Controversy Over New Refereeing as Racing Gets Cleaner and Margins Finer
Press report: Ian Mackinnon
Young kite racers and their parent-coaches appear to be struggling to get to grips with a new “referee” concept devised to cope with a huge number of short, sharp high-octane heats and the relentless pace of the TwinTip racing format.
Organisers at the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) in southern Italy have been deluged by some of the 112 riders from 21 countries demanding explanations for judging decisions on penalties for tangles or touches on obstacles to be jumped.
Novice racers, or perhaps those more accustomed a traditional sailing process that allows them to register a written protest and present their case for redress for perceived infringements to the jury, have been non-plussed by referees’ decisions that seem to allow little room for appeal.
But with the format to be used for the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Argentina next year that saw organisers stage 53 high-intensity downwind slalom heats on day three, each lasting a little over three minutes and starting like clockwork every minutes, a similarly quick decision process had to be found.
International judges at the five-day event enthralling spectators on Gizzeria’s Hang Loose Beach with high-speed action and gripping mark roundings accept the “referee” concept can fine-tuned and are open to discussion to find improvements.
But they maintain they are doing the best for the interests of all competitors and have had to make an an incredible 187 calls in just three days of competition, a level that would be unsustainable under the traditional jury system.
Croatia’s Martin Dolenc had little need of the referees’ decisions. The spell-bindingly quick 17-year-old held his lead at the top of the leaderboard for the third successive after a precise display that left his rivals in awe.
His uncanny ability to position himself to cross the start line first with split-second timing allowed him to control many of his races. After seven elimination rounds Dolenc had a healthy lead over Britain’s Olly Bridge, who clawed his way back into contention when he was able to discard two poor scores.
Bridge climbed the ladder at the expense of Germany’s Florian Gruber in third and France’s Axel Mazella in fourth. Just a few points separate them, marking the ferocity of the battles on the flat waters in breezes that hit 17kts and proved ideal for the slalom format.
“Martin Dolenc is just very, very fast,” said Mazella. “He usually makes a good start and gets to the first mark in front of us. From there he can control the whole field. It’s nearly impossible to get past him. But he’s been incredibly consistent too.”
In the 28-strong girls’ division made up of those eligible from a place at the YOG in Buenos Aires, Formula Kite Foil world champion Daniela Moroz (USA) has been growing in consistency and finding her groove in the unfamiliar format and tops the standings.
The 16-year-old kitefoil racing prodigy is a virtual novice on a TwinTip and initially struggled to jump the obstacles without hitting them and incurring penalties. But with a little more practice she got the art dialled on day three, bringing her one step closer to her goal of winning a YOG qualifying spot.
By contrast her closest rival in second spot, Spain’s Nina Font Castells, 15, is a freestyler who has come to racing and is no stranger to jumping. Yet the TwinTip Europeans is just her second race competition, and one she revelling in.
“The Spanish team is working to go to the Olympics,” she said. “But it’s not my main goal. I’m just having fun with my friends and and enjoying the racing. It’s fun. My main aim in the race is always to try to start first and avoid tangles.”
As the competition progressed and riders gained experience, there were noticeably fewer of the tangles that had dogged the opening two days as racers misjudged mark roundings and collided with rivals.
Cameron Maramenides (USA) jumped up to lead the standings in the boys’ division after the overnight leader Toni Vodisek (SLO) had a forgettable day that did not go as he had hoped.
All heat results and overall rankings are available through the LIVE scoring at