five-day competition on Dakhla’s renowned kiteboarding lagoon.

Slovenia’s Toni Vodisek in the boy’s European had no such luxury. The extremely quick 17-year-old thought he had blown his chances and allowed bitter rival, France’s Benoit Gomez, to capture the sole spot available after failing to make last elimination round decider.

Saturday, 24 February 2018 23:50

The battle for the sole slot in the girls’ European division for the forthcoming Youth Olympic Games (YOG) kitebaord racing discipline saw perhaps some of the most keenly fought contests at the qualifier being staged in Dakhla, Morocco.

Margins between the top girls are so fine that even after exhaustive heats in the pulsating Twin-Tip:Racing slalom-boardercross format, the push for the line in the elimination round deciders often ended tense photo-finishes.



But on the penultimate day four of the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) qualifier, Italy’s Sofia Tomasoni stood on top of the pile in the European division after a series of dominant performances, though still only a few points separated her from her nearest rivals.

Tomasoni, recently-crowned IKA TT:R Youth World Champion in Brazil, is well aware that  everything is still to play for going into the final day of competition being played out on the flat waters of Dakhla’s fabled kiting lagoon in tricky breezes that often top 25kts.

The winners of the four divisions—one each for African and European boys and girls—will earn direct entry to the inaugural kiteboard racing event at the Youth Games in Buenos Aires in October.



The Moroccan qualifier, hosted by sponsor Hotel Dakhla Attitude, with its breath-taking Saharan desert backdrop, follows the North and South American event in Cabarete, Dominican Republic last month.

Riders from Asia and Oceania will get their chance to qualify in Pranburi, Thailand, next month, with the last of the total of 12 slots each for boys and girls on offer at the TT:R Slalom Youth World Championships in Hainan, China, in early May.

Day four of the Dakhla event saw the 61 young racers, 50 from Europe and 11 from Africa, spend long hours on the water as race officials squeezed in three elimination rounds made up of scores of short, high-octane downwind slalom races.



In the boys’ European division Slovenia’s Toni Vodisek seemed to be improving all the time and scooped two elimination round wins, though he faltered in what was almost the last race of the day when posted a disappointing fifth spot.

Yet with discards after three and five races in the breezes that stiffened from 18kts early in the proceedings to 24kts, Vodisek was able to displace the overnight leader, Benoit Gomez, and go top of the standings.

Undoubtedly quick, Gomez suffered the misfortune of picking up penalties for touching other riders’ kites at the tight mark roundings, illustrating just how difficult TT:R can be as competitors jockey for place while pushing at full speed.



In the African qualifying races Morocco’s Jonas Ouahmid again barely skipped a beat, winning almost every time, though he was occasionally bested by South Africa’s Pieter Botha who sits just behind on the leaderboard.

South Africa’s Rut Gouws displaced her fellow countrywoman Johane Botha at the top of the standings for the African division with a series of pacy and confident performances.

But it was Tomasoni’s virtually flawless outing in the face of the stiffest competition in the European division that show she has a real chance of taking the YOG slot if she sticks to her game plan that has worked so far.



“Like everyone else I have bad starts, which is nearly the most important part of the race,” she said. “But the thing that works for me is to stay focused. In the heats you just need to finish in the top three to advance. Then in the elimination round decider I just take risks and go for it. It’s so much fun.”

Spain’s Nina Font Castells, the reigning TT:R Slalom Youth European Champion, moved up to second spot on the leaderboard courtesy of a series of strong performances and a discard that allowed her to dispense with a disastrous second elimination round.

“For me now that we’ve done more races you begin to know a bit more about the other riders around you,” she said. “You never really know what’s going to happen in a race, but you have a better idea of what someone might do. I’m just doing my best. I’m having fun and I love racing with my mates.”

Top three boys European division (after five elimination rounds, two discards) 
1 Toni Vodisek (SLO)                          3pts
2 Benoit Gomez (FRA)                        5pts
3 Lorenzo Boschetti (ITA)                    6.5pts 

Top three girls European division (after five elimination rounds, two discards)
1 Sofia Tomasoni (ITA)                       4pts
2 Nina Font Castells (ESP)                 6pts
3 Sveva di Marcellinara (ITA)              8pts

Top three boys African division (after eight races, three discards)
1 Jonas Ouahmid (MAR)                    5pts
2 Pieter Botha (RSA)                          8pts
3 Terje Magnus Groenewoud (RSA)   11pts

Top three girls African division (after eight races, three discards)
1 Rut Gouws (RSA)                            5pts
2 Johane Botha (RSA)                        9pts
3 Assia Roussafi (MAR)                      15pts

Full rankings and live elimination ladders with scoringcan be found at: www.twintipracing.com

 

Saturday, 24 February 2018 21:44

It was a day of ups and downs as young kiteboard racers from Africa and Europe fought each other and the challenging conditions as they opened their bids to land a place in the upcoming Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Argentina.

The first day of racing at the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) Twin-Tip:Racing (TT:R) regional qualification event in Dakhla, Morocco, finally threw up strong winds that hit more than 30kts, in stark contrast to the light breezes that dogged the competition’s opening two days when no racing was possible.

On day three of the five-day contest, the wind blowing over Dakhla’s renowned flat-water lagoon built so quickly and with such ferocity that most of the riders deployed each of the four variously-sized kites they had registered for the event.



The variable conditions for the high-octane TT:R slalom-boardercross format, specially-designed for YOG in Buenos Aires in October, saw the leads change hands after race officials staged two elimination rounds for the African and European boys and girls’ divisions who were competing in separate groups.

France’s Benoit Gomez clawed his way to the top of the pile in the boys’ European division with a series of gritty performances that earned him a valuable top spot in the first elimination round, and a second in the second that secured him the overnight lead in the standings.



 “The wind was good for the first elimination round, but in the second it was a bit light for my 13m kite,” said Gomez. “So, I’m happy to find myself in such a good spot, especially as there are so many other good riders, some of them my team-mates. We French are here for all the competition.”

Gomez just tops Croatia’s Martin Dolenc, the senior European TT:R title holder. The usually unerring Dolenc had a mixed day when he and a group other riders were disqualified from the first elimination round final for crossing the start line early, though he was able repair some of the damage with a third in the second elimination final.

The quick Slovenian rider, Toni Vodisek, stands third overall in the European division. His similarly difficult day, when he failed even to make the first elimination round final and then won the second, illustrates just how tricky it can be to achieve consistent performances in the format with all its potential for dramatic tangles at marks rounded at full speed by riders barely metres apart.

If anything, the women’s European division was even more topsy-turvy, with several riders taking the top spot in one elimination round final, only to post a poor showing of even fail to make the day’s other elimination final, pushing them down the standings.
           
Nonetheless, Italy’s Sveva di Marcellinara was pleased with her fourth spot overall in the standings given the tricky conditions and that she was still fine-tuning the set-up of her specialist Upeksha Gawa slalom board.

“Now I’m happy,” said di Marcellinara, who won her second elimination round final. “After that first race I was far from happy. In the second elimination round I had a very difficult early heat and I was a bit scared. But I realised I was fast and it gave me a lot of confidence.”

The European girls’ division is topped by current TT:R Slalom Youth World Champion, Sofia Tomasoni (ITA), who posted consistent high-placed finishes in both the day’s elimination finals, and sits just above France’s Lola Ulrich.



In the African’s division’s smaller fleet local favourite Jonas Ouahmid (MAR) won both his races. But he was penalised for receiving outlawed outside help to change his kite size, putting him second on the leaderboard just behind South Africa’s Pieter Botha. Johane Botha (RSA) swapped first and second spots with her countrywoman Rut Gouws, to take first and second respectively in the standings.

The winners of each of the four divisions at the Dakhla event, being hosted by official sponsor Hotel Dakhla Attitude, will earn direct qualification for the YOG, while others could still stand a chance of qualification at the IKA TT:R Slalom Youth World Championships in Hainan, China, in May.


Top three boys European division (after two elimination rounds)
1 Benoit Gomez (FRA)                        3pts
2 Martin Dolenc (CRO)                       11pts
3 Toni Vodisek (SLO)                          12pts  

Top three girls European division (after two elimination rounds)
1 Sofia Tomasoni (ITA)                       5pts
2 Lola Ulrich (FRA)                             7pts
3 Oliwia Hobuczek (POL)                    10pts

Top three boys African division (after two races)
1 Pieter Botha (RSA)                          5pts
2 Jonas Ouahmid (MAR)                    6pts
3 Terje Magness Groenewoud (RSA) 8pts

Top three girls African division (after two races)
1 Johane Botha (RSA)                        3pts
2 Rut Gouws      (RSA)                       3pts
3 Assia Roussafi (MAR)                      6pts

Full rankings and live elimination ladders with scoringcan be found at: www.twintipracing.com

Friday, 23 February 2018 01:10

The prospect of a place on the Youth Olympic Games’ (YOG) stage—or better, a medal—has seen a dramatic transformation in the way kiteboarding is viewed, with national teams pouring unprecedented resources into their efforts to secure a spot.

The largest teams at the qualifying event for Europe and Africa being staged in Dakhla, Morocco, now all boast coaches to give their young riders the best possible chance of securing one of four coveted spots on offer for the Games in Argentina.

The “Olympics effect” has already been seen in the dramatic upsurge in interest at a national level as young riders have flocked to competitions in the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) Twin-Tip:Racing (TT:R) format specially designed for the YOG.

But on the second of the five-day competition in Morocco, hosted by official sponsor Hotel Dakhla Attitude, the wind was largely absent, preventing racing. The forecast for the forthcoming final three days looks promising, however, giving the winners of the respective divisions, a boy and girl each from Africa and Europe, the chance to earn a YOG berth.

The Dakhla qualifier hosting 61 young riders under 19 years—50 from Europe and 11 from Africa—is the second event after Cabarete, Dominican Republic, and will be followed by another in Pranburi, Thailand, for the Asia and Oceania region. The final chance for qualification will come at the TT:R Youth World Championships in Hainan, China, in May, completing the line-up of 12 boys and 12 girls who will compete in Buenos Aires in October.

With so few places on offer for Europe in Dakhla—just one boy and one girl—the biggest and best resourced teams are already planning to attend the Worlds in China as part of their campaign to bag YOG spots.

Antoine Weiss, with the French team of six boys and girls in Dakhla, has been coach for almost a year, helping Victor Bachichet win the TT:R European Youth title. The French Sailing Federation (FFV) funds Weiss’s position and that of a physiotherapist to ensure their young athletes are in peak condition.

“With the Olympics everything has changed,” said Weiss. “Before we just had a lot of fun kitesurfing. But with TT:R in the Youth Olympics, that was a big change. The Olympics are a big goal for us in France. It’s a great opportunity that we’re eager to make the most of.”

France has five training centres spread around the coastline where the team members go for coaching, depending on where they live in the country. It is another measure of the national emphasis the country places on securing a medal.

Britain’s Steph Bridge is the honorary coach of the small British team that includes sons Tom and Guy. But although her resources are more modest than others fighting for contention, she recognises the positive effect Olympics’ inclusion has had on kiteboarding.

“When we start talking [Olympic] rings, then we start to see money appearing for coaching,” she said. “That kind of thing makes it more professional. The [World Sailing] Member National Authority gives support as they want their country to come back with a medal. It’s positive for the sport as it attracts more attention and more people get involved in kiting.”

Veteran racer Alejandro Climent Hernandez is a relative new-comer as coach of the Spanish riders composed of three boys and four girls, among them Nina Font Castells, the European Youth Champion and runner-up at the Youth Worlds in Brazil.

By contrast Simone Vannucci has been coach for exactly a year to the largest team in Dakhla, the 10-strong Italian squad. His position is funded by the Italian Sailing Federation (FIV), which places enormous emphasis on its youth programme.

“I think the kind of experiences the athletes have in these kind of events will stay with them for the rest of their lives, whether they ultimately stick with kiteboarding or not,” said Vannucci. “These experiences of competing and meeting kids who speak different languages, that’s something they can’t learn in school.”

The Italian team were among the many young riders who were keen to interact with a group of 35 local Moroccan children who came to the event to share the stoke of kiteboarding.

Aziz Ouakrim, of the Association of Dakhla Lagoon, organised the trip. “These kids are from local schools and associations and we wanted to give them the chance to discover kitesurfing while this international event is on, as kitesurfing is becoming bigger and bigger in the area.”


Full rankings and live elimination ladders with scoring can be found at:www.twintipracing.com

YOG qualification events

North and South America: Cabarette, DOM, 15-20 January 2018
Europe and Africa: Dakhla, MAR, 20-25 February 2018
Asia and Oceania: Pranburi, THA, 13-18 March 2018
2018 TT:R Youth Slalom World Championships: Boao, CHN, 03-08 May 2018 (TBC)

pranburi

Last Event

YOG Qualifier for Asia and Oceania

Pranburi 2018

Thailand

 Event Winners

male Christian Tio
Mani Bisships
PhilippinesAustralia
female Jingle Chen
Pia Kitchin Gordon
China
New Zealand
Full Results

Current World Ranking Standings

Men
 1 Martin Dolenc Croatia 331 pts
 2 Florian Gruber Germany 330 pts
 3 Theo de Ramecourt France 289 pts
Women
 1 Jingle Chen China 270 pts
 2 Kirstyn O'Brien United States 243 pts
 3 Elena Kalinina Russia 201 pts
Boys
 1 Victor Bachichev France 326 pts
 2 Benoit Gomez France 326 pts
 3 Cameron Maramenides United States 321 pts
Girls
 1 Sofia Tomasoni Italy 336 pts
 2 Nina Font Castells Spain 318 pts
 3 Poema Newland France 291 pts

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