-Long Distance race opens the competition, and sees multiple lead changes
-Luca Franchi overtakes the world champion for the winner’s gun
-Women’s world champion Paula Novotna comes through for a late win
It was a tricky, challenging long distance race that opened the competition at the Ad Ports Group Wingfoil Racing World Cup Abu Dhabi. The whole fleet, men and women, lined up on one start line for an upwind start.
A year ago, upwind racing was still too difficult in this fledgling, rapidly developing board sport, but the quality of the equipment and the riders’ techniques have come on leaps and bounds since then. The wings are becoming more aerodynamic and the riders are getting fitter.
While the winner’s time in the long distance race was just 30 minutes, others in the fleet took a lot longer. And if you don’t think 30 minutes sounds very long, try holding your arms above your head for that length of time!
Reigning Men’s World Champion Mathis Ghio (FRA) found himself struggling to maintain pace on the upwind leg with some of his rivals. “I’m not used to using the harness yet,” he said, “so my arms were taking the strain all the way around the course. It’s not so efficient, not compared with guys like Luca [Franchi, ITA] or Mateo [Dussarps, FRA]. So I was losing a lot of distance on them during the upwind.”
The downwind was a different story. “Fortunately the harness doesn’t help you at all on the downwind and I managed to get into the lead,” Ghio explained. His lead was a double-edged sword, however, as the riders struggled to locate mark No.3 at the bottom of the downwind leg. “I went past the mark and by the time I realised my error and turned around in the right direction, the others had gone past me.”
Ghio recovered to third place by the finish, but the race win went to Luca Franchi with Mateo Dussarps in second. Franchi was pleased with his opening victory in Abu Dhabi. “I’ve been training hard in my home town [Genoa, Italy], but it’s cold there and the water and the wind here is really warm,” said the teenager. “That was a hard race, especially the downwind when the wind went light and you had to keep pumping the board to keep foiling. There was quite a lot of weed too, so I was jumping to miss the weed.”
Kylie Belloeuvre (FRA) took a big lead ahead of the other women on the first upwind leg but the French rider struggled to keep her board flying through the lighter patches of breeze. “My gear is too small for lighter winds, my board is small so it sinks easily if I stop foiling. So when I came off the foil it took me more than a minute to get up again. I was sitting there, waiting for a gust, watching the other riders go past. At least when I did get foiling again I was going fast and overtaking again, but I am hoping for more wind tomorrow otherwise I will have a similar problem.”
Karolina Kluszczynska (POL) also had her moments leading the women’s fleet but like Ghio, she struggled to spot the next mark. This let reigning women’s World Champion Paula Novotná (CZE) through for the race win, but the Polish rider still held on for second across the line. Not at all bad for her first ever wingfoil race at this level, although she is a very experienced Olympic windsurfing campaigner, and brings immense fitness and commitment to her new wingfoiling challenge. “I’m a little disappointed not to win after leading, but really I can be very happy with my race. And it’s just so nice being here, warm wind and warm water!”
Today, Friday, the short course racing begins, with target finish time for the leader around 6 to 7 minutes per race.
To follow the action, go to https://wingfoilracing.com/2023worldcupabudhabi
- Luca Franchi ITA 1p
- Mateo Dussarps FRA 2p
- Mathis Ghio FRA 3p
- Paula Novotna CZE 1p
- Karolina Kluszczynska POL 2p
- Orane Ceris FRA 3p
Text Credits: Andy Rice
Photo Credits: IWSA/ Robert Hajduk
Video Credits: ICARUS Sports