Top kitefoil racers play leaderboard Snakes and Ladders at World Series in China. The opening skirmishes at the Weifang Binhai stop of the KiteFoil World Series in north-eastern China saw the leading contenders play Snakes and Ladders as they traded places at the top of the order in stellar conditions. But when the dust settled, France’s multiple former world champion, Maxime Nocher, riding his own Flymaax brand kites, topped the standings with a solid tally of scores that included a bullet, second and third-placed finishes in breezes that built from 7kts to 13kts.
Former world champion, Germany’s Florian Gruber, also opened his account at the second of the four-stop “open” kitefoil tour with an assured bullet and a second that were enough to secure his second spot overall in the standings.
Four-time female Formula Kite world champion, the US’s Daniela Moroz, in the 15-strong women’s fleet racing among the men, finished day one in Shandong province’s Weifang in ninth overall, partly thanks to a remarkable third in the second race.
The first of four days’ competition at the opening of back-to-back World Series’ China stops got off to an unpromising start with stubbornly light airs, but they eventually filled perfectly to allow the race director to squeeze in five high-intensity races.
The second stop following the opening act in Gizzeria, Italy, in July, is sponsored by the Weifang Binhai Tourism Group, whose ambition for the region is reflected in the total prize purse of €60,000, by far the richest in kiteboarding.
The rich pickings have drawn most of the world’s fastest kiteboarders—35 athletes from 15 countries worldwide—eager to battle on the Yellow Sea’s smooth waters. Among their number is a clutch of reigning and former world champions, and the tour’s current leader, 19-year-old Slovenian Toni Vodisek, who triumphed spectacularly in Italy.
Yet his Weifang campaign got off to a faltering start before he found his groove, rounding out the day with two wins that left him fifth overall. He complained cheerfully that his opening races had been marred when his foil, like the other athletes, had struck fish.
“In the first three races I hit things in the water and it cost me, putting me down the order a bit,” said Vodisek. “In the last two races everything was the same, but I didn’t hit anything, that was the difference. So I guess I’m ‘two-fifths’ happy.”
Second-placed Gruber encountered his share of fish too, but his opening win and second-place finish were enough to put him on track for a good result if he can repeat the feat over the coming three days of competition.
“I hit a lot of fish,” said Gruber. “They were even jumping out of the water. But I had a good start to the day with a bullet. And when the wind got stronger towards the close I felt more confident. I’m super-happy. Good start. Let’s push for the next days.”
Leader Nocher also crashed a couple of costly times, courtesy of the fish, he believes. But his speed and consistent scores were sufficient to give him the top spot, though he knows all is still to play for.
“I’m quite happy about my day,” said Nocher. “My kites are going well. Perhaps I don’t have quite the angles of the others. But I’m going fast and my VMG is good. I’m quite happy about the start.”
A beaming Moroz, still 18, was also delighted with her day and the third-placed finish among the men in the ever-faster and more competitive foiling fleet.
“The third—I’ve no idea where that came from,” said Moroz. “I was so stoked. I’d rounded the first top mark in the lead, but Maxime Nocher got ahead by the bottom mark. Still, afterwards, the guys were all asking which way I’d gone? I said I wasn’t telling them, as they never tell when they beat me.”
Top five overall after five races (one discard)
1 Maxime Nocher (FRA) 10pts
2 Florian Gruber (GER) 13pts
3 Axel Mazella (FRA) 14pts
4 Nico Parlier (FRA) 14pts
5 Toni Vodisek (SLO) 20pts
Top five women after five races (one discard)
1 Daniela Moroz (USA) 34pts
2 Kirstyn O’Brien (USA) 63pts
3 Elena Kalinina (RUS) 73pts
4 Ellie Aldridge (GBR) 83pts
5 Valeria Garashchenko (RUS) 91pts
To view the full results, please click here.