The quickest kitefoil racers in Asia are set to battle for the continental crown in a week of enthralling action on the smooth waters off the south-western Chinese beach city of Beihai.
The continent’s finest athletes will be pushed hard by a sprinkling of international kitefoil racers who have made the journey to fight for glory on Guangxi province’s Beibu Gulf.
Many of the racers hope their endeavors over six days of competition at the 2019 Formula Kite Asia Championships will be enough to land them a coveted spot in the lineup at October’s inaugural World Beach Games in San Diego, organized by the Association of National Olympic Committees.
Inevitably China is well represented at the Asian championships, sponsored by the City of Beihai, with eight athletes among the 26-strong field from 11 nations around the region and the world, who will likely face light tropical breezes.
Among Team China’s racers vying to secure a Beach Games spot, where the Formula Kite format limits athletes to series production hydrofoils and kites, Jingle Chen and Hao Ran Zhang are favorites to come out on top.
Chen has already tasted the thrill of Olympic competition when she represented China in the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) TwinTip: Racing (TT:R) slalom competition at the Youth Games in Buenos Aires last October.
With a team-mate she will be competing in the Formula Kite mixed team relay format to be used when kiteboarding makes its historic debut at the Paris 2024 Olympics’ Marseille venue.
Part of the Asian championship regatta will be given over to testing the mixed relay format, where teams of one man and one woman each race one lap of the track, conducting a “flying” handover. It is only the format’s second trial, following the groundbreaking first outing at the Formula Kite Worlds in Italy last month.
The prospect of a slot at the Beach Games and looking further forward to the Olympics has drawn an ever-younger fleet who will hit their peak by the time the Games roll around.
Max Maeder (SNG), just 12, and Qibin Huang (CHN), 13, are closely followed by two Polish girls, Julia Damasiewicz and Magdalena Woyciechowska, both 14. Each girl could earn a Beach Games spot if they can finish in the top half of the women’s fleet in the championships.
In the men’s fleet, which will race separately, highly-ranked Russia’s Denis Taradin must be odds on favorite to come out on top, though Italy’s Mario Calbucci will no doubt give him a run or his money.