Daecheon Beach, Boryeong — Reigning International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) kitefoil champion Maxime Nocher began the defence of his title in Korea in perfect style — notching up two bullets from two races.
In light breezes that struggled to reach 8kts, the Monegasque rider put in a solid shift on the first day of the KiteFoil GoldCup’s opening stop of 2017 taking place on the Yellow Sea’s flat waters just off Boryeong’s pristine Daecheon Beach.
At one point when a sea mist rolled in shrouding the otherwise clear blue skies, it appeared the 20 foilers who had journeyed from 13 countries around the globe might be denied any action with the breeze initially refusing to play ball. But when skies cleared the wind filled in sufficiently for the foilers to take to the water. Race officials were able to get several races away in the four-stop GoldCup’s first east Asian foray, which is hosted and sponsored by the Korea Windsurfing Kitesurfing Federation, and supported by Boryeong City.
Nocher demonstrated his dominance and coolness under fire, leading both races of the two-lap windward-leeward course from start to finish signal barely 13 minutes later, putting his newly-launched Enata 19m kite and Enata foil to good use.
“It was a good start. I’m happy,” said a relaxed Nocher. “In the first race we had solid winds, but in the second it got a bit light and there were holes towards the bottom of the course. There was quite a lot of seaweed, but I only caught one piece and cleared it from my foil easily.”
Rikki Leccese (ITA), riding a Mike’s Lab foil and prototype Ozone R1 kite, pushed Nocher all the way in both duels. He crossed the line just a few seconds behind the Monegasque on each occasions but was happy with his efforts, fully aware that Nocher’s forte is in light airs.
“It was an amazing day, considering these conditions are not my element,” he said. “I’m pleased. He was a little ahead of me each time and able to manage the races. The best I could do was hope to make him feel the pressure, put the ‘hammer on his neck’ in a sporting way, so that maybe he would makes a mistake.”
France’s dreadlocked Theo Lhostis, on identical Enata equipment to Nocher, notched up valuable points scooping sixth and third places, while former Formula world champion Florian Gruber took fourth and fifth spots.
Maks Zakowski (POL), on his first competitive outing a new Moses Comet foil and 19m Ozone R1V2 kite, picked up fourth and fifth places, pipping Julien Kerneur in choosing the marginally windier right side of the track on the final downwind leg to overhaul the Frenchman in the last race.
“This this the first time in competition with the Comet foil, so I’ve had no opportunity to test it against the other riders,” he said. “I feel I’m wanting a little for speed, but I’m trying to tune the foil to find some more pace. Still, I’m happy with he day.”
Among the five women racing in the mixed fleet, France’s Alexia Fancelli had a good start to the day when she took tenth spot overall in race one. But like many riders, she was unable to finish the second race as the breeze became so fickle and light at the bottom of the course that officials were forced to call racing for the day.
The light airs also meant that the Kiteboard Tour Asia’s Twin-Tip Racing Open slalom event being staged simultaneously was unable to get any races away. But with four days of competition remaining hopes are high that the high-octane racing format to be used at next year’s Youth Olympics in Argentina will get a chance to delight the Korean spectators.
Overall standings after two races:
1 Maxime Nocher (MON, Enata/Enata) 2pts
2 Riccardo Leccese (ITA, Ozone/Mike’s Lab) 4pts
3 Theo Lhostis (FRA, Enata/Enata) 9pts
4 Florian Gruber (GER, Flysurfer/Levitaz) 9pts
5 Maks Zakowski (POL, Ozone/Moses) 9pts
1 Alexia Fancelli (FRA, Ozone/Taaroa) 31pts
2 Anais Desjardins (FRA, Flysurfer/Spotz) 42pts
3 Bitna Kim (KOR, Ozone/Levitaz) 62pts