The world of kitefoil racing has a fast-growing following, but many kiters and kite fans have a lot to learn about how it all works. As the president of the IKA, Mirco Babini has got to be the best person to offer us some insight into the world of speed!
Mirco, thank you so much for joining us for this interview! Where are you today, and what’s keeping you busy?
Thanks for inviting me for this interview. I’m happy to answer and feed the kiteboarding community with some insight. I’m busy in different ways now, mainly the event in Villasimius for organising the GC32 World Championship, which will be in two weeks. I’m pretty wide open to all the fastest sailing classes, and I’m super happy to be so involved in such new programs in the sailing world.
What has been your career path and journey to the role of President of the IKA?
I’m coming from the windsurfer world. Since the early ’80s, I’ve enjoyed the best windsurfing period. Thanks to that, I’ve been in so many parts of the world, known many people and been a windsurfing professional until ’98.
Then, I’ve been involved from day zero in kiteboarding, fascinated by this new sport and a new challenge. In the meantime, I’ve been involved in many other positions for organising events on the logistics and technical side. I was also part of two Americas Cup teams with Luna Rossa in the 35th and Ineos Team UK in the 36th cup.
What is the IKA’s role in competitive kiting?
The IKA is the official body for kiteboarding within World Sailing, the international sailing federation for all global sailing sports.
The hot topic right now is kitefoil racing. For those that are planning to watch an event for the first time, how does a kite foil race work? How many races or heats are there, and how long are they?
Kitefoil racing is growing fast over the last period, and new young comers are starting to fall in love with the performance and the technical skills required, which is insane to watch. There are a lot of races every day, 6 is the target, and they last about 13/15 minutes for a miles leg in the windward/leeward course.
What is the path to the podium?
It takes a lot of training and the best and most fine-tuned equipment as well. Be fast, and make no mistakes!
Athletes have been hard at work training for the Paris Olympics 2024. There have been some changes to the format in the past several months. What is the biggest news about the Olympics?
In Paris 2024, we will have the individual format, which means men and women compete separately for the medal. We will have 20 male and 20 female competitors representing their nation in the next Olympics.
Do you think that the addition of KiteFoil racing to this global event will positively impact the world of kiteboarding? How so?
For sure, 100%, mainly for the next generation. Being in the Olympics means more and more sailing schools will add kiting to their program, and coaches and instructors will become more specialised. More people will join our fast sailing world.
What can you share with those who may be on the fence on whether to try kite foil racing? What gets you the most excited about this style of competitive kiting?
If you’re already a good kiter, start with the foil board and a tube (LEI) kite. Then switch to a foil ram-air kite, and spend some hours on that. As you control it and start to be faster, you will be totally addicted to kite foil!! There’s no way back. Flying over 30 knots is insane!!
The events coming up are classified as either Formula Kite or KiteFoil Open. Can you tell us what the difference between the two is?
The event in Cagliari is the KiteFoil World Series, which is the professional world tour to crown the world champion in this class. We will find the fastest person on the planet. The main difference between the two classes is the registered equipment, which for the Olympic path need to be “blocked” for the Olympic cycle—also, the format with a medal race final.
There are two upcoming KiteFoil Open races, a 3-star race in Traunsee and a 5-star race in Cagliari. What do the star ratings mean for the athletes?
Mainly the prize money, the media input, live streaming and commentary over the weekend. The Cagliari event will have a higher score with a two-day final.
As an Italian, having the Sardinia Grand Slam in Cagliari must be a special experience! Did you grow up windsurfing and kiting in this spot?
I’m really proud to have one of the most important KiteFoil events in Cagliari. Since 2012, we have done as much as possible to keep this event on the international calendar. Poetto Beach is one of the best racing areas in the world.
I’m not born here; I live in Chia, close to Cagliari, but I have been going to Sardinia for 25 years now, and I know really well the potential of this island.
What are you most excited about for the upcoming Sardinia Grand Slam event?
For sure, it will be the record for participation; I’m looking for the excitement of seeing 100 foilers blasting in the Poetto Bay and spending time on the beautiful beach, all organised by GLE, which this year will have some good news to share.
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What is your favourite kite or windsurf spot, and is it a destination on the racing calendar?
Honestly, I don’t have any favourites! I enjoy riding at home or around Sardinia island. But, at the same time, I can have fun in Hawaii, China, or the Canary Islands. Whatever it is, the important thing is to stay with the right friends!!
Thanks so much for your time, Mirco!
See you in Cagliari for the Sardinia Grand Slam 2021!
To find out more about the upcoming Sardinia Grand Slam, visit their website. Don’t forget to tune in to watch the event from October 6-10, 2021. To learn more about the IKA and stay up to date on Olympics news, visit the IKA website.
By Crystal VenessEditor at IKSURFMAG, Crystal Veness hails from Canada but is based in South Africa. When she isn't busy kitesurfing or reporting on the latest industry news for the mag, she is kicking back somewhere at a windy kite beach or working on creative media projects.