The 30-minute marathon race provides a gutbuster of an opening heat to the Wingfoil Racing World Cup Turkiye, and it was won by Mathis Ghio and Nia Suarez...

23 May 2024


It was a rude awakening for competitors at the WingFoil Racing World Cup Turkiye. Having gone out from the beach at Urla a few minutes earlier with their big wings, just a minute before the riders launched into the rabbit start for the marathon race the wind strength suddenly doubled.

What was expected to be a battle to stay on the foil in marginal conditions had now become a struggle to stay in control of the wing as the wind gusted up to 30 knots towards the top of the square-shaped course. The two-lap 10 nautical mile race was a war of attrition as a number of riders dropped out, unable to rein in their frisky wings through the worst of the gusts.

Italy’s Alessandro Tomasi took the early lead but it was two familiar French faces who moved into the lead and were locked in a close battle all the way across the finish line. Reigning world champion Mathis Ghio crossed just ahead of Julien Rattotti who is so often the master of the long distance discipline.

“I went out on my 6.5m wing,” said Ghio, “and I was really overpowered in the gusts, but so was everyone. It was really challenging to hold on to the big wing for 35 minutes but I managed to stay focused. I’ve never won a long distance race but I think the double-skin wing helps a lot because it doesn’t need so much physical effort as a normal wing.”

Rattotti was one of the pioneers of the double-skin wing last season but now Ghio and a good proportion of the fleet have adopted similar technology. “It’s harder to tack with the new wings, but you learn how to do it and it’s overall much faster around the course,” said Ghio.

Nearly every rider had war stories of unexpected crashes, some of them caused by weed but a lot by the presence of plastic bags floating just below the surface. Poland’s Kamil Manowiecki had exactly this problem. “I caught a plastic bag just before the start so I had to jump to shake it off, and then I crashed just after the start which was my fault, and then I started catching people up. But then I’d hit another plastic bag and that’s how it was. I think it was the same for everyone but it made it really difficult to keep going without crashing.”

Despite all the setbacks Manowiecki still finished fourth in the marathon race behind Tomasi who was third.

In the women’s division Nia Suardiaz had a slow start to the race but managed to fight her way through. “I went out on a 6 [square metre] wing, and it was too big when the wind picked up so much. I was behind at the start and I had plenty of crashes with weed or plastic, and I’m very tired now, but really happy with the race overall. I don’t think I can go out for more racing.”

But after lunch, that’s exactly what the riders did, more racing on a short course format in smaller groups. As the wind started to fade it wasn’t possible to complete more than two races for the men’s three groups and one race for the women’s group, but there were plenty more war stories from the late afternoon session.

This time the battle was to stay on the foil as the breeze died away and even Ghio couldn’t quite manage that as he came off the foil and failed to finish the last race of the session. Despite his disappointing end to the day, the reigning world champion tops the leaderboard ahead of Rattotti and Tomasi. Suardiaz tops the women’s rankings ahead of France’s Manon Pianazza and reigning world champion from Italy, Maddalena Spanu in third.

Qualifying races continue on Friday, with good breeze on the forecast in Urla.

written by Andy Rice

© Robert Hajduk/ IWSA Media: Splashdown in Urla