Formula Kite World Championships 2024 - Day 3


16 May 2024


Opportunities to beat Max Maeder don’t come along very often, so Valentin Bontus seized his moment on day three of the Formula Kite World Championship in Hyères in the sunny south of France.

Bontus, Austria’s Olympic representative for Paris 2024, explained: “For the past two days I was also in the same qualifying fleet with Max. I was the unlucky one, let's say, to always get Max Maeder in my group. In most of the races so far I have been far behind him, so I have been trying to make every opportunity count and take the chance when it came. And luckily, he's not a robot, he's human, and he crashed in the first race. So as soon as I saw Max crash, I said, ‘Okay, this is my chance.’ And I took it.”

© Robert Hajduk/ IKA: High speed foiling in the south of France



Not that Maeder really has much cause for concern. The 17-year-old from Singapore still leads the men’s fleet into Friday’s competition when the top 25 will come up against each other for gold fleet racing. Maeder won three from four races in today’s glorious 16 to 20 knot breeze and bright sunshine, while in his qualifying group Frenchman Axel Mazella kept a perfect scoresheet with four wins from four. In the third group it was two wins apiece for young Italian Riccardo Pianosi and Germany’s Jannis Maus.

Maus is still in a trial to decide who will represent Germany at the Olympics but the score sheet increasingly points to Maus as the likely candidate. “That was really nice racing today and I managed to avoid any crashes while I saw a few people exploding around me,” said Maus, his confidence growing by the day.



After a horrible opening day of the competition, Greece’s nominated representative for the Olympics, Kameron Maramenides, has got better and better. He was only on the cusp of the top 25 and might have missed the cut, but the 21-year-old really stepped up in today’s heats, his scores of 5,8,6,6 lifting him to 17th overall. “This week was a super tough start to the regatta and it’s kind of been catch up every since. Coming into the last day of qualifying, we knew we had to perform and just execute, and that's what we did.”

The last race of the afternoon started in an unorthodox fashion for the Greek but somehow he survived the moment. “I’m not too sure what happened, but I definitely felt somebody's legs on the back of my shoulders on the last start, some British guy, I think, but luckily nothing happened. I almost felt like I was riding a barrel. It was crazy, but managed to get free and carry on.”



Race wins for Gal Zukerman from Israel and Elena Lengwiler from Switzerland lifted them up the women’s leaderboard and comfortably inside the top 25 for Friday’s gold fleet racing.

Best performer of the day was Britain’s Ellie Aldridge who won three of four races to move up to second overall behind reigning World Champion Lauriane Nolot of France.

Such are the levels of Jessie Kampman’s ambitions that the French rider was a bit ‘ho hum’ about her performance on her 24th birthday, but scores of 3,2,2,2 are hardly to be ‘bof’ed at. She sits in third overall on equal points with Aldridge in second.

Kampman seemed more concerned about the growing power of Lengwiler who has been improving significantly in recent months, her raw speed hard to resist. “Elena was back on top with the big kite and flat water,” said the French rider. “She started kiting a bit later than most of us, so I guess she has more work to do when it gets a bit more technical and wavy like earlier in the week. But when it’s flat water she can just put the hammer down and go for it.”



As one of the lighter riders in the fleet, Spain’s Gisela Pulido is also suffering in the medium-wind full-power conditions like today. “I’m really tired now because conditions were pretty tough, and I have to push a lot to go fast, I guess because I'm lighter. I was push, push, pushing until my legs just were not responding anymore. When it’s flat water the Swiss girl [Lengwiler] is so fast. In one race she crashed and I went past her, and then on the second lap she overtook me again on the downwind.”

When Pulido was heading back to her rented apartment, it wasn’t just for a lie-down to recover. “It will be go see the physio, drink something warm and then get on the bike to keep the legs working. After that I can relax.”

Friday’s forecast points to slightly lighter breeze and good sunshine for the first day of gold fleet competition. The final two days of racing this Saturday and Sunday will be livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook.

written by Andy Rice


© Robert Hajduk/ IKA: High speed crashing in the south of France