France's Nico Parlier topped off a dramatic week at the Formula Kite World Championships in Oman with a near-perfect exhibition that only served to underscore his dominance and land him the title. In the tense battles of the climactic final day's Medal Series decider, the French rider's sheer pace meant he had the title in the bag even before the last race, adding to the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) KiteFoil Class world title that he secured in Italy last month.
If anything, the US's Daniela Moroz was even more dominant in the women's division. The 16-year-old had already won the IKA Formula Kite World Championship crown even before she took to the water on the last day, securing her back-to-back world titles.
"It's really, really good. I'm pretty stoked," said a beaming Moroz. "Coming into this there was a lot of expectation heaped on me, but I managed to stay calm. I just had fun with it and tried to keep all the pressure out of my mind."
The more measured Parlier was equally delighted, if less vocal, about his victory and a performance that left the rest of the pack-the strongest and youngest fleet in years-shaking their heads in awe at his speed and tactical presence.
"It was a good day," said Parlier. "I had won today in the Medal Series after the second race. I could have stayed on the beach and still have won, so in the end it was easy. But still, the level of competition was really high and it was tough. Right now we're going faster and faster, and I really like that because the level of our sport's going up."
The five-day regatta-hosted by Oman Sail with associate sponsor Al Mouj Muscat-was marked by scintillating kite hydrofoil racing in conditions that varied from six knots to 20 knots, challenging the 58 riders, including six women, from 22 countries and six continents.
In the epic conditions on the Gulf of Oman, framed by a dramatic mountain backdrop, organisers ran 108 of the "short track" races that lasted barely eight minutes, such is the devastating speed of the cutting-edge hydrofoils and the skill of the athletes who can clock almost 40 knots even in light breezes.
But kite racing is about more than pure speed. Consistency is key, as one of the early leaders, Britain's Olly Bridge, discovered to his cost in the drama that unfolded in the last day's Medal Series.
Going into the final day's competition in second spot overall, Bridge had a slender lead over France's Axel Mazella. But a disastrous second race where he finished eighth in the 10-strong Medal Series fleet, left him in a tough spot hoping the Frenchman might slip up.
However, Mazella responded to the pressure in the fading six knots to seven knots of breeze on smooth waters. He took a win in the day's final race, just ahead of Parlier and Bridge, to clinch the second podium spot.
"It was very tense out there," said a visibly delighted Mazella. "Looking at the scoreboard I knew I could afford to finish the last race two places behind him, but I won. This 'short track' format is really, really difficult because if you make a bad start, or a mistake, it's over. For that reason I'm really super-happy to take second place."
Similarly thrilled was former Formula Kite World Champion, Russia's Elena Kalinina, who also found herself locked in a struggle for second spot with France's Alexia Fancelli, in a contest that went down to the wire.
In the final race of the event, Kalinina edged the second spot on the podium when she snatched a second in the race, while Fancelli could only manage a fourth as both women struggled in the light breeze that dipped to 5 knots.
"It was very, very close right down to the last race," said Kalinina. "The last race was the decider and we were always neck-and-neck, so it came down to who made the least mistakes. I crashed on a tack, but then she did too. We've been fighting all through our 26 races for the second podium place. It was great sailing-a great experience that you just can't buy. I'm so happy."
Despite starting the day just ahead in second spot overall, Fancelli took heart from her performance that signalled a huge improvement in that she is now pushing the former world champion to the limit.
"I'm happy, but sad at the same time," said Fancelli. "But I'm pleased with third to Elena Kalinina because I'm really close now. I'm super-happy with my progression, and I'll be back next year to take second, or even first. I'll definitely be working on my light-wind skills."
Full results can be found at: www.formulakite.com/results
Formula Kite World Championship, Men
1 Nico Parlier (FRA)
2 Axel Mazella (FRA)
3 Olly Bridge (GBR)
Formula Kite World Championship, Women
1 Daniela Moroz (USA)
2 Elena Kalinina (RUS)
3 Alexia Fancelli (FRA)
Formula Kite World Championship, U-18 Division
1 Toni Vodisek (SLO)
2 Martin Dolenc (CRO)
3 Mani Bisschops (AUS)
Formula Kite World Championship U-21 Division Women
1Daniela Moroz (USA)
2 Elena Kalinina (RUS)
3 Anaïs Mai Desjardins FRA)
Formula Kite World Championship U-21 Division
1 Axel Mazella (FRA)
2 Olly Bridge (GBR)
3 Titouan Galea (FRA)
Formula Kite World Championship Grand Masters Division
1 James Johnson (DEN)
2 Pierluigi Capozzi (ITA)
3 Klas Naabo (SWE)
Formula Kite World Championship Masters Division
1 Nico Landauer (URU)
2 James Johnson (DEN)
3 Ivan Doronin (RUS)