Lepanto 2022 Formula Kite Europeans

Nolot & Maeder win Europeans in high-wind drama
HIGHLIGHTS

-15 to 20 knot winds from the south-west in the Gulf of Patras
-Quick-fire 6-minute races are packed with splashes, crashes and tangles

Lauriane Nolot wins women’s European title for France
-Singapore’s Max Maeder wins the event for the second year running
-Toni Vodisek from Slovenia becomes continental European Champion

Lauriane Nolot from France and Max Maeder from Singapore survived a dramatic day of strong winds to become the female and male winners of the 2022 Lepanto Formula Kite European Championships in Nafpaktos, Greece. Because Maeder is from Singapore, second-placed Toni Vodisek from Slovenia is the highest placed European finisher in the competition and becomes European Champion.

Both the female French and male Singaporean riders made short work of their finals racing, closing out the championship in the very first heat of their respective competitions. While they might have made it look easy, there was plenty of evidence in the semi-finals that south-westerly winds gusting up to 20 knots were anything but straightforward conditions for kitefoilers foiling at up to 35 knots through the waves.

MAEDER IS TOP MAN

Having finished in third and fourth place respectively at the end of the 25-rider gold fleet finals, Italian Riccardo Pianosi and French Benoit Gomez only needed one win from their sides of the two semi-final draws. Both managed to close out the semi-finals in their first heats and progressed through to the finals.

Maeder started a bit slowly out of the line and had some catching up to do while Vodisek, Gomez and Pianosi made very good starts. Vodisek was vying for the lead until a splashdown near the windward mark dropped the Slovenian back to last place. Maeder was coming back fast and on the downwind charge at almost 35 knots, Gomez and Maeder were neck and neck.

Up the final windward leg, Maeder edged into the lead with Gomez still hot on his heels. The Frenchman put the Singaporean teenager under pressure all the way, but Maeder punched the air as he crossed the finish line victorious, securing the European title.

EMI-FINAL BEACH PROTEST DRAMA

In the first of the women’s semi-finals, Gal Zukerman from Israel made short work of the contest. Already sitting on match point, the Israeli rider raced solidly to a race win and booked her place in the final.

It was nothing like so straightforward for the other women’s semi-final. In the first heat, Poema Newland from France was faultless. The French rider pulled into the lead and extended the advantage to more than 500 metres by the finish. She would still need to win two more races, however.

TANGLED

Gisela Pulido from Spain was the semi-finalist who only needed to win one heat and she’d be into the final. In the second heat Pulido was locked in a close battle with Newland. Towards the bottom of the final run, Newland gybed just ahead of her Spanish rival but the French rider mistimed her manoeuvre and had a splashdown. Pulido did her best to avoid the crash but their kites became entangled. Polish rider Izabela Satrjan shot past the stricken riders to notch up a race win and put herself on match point.

Newland needed to win the next race to keep her finals hopes alive. The French rider narrowly won the race, but Pulido put in a protest against Newland for a brief clash of kites. With a tense hearing on the beach, as the riders stood before the three international jurors with their kites above their heads, they awaited the outcome. After a few minutes, the jury reached a verdict. Newland disqualified, Pulido through to the final.

NOLOT TAKES THE INSIDE LINE

Pulido relaunched again, straight back into the finals battle against Zukerman and France’s Jessie Kampman and Nolot. As they launched out of the line, Nolot had a brief splashdown through a rogue wave but got up and running in no time. Despite the setback, by the windward mark Nolot had used her superior speed to draw level with the frontrunners.

Pulido was faster downwind and regained the lead by the leeward mark. The Spaniard had the French rider breathing down her neck all the way to the final gybe mark. Pulido took a wide turn to be safe. Nolot saw her moment, carved around the inside in a high-risk manoeuvre. It worked. Nolot’s risk led to her reward as she charged across the finish line and seized the European title in imperious style.

WORLDS IN A WEEK’S TIME

For the winners, a moment to celebrate, for the losers, a few days to lick their wounds and regroup before the Formula Kite World Championships which start in just a week’s time in Cagliari in the south of Italy’s idyllic island, Sardinia. Maeder and Nolot have marked themselves out as favourites for the world title, but in kitefoiling nothing is ever certain.

Results Men
1 SGP Max Maeder
2 SLO Toni Vodisek
3 FRA Benoit Gomez

Results Women
1 FRA Lauriane Nolot
2 FRA Jessie Kampman
3 ESP Gisela Pulido

For the full results, click here.


Photo Credits: IKA Media / Robert Hajduk