Event Alert: Big Field Lines Up to Battle in Youth Olympics’ Format Kiteboard Twin-Tip Races
Olympic fever has gripped the imaginations of a huge field of riders, many of them young kite race novices, who will be tearing up the azure Mediterranean waters over the coming week.
The Twin-Tip: Racing European Championships being staged just off southern Italy’s Hang Loose Beach at Gizzeria will witness only the second outing fast-paced slalom format to be used at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) next year in Argentina.
Calabria’s olive-covered hills form a stunning backdrop for Hang Loose Beach that has become an annual favourite on the kite racing scene, but with kitefoil and previously course-board racing the more familiar format.
Now with the rapidly-evolving TT:R discipline attracting 112 riders from 21 nations spanning the globe—including a large contingent from the YOG host country—Hang Loose Beach again finds itself at the pioneering forefront of the kite racing scene.
Even though the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) TT:R Europeans is open to riders of all ages, the vast bulk of the entrants - 28 girls and 68 boys - is below 19 years of age, the qualifying age for YOG. The big turnout clearly reflects the “Games’ Effect” as many prepare to make their qualification bid for the limited spots available in Argentina.
It will be the first time kiteboarding has graced the Olympics’ stage. In Italy, the racing in the coming days will be high-octane competition that promises a thrilling spectacle more akin to the X-Games, with short races of just three minutes in explosive heats that will play out metres from the beach.
The competitors will be limited to one registered Twin-Tip board and four registered kites, either foil kites or Leading Edge Inflatables (LEI), for the purposes of the championship.
An intense schedule of races run back-to-back every five minutes with heats of up to eight riders competing in elimination rounds will likely be fuelled Hang Loose Beach’s clockwork-like thermal breezes that hit 15kts to 18kts in the afternoons.
The downwind slalom format of five short legs with reaching starts and finishes sets the stage for close, hard-fought racing. If adequate conditions prevail, the athletes may also be required to jump obstacles in the later stages of the competition, adding further to the potential for thrills and spills.
But as a indicator of how seriously the young riders take the prospect of a chance to compete on the Olympic stage—aside from the high turnout—some of the biggest names on the senior kitefoil racing tour have made the journey to Italy.
Without doubt the biggest name is the US’s Daniela Moroz the kitefoil prodigy who remarkably scooped the IKA Formula Kite World Championship title last year in China at just 15. Now 16, it earned her US Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, but it will be interesting to see if she can transform her race craft to the very different format on different equipment.
Likewise Britain’s Guy Bridge, 17, has been clipping at the heels of his older brother Olly, 19, world-ranked number one, who is also competing and will be mixing it with France’s Axel Mazella and Theo Lhostis, and Germany’s Florian Gruber.