New Zealand's top kitefoilers will spend the next two weeks in isolation mapping out what 2022 looks like for them after a world championships of highs and lows.
Justina Kitchen was 18th in the women's fleet in Sardinia but knows she wasn't far off the top-10 finish she had been aiming for and Lukas Walton-Keim was 25th in the men's fleet.
Kitchen achieved three top-10 finishes in the four gold fleet races for the top 25 women, including an impressive third in the last race, but missed the semifinals for the top 14 by 11 points. That might seem a significant amount but can look back on a tangle with two other competitors during qualifying which meant she failed to finish that race and then missed the start of the next with a ripped kite.
"There were two girls just on my shoulder as we approached the top mark," she explained. "I waited for them to pass me so I could tack behind them but as I tacked over they must have been having a little battle between them and we got caught up.
"It was clearly my fault. It was a real rookie error, probably caused by a lack of racing and lack of being around other kites. If it wasn’t for those two races, I probably would have made the semifinals and had a much better chance of making the top 10.
"It’s definitely been an event of highs and lows. I’m definitely not happy with the result in the end but there were some massive positives that came out of it. I guess it’s hard to expect to be firing when you haven’t been racing for two years."
Kitchen and Walton-Keim have spent most of the last two years training together and are some distance ahead of the rest of the fleet in this country.
Walton-Keim went in with a little more practice racing up his sleeve, having been competing in Europe for six weeks prior to the world championships. He finished in the top 11 in all 10 of his qualifying races but found it tougher when it came to gold fleet racing.
"It’s a little bit hard for me not to be disappointed but, as time goes on, I’m taking more and more positives out of it," he said. "In half of my races I was in the top 10 and my speed in certain conditions is right up there with some of the best in the world, which is super-motivating. I just need to put it all together in every race. That will come. There’s lots to work on when I get home.
"I’m really proud of how we have progressed [training by ourselves at home] but now we need to get amongst the best in the world. We need more competitions and more training camps with these top guys."
A fortnight in MIQ will give them ample time to debrief their world championships and put some plans in place for 2022, although some of that will depend on whether they will have to isolate each time they return to New Zealand.
The 2024 Paris Olympics might seem some distance off, when kitefoiling will be on the Olympic programme for the first time, but both Kitchen and Walton-Keim were impressed by the amount the fleet had progressed since their last international regatta and know those three years will tick by quickly.
Daniela Moroz of the United States won her fifth consecutive women's world title, finishing ahead of Great Britain's Ellie Aldridge with Lauriane Nolot of France third.
France dominated the men's fleet, filling three of the top four slots. Theo de Ramecourt was first and Axel Mazella second, with Italy's Riccardo Pianosi third.
- Photo: Robert Hajduk / Formula Kite.