The 2017 IKA Formula Kite World Championships officially opened in Al Mouj Muscat

Under the patronage of His Excellency Dr. Abdul Munim bin Mansour Al Hasani, Minister of Information, and with the attendance of His Excellency Ahmed Nasser Hamad Al-Mahrizi, Minister of Tourism, the 2017 IKA Formula Kite World Championships was officially opened in front of Oman Sail’s headquarters at Al Mouj Muscat Marina.
A clique of reigning and former kite racing world champions are lined up and ready to fight it out on the flat waters of Oman’s dramatic coastline as they vie for the prized crowns.

The impressive roster of the world’s fastest kitefoil racers represents the showdown of the year in what will surely be breathtakingly tight contests on the Gulf of Oman’s crystal clear waters off Muscat’s Al Mouj Beach.

The much-anticipated head-to-head battles will see reigning International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) Formula Kite World Champion, Monaco’s Maxime Nocher, attempt to see off title challenges from France’s Nico Parlier, the “open” Kitefoil Class world title holder, and his countryman Axel Mazella, the KiteFoil GoldCup World Series victor.

In the women’s division—raced separately from the men over the six days of competition—reigning IKA Formula Kite world title holder, the US’s Daniela Moroz, still just 16, is trying to keep her nerve and ignore the expectation heaped on her.

With 58 competitors—six of them women—from 22 countries and six continents, the hotly-contested title fight hosted by Oman Sail, with associate sponsor Al Mouj Muscat, will provoke intriguing battles on warm waters bathed by consistent sea breezes.

Oman Sail has already staged a host of the sport’s most prestigious events, including the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, the Extreme Sailing Series and the Laser World Championships.

The addition of the IKA Formula Kite Worlds to that line up chimes with its vision to project the Sultanate’s profile on the global stage. A colourful opening ceremony that welcomed the athletes, gave voice to that vision.

The Formula Kite Worlds, run over five days’ racing, is a “closed” event that restricts riders to four registered series production kites and one production hydrofoil. It is the same format that will be deployed if kiting is successful in its bid to become a “showcase event” at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The impending decision partly explains why such a strong field has turned out for the kite racing calendar’s climactic event.

Just over a year after she stunned the kite racing scene when she scooped the Formula Kite crown in China aged just 15, Daniela Moroz, is trying to balance the pressures that come with being the title holder.

“I’m really excited to do another world championship, but it’s a lot of pressure,” she said. “People have expectations of me now, so it’s a bit stressful. But I’m trying to relax, listen to my gut, and tune it all out. The competition’s got a lot hotter.”

Last year’s runner-up, former world champion Elena Kalinina of Russia, will inevitably be a strong contender, but the French duo of Alexia Fancelli and Anaïs Mai Desjardins have been training hard with the men on their Enata team.

Desjardins, also 16, is excited about the chance to take part in her second world championship, especially since she has joined Team Enata that has given her access to more-competitive equipment.

“I love this equipment and it’s not like last year at all,” she said. “Now the stuff is not the problem. I can’t blame my equipment any more. If there’s a problem, it’s me.”

Maxime Nocher, returning after a four-month hiatus from kiting, is eager to add to his three successive Formula Kite world crowns but fears it will be a tough ask in the face of such stiff competition that also includes former title holders Johnny Heineken, of the US, and Germany’s Florian Gruber.

“I haven’t been in the water for more than a month, so we will see,” said Nocher. “I’m here for the fun. Of course, I’m keen to retain my title, but I’m realistic about it.”