Thursday, 30 November 2023 09:13

'The enemy?' Me, myself and I.'

Shifty conditions for day one in Zhuhai Shifty conditions for day one in Zhuhai IKA media/ Robert Hajduk

- Competition begins with four back-to-back short-course races in shifty breeze
- Three months away from racing and Toni Vodisek is leading the men
- Lauriane Nolot takes the lead in the women and is starting to enjoy China
- Flo Gruber is getting experimental with a new kite

Such was Lauriane Nolot’s concern about the food on her first visit to China, she packed a few kilos of precautionary pasta and pesto in her baggage. The Formula Kite World Champion from France was also concerned about what it would be like on the water in Zhuhai, but Nolot enjoyed a very good first day of competition at the Lakewood Hills KiteFoil World Series China.

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© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: The Opening Ceremony just before the riders got on the water


“It was absolutely amazing, actually. I was really wondering how it was going to be, with really challenging wind conditions, and the water is a bit wobbly,” she said. “With almost 50 riders on the start line, it was really complicated, so I’m really happy to have had four good races.” Nolot is also finding she’s not needed to be as reliant on the emergency food rations either.

Racing in amongst the men is not to every female rider’s liking. It’s much harder to find clear air out of a congested, competitive start line. But Nolot enjoys the additional challenge of fighting for clear air. “I had really good starts, always trying to chase the top guys, sometimes rounding in the top 10 at the top mark. It was really hard to avoid the stuff in the water or to see how the wind is shifting, but it’s really good training here.”
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© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: The city looks on at the world-class kiting


When Nolot says ‘training’, she’s referring to the bigger picture, the big hairy goal of shooting for a gold medal at next summer’s Olympic Regatta in Marseille. But this being the final event of the Kitefoil World Series, there’s also the matter of a world title at stake as well as a share of the 50,000 euro prize pot. Chasing her in the overall standings are two Chinese riders, Wan Li and Jingyue Chen, both of whom are likely to keep pushing Nolot all the way to the final day.

For the visiting riders from Europe, it is eye-opening to see how much the Chinese kitefoilers have improved in recent years. Italian rider Maggie Pescetto commented: “It’s crazy how good the Chinese girls are, and there’s so many of them. It’s a really high level and it’s such good training to be here racing against them all here. I just hope to get better at finding my way around a crowded race course.”

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© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: Vodisek (right) grins and eases up as Maeder pushes on to victory in Race 3


The last time Toni Vodisek competed in a race was on the final day of the Formula Kite World Championships in The Hague back in August. That was the day the Slovenian lost his world title to arch rival Max Maeder from Singapore. For all his lack of race practice, Vodisek launched out of the blocks at high speed and won the first heat. It was nip and tuck all day between the friends and rivals but it’s Vodisek’s scores of 1,4,2,1 that give the Slovenian the upper hand by a single point ahead of the Singaporean.

“Not a bad start,” said Vodisek who has just flown from a training camp in Australia. “I came here to see where I’m lacking, what I need to work on. I’ve learned a lot already and it’s always a blast racing with Maxi [Maeder]. Alone it’s always boring.”

Asked if Maeder is the benchmark against which he measures himself, Vodisek replied otherwise: “No, I am the benchmark not to mess up. It’s me that’s the enemy. Me, myself and I.”

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© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: Lauriane Nolot pushes 100% towards the finish line


Maeder is also enjoying the pressure of going up against the 23-year-old Vodisek. It’s forcing the 17-year-old to reach for another gear. “What other choice do I have when racing against this great rider? The tension of racing each other, and then being back on the beach, being buddies again, nothing beats it. This guy is bringing the most out of me and there’s nothing I can do but press on the gas until I explode.”

Of course it’s not really a two-horse race in the men’s division. Just last week Chinese rider Qibin Huang beat Maeder to the top step of the podium at the Formula Kite Asia & Oceania Championships in Shenzhen. It was a momentous breakthrough for the 17-year-old who has been trying to get the better of Maeder for many years at youth level.

While Huang sits in third place in Zhuhai and just a few points back from the front two, he admitted to feeling a bit mentally tired after last week’s exploits. “Today was not very good, but my performance was stable,” he said. “Today I feel the level of the performance starts to drop, because after a really high level performance it’s hard to maintain that. So I need to take some mental rest and come good for the final. Be stable, try to be in the Medal Series on Sunday and sail well on the last day.”

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© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: Jingle Chen is keen to see what she can do against Nolot


Self-proclaimed ‘oldest man in the fleet’ Flo Gruber, who turns 30 at the end of December, enjoyed his first day out racing in Zhuhai. Exactly 10 years ago the German dominated the competition to win the 2013 World Championship in Hainan, China. While he has not maintained that level of dominance, today Gruber was pleased to have scored a race win and enjoyed testing his prototype Flysurfer kite. He sits in fifth place overall, a point back from Denis Taradin of Cyprus.

“The wind was flicking around, it was pretty unstable conditions and I hadn’t had a chance to train before today on the waters here,” said the German. “So I’m happy to get a bullet and I think I can improve more this week. It’s hard to find things to improve at this level but I think there are still some screws to turn.”

Racing continues on Friday with more four short-course races on the schedule.





Toni Vodisec


4.0 p


Maximilian Maeder


5.0 p


Qibin Huang


11.0 p




Lauriane Nolot


42.0 p


Jingle Chen


50.0 p


Wan Li


58.0 p


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© IKA media/ Robert Hajduk: The spectacular backdrop of the Opera House in Zhuhai

Last modified on Thursday, 30 November 2023 09:22
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