Ellie Aldridge sailed a blindingly good day to launch herself into pole position at the 2023 Formula Kite European Championships in Portsmouth, England. The British rider overtook previous leader, France’s Poema Newland, and will wear the coveted yellow bib in Sunday’s four-rider decider in front of a home crowd on Eastney Beach.
Even a tangle in her bridle lines couldn’t hold back Aldridge. In the second race of the session after a frantic few minutes of trying to untie an unwanted knot in her lines, she was last off the beach and 50 seconds late crossing the start line, seemingly in a hopeless game of catch-up outside the top 20. However, such was her speed, determination and tactical risk-taking that the British rider managed to salvage a third place by the end of the 12-minute, two-lap race. Winning the next two races sealed off an amazing day and Aldridge will be going into the final day with her confidence flying high.
Newland was downbeat about her performance although it was hardly disastrous. The French rider finished only two points behind Aldridge and will wear the blue bib in the four-rider final. As for third-placed Lily Young from Great Britain, she will have to fight her way through her semi-final, as will Annelous Lammerts from the Netherlands who came fourth in the Gold Fleet racing.
Further back in the top 10, a battle is raging for the one Olympic qualifying spot up for grabs in Portsmouth. Julia Damasiewicz of Poland will go into the semi-finals with a margin advantage over Spain’s Gisela Pulido and Alina Kornelli of Austria. Someone will finish Sunday in a state of elation, knowing they have secured their country’s place at Paris 2024, the others will be disappointed to have missed their chance.
In the men’s competition the two Italians Riccardo Pianosi and Lorenzo Boschetti are proving the power of the squad with a dominant performance on the race course. The last of today’s four Gold Fleet races was a classic, a hard fought match race between the two Italians with barely a board’s length between them for much of the two laps. In the end the 18-year-old Pianosi sealed victory, making it three wins from four today and securing the yellow bib which has already been his for the past couple of days.
Britain’s Connor Bainbridge had a day of mixed fortunes, failing to complete the first race but taking a solid win in the third heat to sit in third overall at the end of a mentally exhausting afternoon. Just behind him in fourth place is Jannis Maus from Germany who will go into the other semi-final. If the Briton and German can progress from their respective semi-finals to join the Italians in the four-ride showdown, it will set up a tense duel for the one Olympic qualifying spot: Britain versus Germany.
Max Zakowski could yet come in to spoil the party, however, as the Polish rider qualifies for the final day in seventh place and shows the potential to beat the riders ahead of him. Tiger Tyson in ninth place can’t secure an Olympic berth in Portsmouth as he’s from outside Europe, but the Antiguan rider’s performance bodes well for his chances at the Panam Games later this year.
On Sunday the Medal Series sees the top 10 men and women contest a different style of small-fleet competition which places all the emphasis on race victories.
The finals weekend (23-24 September) is completely FREE to attend for spectators. Come along and watch the world’s best riders battle it out just metres from the shore at Eastney Beach.
The Event Village will feature music, food and drink stalls, kids activities, opportunities to try watersports and a big screen to view all the action on the water.
The final two days of racing will also be livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook so you can watch remotely.