By Andy Rice
Foiling Saturday delivered with thrills, spills and spectacular speeds as two new Olympic classes put on a show at the Allianz Sailing World Championships.
Formula Kite and iQFOiL will make their Games debut in Paris next year, and the two classes provided plenty of entertainment on the penultimate day of action in The Hague.
Singapore’s Maximilian Maeder was the star of the show in the kiteboarding, claiming the Formula Kite Men world title at just 16 years old, while Luuc van Opzeeland wowed the home supporters with a windsurfing victory in the iQFOiL.
There was also a double success for Israel, as Shahar Tibi led home a one-two in the iQFOiL Women, with Lauriane Nolot capping off a brilliant week by taking Formula Kite Women gold.
The Allianz Sailing World Championships will come to a close on Sunday with the medal races for the ILCA 6 and the ILCA 7, with Matt Wearn all but clinching gold in the latter thanks to a tactical battle with Micky Beckett.
Formula Kite Men
Maximilian Maeder (SGP) has long been tipped for the top and he delivered in a dramatic Formula Kite Men final to claim his maiden kiteboarding world title.
The 16-year-old won silver a year ago in Cagliari, and entered the final with one of the three victories he needed to take the crown.
Defending champion Toni Vodisek (SLO) required just one win to take gold, but Maeder took the opening race to join him within one race of victory.
Axel Mazella (FRA) then won the third to keep his own hopes alive, but despite making the fastest start in the third race, he lost control and fell out of the reckoning.
Vodisek had started that race slowly, making the bold decision to head back to shore to change his equipment – abandoning any chance of winning that race and hoping that Maeder would not wrap up gold in the process.
The Singaporean did just that, however, taking advantage of some fortune that had gone his way before quoting golfing great Gary Player, whose words continue to inspire him.
Maeder said: “What a race. Big respect to my competitors. The emotions of everyone saying ‘Good luck Max, go for it Max!’ and everyone cheering me on and giving me energy, it pushed me and it felt like they were cheering me on even though they weren’t here.
“The Olympics are there for me, I’m qualified and I’ve got the World Championship title, it’s a dream come true.
“Everyone is so close together and it could have swung anyway so it was all about who had the blessing of lady luck and who managed to come out on top.
“There’s a very good saying that I think about: ‘The harder I train, the luckier I get’, I think that sums it up very nicely.”
Formula Kite Women
Lauriane Nolot won 10 of 16 races in the qualifying series to finish top of the pile in the Formula Kite Women standings and then backed that up with victory in the very first race of the final.
The Frenchwoman, who already has a bronze and a silver to her name, got the better of her British rivals, leaving Ellie Aldridge and Lily Young in second and third respectively on the podium.
And having come into the week with concerns that the weather conditions might not favour her, Nolot was thrilled to come away with victory.
“This week was good, tough overall,” she said. “We had wind almost every single day, except for yesterday. I love windy conditions so it was really great for me.
“I’m really happy with what I have done on the water. I think there are a lot of good things on the water, there are still things to improve but overall it’s a good week and I’m really proud of myself.
“I’m world champion but I think it hasn’t really sunk in yet. Maybe in a few days but for now I’m in my little bubble.”
Luuc van Opzeeland provided Dutch supporters with their second gold medal of the week after taking victory in the iQFOiL Men.
He, Nicolo Renna (ITA) and Sebastian Kordel (GER) have led the windsurfing competition throughout, with Renna booking his place directly in the final, while Van Opzeeland and Kordel were forced to go through the semi-finals.
They duly came through, before Van Opzeeland led from start to finish in the final to complete his full set of World Championship medals, having won bronze in 2021 and silver 12 months ago.
He said: “I’m super happy and to win at home after the last three worlds, one time third, one time second and to finally win on home water makes it so much more special. I’ve worked really hard over the last couple of months, so this is the cherry on the cake and I’m super stoked about it.
“It was super tight between the three of us, so it was nice that we three raced the final for the medals. To win it against these guys, they are also friends, it’s even more special.”
In the iQFOiL Women, Israel’s strength in numbers was rewarded with the top two spots on the podium as Shahar Tibi took windsurfing gold ahead of compatriot Katy Spychakov.
Emma Wilson (GBR) has dominated the event all week, qualifying directly for the final, but quickly fell behind her two Israeli rivals in the three-person final.
Tibi, by contrast, had slowly worked her way up the standings to finish the qualifying series second behind Wilson, and she carried that momentum all the way to the gold medal.
She said: “I started in seventh place and climbed up in the rankings day-by-day. Today I went into the water in second place and I knew that anything could happen. I needed to be sharp in the semi-finals, especially. Then, in the final, I did my best to claim the gold. I’m very happy I managed to do it.”
Matt Wearn (AUS) is on the brink of adding a first world title to his Olympic gold medal after navigating his way into a comfortable lead in the ILCA 7.
Going into the day trailing Micky Beckett (GBR), Wearn knew that a previous black flag disqualification for the Brit meant he was much more vulnerable to a bad score.
So even though Beckett came second in the opening race of the day, stretching his lead further, Wearn was able to match-race his opponent – effectively delaying Beckett – with the pair finishing 65th and 66th respectively.
That allowed Wearn to move into top spot, with a 20-point lead over George Gautrey (NZL), while Beckett is a point further back. Wearn will therefore simply need to get around the course in the medal race with no penalties to take gold.
The other medal race on Sunday is in the ILCA 6, with five sailors still in contention for the gold medal.
Switzerland’s Maud Jayet, a silver medallist a year ago, leads the way on 65 points, but a bullet for defending champion Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) allowed her to move into the silver medal position, four points back.
Hungary’s Maria Erdi, who has led for much of the week, is level on points with Rindom, while Marit Bouwmeester (NED) and Charlotte Rose (USA) are also still in contention on 74 and 78 points respectively.