Britain’s Bridge brothers, Olly and Guy, signalled their intent when they bagged a big tally of first places in the opening exchanges of the Formula Kite World Championships in Oman, giving them the top two spots on the leaderboard.
Olly Bridge put on a near flawless display, taking six wins and leaving classy rivals like reigning and former Formula Kite World Champions, Maxime Nocher (MON) and Johnny Heineken (USA), trailing in his wake.
Younger sibling Guy Bridge, competing in a different flight of the qualifying series, took four firsts and a second, beating off challenges from Theo Lhostis (FRA) and another former Formula Kite World Champion, Germany’s Florian Gruber.
But it was the rivalry between the French duo of Nico Parlier and Axel Mazella, racing in a third flight of the men’s qualifying series, that produced the most intriguing battles on the opening day of the 2017 World Championship contest.
The pair, close friends off the water, traded wins and second-place finishes all day in their flight’s six races. With acute tactical appreciation and searing pace on their kite hydrofoils, the Frenchmen are so closely matched they had many near photo-finishes after the eight-minute circuits of the short track course.
Yet it was Parlier, the reigning IKA KiteFoil Class World Champion, who got the upper hand with four wins to Mazella’s two, leaving them in third and fourth place respectively on the leaderboard. Even with the flight assignment for day two of the five-day contest reseeded, they will come up against one another again on day three, before proceeding to the finals series.
For the women, competing in their own fleet, reigning IKA Formula Kite World Champion, Daniela Moroz (USA), was as usual in a league of her own in the breezes that built from 8 knots to around 13kts under cloudless skies over the Gulf of Oman.
The 16-year-old made an inauspicious start when she went towards the wrong mark in the opening race and finished down the field. But in the following races she didn’t put a foot wrong and the five firsts she scooped put her at the top of the women’s leaderboard.
The five-day competition to crown the IKA Formula Kite World Champions, hosted by Oman Sail and associate sponsor Al Mouj Muscat, will be broken up into a two-day qualifying series to seed the two-day finals series, with the top riders competing for gold on the last day in the medals series.
Day one delivered classic kite foil racing conditions, with most riders opting for their larger 19m or 21m kites for the 7-8kts breezes, eventually dropping down to 15m kites as the breeze built and the sinking sun highlighted the coastline’s stunning mountain backdrop.
But Olly Bridge, for one, only had eyes on the prize. His laser-like concentration paid off to devastating effect and put him in a good place as he comes up against stiffer tests as the competition progresses.
“I’ve been racing a lot in the last few weeks, so that was a good warm up for me,” he said. “I’ve been training hard on a new foil and the kites have been helping my performance too. Maxime Nocher is just behind me in every race, so that’s a pretty nice feeling.”
On the other hand, Axel Mazella finds himself in the slightly uncomfortable position of playing second fiddle to his friend and rival Nico Parlier even though there is little to separate them.
“We have exactly the same performance and the same pace,” he said. “So when either of us makes a mistake in a race, he gives up the lead. Strategy becomes very, very important.”
Top five men after six races (one discard)
1 Olly Bridge (GBR) 5pts
2 Guy Bridge (GBR) 6pts
3 Nico Parlier (FRA) 6pts
4 Axel Mazella (FRA) 8pts
5 Theo Lhostis (FRA) 13pts
Top three women after six races (one discard)
1 Daniela Moroz (USA) 5pts
2 Elena Kalinina (RUS) 11pts
3 Alexia Fancelli (FRA) 12pts