Photography by IKA Media - Robert Hajdu
04 October 2022
Brei Whitehead has continued her upward trajectory at the Lepanto 2022 Formula Kite Europeans in Nafpaktos, Greece, finishing sixth.
The Townsville Yacht Club member improved on her 16th in Palma and 10th in Hyeres, perfectly poising her for the Formula Kite World Championships, scheduled to start in Italy next week.
Whitehead entered the semi-finals needing two race wins to qualify for the four-rider final, with the higher-ranked Gal Zukerman (Israel) only needing one.
Racing got underway in a nice 16 to 20 knot westerly, with the course set for two upwind-downwind laps with a quick reach leg before the finish.
The other two semi-finalists in Breiana’s group were Jingle Chen from China and another Israeli athlete, Maya Ashkenazi.
Whitehead started on the pin end along with Chen and found good speed on the first upwind. After Chen crashed at the first upwind rounding, Whitehead found herself neck-and-neck with the two Israeli riders.
Zukerman and Ashkenazi almost immediately gybed and managed to stay lower on the downwind, with Brei following them shortly after and blasting at a top speed of over 31 knots.
Approaching the first downwind mark, Breiana’s slight speed advantage couldn’t compensate Zukerman’s better angle.
Whitehead made a tight mark rounding that saw her slip past Ashkenazi for second, with Zukerman playing a good control game upwind, putting Brei in her dirty air.
Both riders accelerated quickly after the second upwind rounding, with Zukerman making a crucial early gybe to separate herself from Whitehead.
The move forced the Aussie to sail too high, with Zukerman then gybing for layline and Breiana ducking behind her, causing her to lose speed. Zukerman went on from there to win the race and secure a place in the final, eliminating Whitehead and other riders.
“With that gybe I had the decision of going ahead of her which could have ended up in a very unpleasant scenario,” said Whitehead.
“I was turning from a tight angle to a tight angle and didn’t quite get it under control very well. There was a lot happening in a short amount of time in that seven-minute race, it was so close and everything mattered.”
There were plenty of dramatic moments on the final day, with race leaders losing control on roundings after hitting top speeds of 36 knots in tight racing.
“It’s a big step forward for Brei,” said Coach, Shane Smith.
“She has moved up to sixth place overall in an open event (compared to 10th in Hyeres in April) and while the finals did not see her improve the score, she’s showing that she’s moving up towards the podium.”
Max Maeder from Singapore defended his European title in the men’s field and became the overall winner in the open championship.
Toni Vodisek (Slovenia) finished second and claimed the title of the European champion as the highest finisher from a European nation. Benoit Gomez (France) defended his third place from last year’s event.
There was no racing for the silver or bronze fleets, meaning Scott Whitehead (Australian Sailing Squad) finished atop the silver fleet standings.
“The men overall, even if they’re in the silver fleet, are all performing much better,” continued Smith.
“They’re very close to the point where they are threatening the gold fleet. In fact, Scott’s performance showed that with a better qualifying series he is competitive. That’s a very big positive.
“I think Hector is quite happy with his results and with a bit more effort he will execute better at the Worlds. Alex had some troubles with his gear, which he is resetting for the Worlds, so we’re excited to see what happens.”
The team now moves to Cagliari, Italy for another week of training before the Formula Kite World Championships start on 8 October 2022.
Overall results after 13 races – women (with three discards):
Sixth – Breiana Whitehead (ASS) – 4, 1, (7), 3, 5, 3, (14), 8, 9, 9, 5, 7 (12) (54 points)
24th – Jane Taylor (AUS) – (15), 12, 9, 11, 14, 7, (25 DNC), 16, (25 DNC), 25 DNC, 21, 22, 21 (157 points)
Overall results after 10 races – men (with two discards):
First – Scott Whitehead (ASS) – (13), 6, 12, (12), 8, 12, 1, 2, 5, 1 (47 points)
Fourth – Hector Paturau (ASF) – (15), 10, (15), 6, 10, 7, 5, 3, 12, 4 (57 points)
Ninth – Alex Landwehr (ASF) – 4, (31 DNC), 9, 15, (19), 14, 7, 8, 15, 12 (83 points)
18th – Daniel Self (AUS) – 18, 24, (31 UFD), (25), 22, 25, 23, 11, 11, 13 (146 points)