Kite Race World Championships 2012 - Cagliari
In the history of Kiteboarding all that took part in the champagne racing conditions in Cagliari bay last week will always remember this event as the start of something really really big in our sport. Over 220 riders from 40 countries met in a showdown of colour, excitement & crashes for this was the start of a new road for many competitiors now that kiteboarding has replaced windsurfing for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
In the mens fleet, racing started with a qualifying series, with three groups of 51 sailors each which were re-seeded by the first racing days results before the fleet got split into Gold/Silver/Bronze for the final series day. In the womens fleet, a single opening series was run over the first three days, followed by a medal race series on Sunday.
North riders were joined by kite designer Ken Winner & production manager Dirk Hanel - most using the new North Dyno Ltd & battling it out in the first 2 days to gain selection for the much sought after Gold fleet. It was close racing amongst Maxim Nocher (FRA), Olivier Dansin (FRA), Florian Gruber (GER), Blajez Ozog (POL) with Oliver Bridge (GB) not far away.
The womans fleet saw 2012 European Champion - Steph Bridge come head to head daily with Johnny's sister- Erika Heineken. Brazilian rider -Nayara Licariao & Alice Brunacci (ITA) took top 10 results during this qualifying series.
After day 3 the top 10 riders from the girls fleet & top 10 riders from the mens went head to head in a medal race to determine the 2012 World Champion. All could be lost or gained in an 8 minute umpired fleet race which was carried out in gusty offshore conditions. The beach scene was huge & North kiteboarding provided the much needed support for the competitors that made it to the final.
It was the womens turn first, with the whole fleet starting on starboard towards the first leg, and the battle was on between Steph Bridge and Erika Heineken. Being only one point separated, it was open for virtually every sailor who qualified for the medal race series to win the event. In the end it was Steph Bridge taking the win in this race, meaning that both Erika and Steph were tied in points now and whoever won the last race would take the tittle. Coming in in third, it was Nayara Licariao (BRA, North). Race 2 of this medal race day was more of a challenge to fight back after a windshift on the start line & steph's chance of her 5th World tittle was looking in doubt. Pushing the board hard & using the bands of wind to her advantage was not enough, a 1 point defeat & steph took home the Silver medal while 4th place went to Nayara Licariao (BRA and 8th to Alice Brunacci (ITA).
The men's medal race involved huge place changes, crashes & penalty turns & the eventual results were Maxime Nocher (FRA) in 5th place, Florian Grubber (GER) in 7th place while Olivier Dansin (FRA) was in 8th position. Disappointment for Blazej Ozog (POL) who was black flagged on the final gold medal race & this pushed him out of the medal race day to finish in 14th overall.
Other huge success's for the North team were for Ken Winner who was 3rd overall in the Grandmasters and Oliver Bridge (GB) who at age 15 became Youth World Champion with Jannis Maus (GER) in 2nd & Oswald Smith (RSA) 3rd. Race Team Manager - Dirk Hanel had some bad luck in the qualifying series however what was apparent at this event was the level to which kite racing is now going to be with most athletes taking this full time in their run up to Rio 2016.