Main photo: Breiana Whitehead IKA Worlds Day Six. Photo by Robert Hajduk

Aussie Breiana Whitehead has capped off a magnificent week at the Formula Kite World Championships finishing seventh after a rollercoaster Semi Final series.

The final day started with consistent sea breeze of 13-17 knots with the waves and the wind building as the day evolved. It was high stakes racing with athletes regularly clocking speeds over 30 knots, as the two Semi Final groups competed for the final two spots in the afternoon’s Final.

“Today was quite stressful, but it was awesome to race in the Medal Series and it was a great opportunity to get better,” said Whitehead. “My heart was pumping seeing how easy it was to make a mistake, but I needed to stay focused as there was a lot of pressure. I really enjoyed some tricky close battles today, and knowing that you are top ten in the world, that feels pretty special.”

Riders in the Semi Finals were ranked one to four based on their qualifying series position, with the highest ranked rider needing one win to move through to the Final, the second ranked rider needing two, with third and fourth needing three.

Whitehead found herself in Semi Final Group B, where here skills would be tested by Katie Dabson (GBR) who just needed the one win and Leonie Meyer (GER) and Gal Zukerman (ISR) who were chasing three.

The actions started early in the first race, with Dabson and Meyer crashing just short of the finish line before Zukerman beat Whitehead in the final dash. There were more crashes, penalty turns, missed marks and hot starts in race three before Zukerman and Whitehead ultimately crossed the line in the same order in race two, giving Zukerman two crucial bullets to start the day.

This left the final spot in the final on the line in race three, which saw a nice clean start for all four riders on port tack. Whitehead executed a textbook first upwind, as after a clean tack she judged the layline perfectly and rounded in first. For the rest of the race it was crucial to keep the lead without any mistakes, which Breiana did, closely followed by the German and British riders. The approach to the last bottom mark was the final challenge, a spot where others had run into errors pushing the limits to eliminate their rivals throughout the week.

That was not the case for Breiana and after the last clean gybe she whizzed off to the finish line celebrating victory.

It was a great moment for Breiana, but there was little time to enjoy it with the next race starting shortly after. Unfortunately for Whitehead she had a slight touch of the British athlete’s kite just before crossing the start line and recalling a similar situation in the Europeans which cost Poema Newland (FRA) a disqualification, Breiana decided to avoid a protest and did a 360-degree penalty turn to allow fair play to Dabson.

A penalty spin during a race might mean catching up, but doing a spin right at the start of a race puts an athlete right at the back of the fleet. Dabson worked her way to the front of the fleet on the second upwind and never looked back, with her race win putting an end to the Semi Final series.

“Breiana showed a good step up in her experience from the Europeans to the Worlds on the Medal Racing platform,” said Australian coach Shane Smith. “She managed to be far stronger this time around. Even though the performance only counts wins, she was second in two races and took a race win. She showed great commitment to get back from a distance to take that result.”

American rider Daniela Moroz (USA) consolidated her place as the star of the sport, winning her sixth consecutive World Championship after a dominant week. She won ten out of her fifteen races, banking the one race win she required to win the Final in the first race.

The men had some ups and downs today, but almost all Australian athletes were spotted in top 5 in the last race of the championship for the men’s Silver fleet. Scott Whitehead (ASS) managed to finish the week on a high note with a second in the final race. Coach Shane Smith has a positive outlook: “A second [place] to finish off the regatta shows that Scott has good form and we know what we need to work on to get him into the Gold fleet next time around.”

Event website

By Anna Zyk
Australian Sailing Team media