The 2019 World Championships of Campione del Garda ran a special test event to trial a new mixed relay race format that will be used when kiteboarding makes its debut at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
The adoption of the unusual mixed team relay format — which will no doubt be refined — was necessary after kiteboarding was allocated only one Olympic medal, coupled with a stipulation that there should be gender parity in the event.
Nonetheless, the prospect of Olympics inclusion spurred national sailing federations to pour unprecedented resources into kiteboarding in the quest for coveted medals.
The novel round-robin format involves the man and the woman racing one lap each of the track against half the teams, with the added complexity of a “flying” handover when the second team member begins their lap just as the other finishes.
It certainly spiced up the action when stronger team members handed big leads to their weaker partners, or vice versa, only to see them slip back, or charge to the head of the order.
The result was a far great shuffling of the order that is common even in kitefoil racing, with the USA’s reigning Formula Kite world champion Daniela Moroz and partner Evan Heffernan topping the standings.
The pair edged out France’s Alexia Fancelli and former world champion Maxime Nocher by just one point in a day of thrillingly close race action, with Russia’s Elena Kalinina and highly-ranked Denis Taradin taking the third place overall.
With all the world’s fastest kiteboarders gathered to contest the world championships most who could muster a mixed team joined the trial for which one day was set aside.
In the case of Britain’s multiple former world champion Steph Bridge, she teamed up with middle son Guy, the current European Formula Kite champion. Despite their top-notch pedigree, they could only place seventh.
Steph Bridge, long a supporter of kiteboarding’s Olympics inclusion, was sold on the mixed relay format even after chilly afternoon on the water when ten near back-to-back races were contested.
“I enjoyed it”, said Bridge. “Of course it’s frustrating if you’re winning and the other person doesn’t do well. But that brings teamwork to the sport, which something new and very welcome.”
Racing continues in the Pascucci Formula Kite World Championship Friday.
Kite Relay Test – Top five teams after five round-robin races (one discard)
1st USA (Daniela Moroz / Evan Heffernan) – – 6pts
2nd FRA (Alexia Fancelli / Maxime Nocher) – – 7pts
3rd RUS (Elena Kalinina / Maxime Nocher) – – 7pts
4th GER (Leonie Meyer / Florian Gruber) – – 9pts
5th POL (Julia Damasiewicz / Jakub Jurkowski) – – 10pts