Friday, 24 May 2024 17:01

The Mental Challenge of a Plastic Minefield

© IWSA media/ Robert Hajduk: Spectacular racing arena in Urla, Turkey © IWSA media/ Robert Hajduk: Spectacular racing arena in Urla, Turkey © IWSA media/ Robert Hajduk

Six short-course races in bright sunshine and wind from 12 to 22 knots
Nia Suardiaz is over early in first start, but five wins keep her on top of women’s standings
Plastic debris in the water requires some mental gymnastics from the riders
Mathis Ghio maintains overall lead with six wins from six heats
Gold fleet racing takes place on Saturday for the top 14 men

Some riders complained about plastic in the water ruining their races on day three of the WingFoil Racing World Cup Turkiye. Others found a way of winning race after race despite the plastic obstacles lying in wait to catch them out.

The men were competing in three qualifying groups and Kamil Manowiecki was making good progress in blue group in the morning session, scoring 3,2,1. After lunch the Polish rider scored three straight bullets and pulled up to fourth overall behind two French competitors, Mathis Ghio in first and Julien Rattotti in second, and Italy's Alessandro Tomasi in third.
132977000002518048 zc v1 1716564263319 internet 2024 05 24 wfwc d3 351 rh
© IWSA media/ Robert Hajduk: Manowiecki upped his attitude and upped his game

Manowiecki put his improving form down to a change in attitude. “I was making mistakes yesterday with my tactics and I thought about it a bit more last night and made it better today,” he said. “In my mind I told myself that the seaweed and plastic on the race course, it’s there for everyone and I just focused on myself on the things I could control. The plastic is really annoying but today I didn’t pay any attention to it. Even if I caught plastic I would just keep on going and not let it bother me.”

Manowiecki is studying environmental science, so the problem of plastic is something he takes seriously beyond the irritation it causes him as a windfoiling athlete. “I actually went to the local shop where I’ve been buying things, and asking them not to give away any more plastic bags to their customers because we can see it ends up in the water. But I think it will take a while for attitudes to change.”
132977000002518048 zc v1 1716564325604 internet 2024 05 24 wfwc d3 382 rh
© IWSA media/ Robert Hajduk: Mateo Dussarps of France at full upwind pace

The sailing centre at Urla is one local organisation that takes the environment very seriously, as event director Ateş Çinar explained: “We were very fortunate to receive 100,000 euros of investment to install solar panels on the roof, and we now generate three times more power than we ever need. We are the first sailing centre in Turkey to be fully self-sufficient with generating our own electricity and we believe we are one of the first anywhere in Europe.”

Çinar, a four-time Olympic representative for Turkey in the 470 dinghy, says the uptake of wingfoiling in the local area and in Turkey generally is increasingly rapidly. We have 40 kids who are now wingfoiling in the region, including Kenan [Ersoy, aged 12] who is competing this week. We had 25 at the National Championships and next year I think we will have more than 50.”
132977000002518048 zc v1 1716564379322 internet 2024 05 24 wfwc d3 384 rh
© IWSA media/ Robert Hajduk: Six short-course races completed in sensational conditions

With plans for this event to become a regular part of the Wingfoil Racing World Cup calendar, no doubt more young Turkish riders will be joining Ersoy on the start line next year.

For the time being, winner of the past two World Cup seasons, France’s Mathis Ghio, continues to set the pace. Like the rest of the riders, Ghio had to contend with the plastic minefield but managed to win all six races without a single crash. Part of the reason, he believes, is the ease-of-handling of his new double-surface wing. “I think I get an advantage with this wing now at the moment because I am controlling it with the tips of my fingers, and then I'm able to really look forward at what's coming.
132977000002518048 zc v1 1716564415332 internet 2024 05 24 wfwc d3 308 rh
© IWSA media/ Robert Hajduk: Solar panels on the top of the containers generate all electricity required

“So sometimes I can see a plastic bag coming into my way and I'm able to change my way to avoid it. Most of the riders here are really focused on the wind, on the shifts, the gust and on themselves. For me, I just focused on what's coming.”

After struggling with the up-and-down wind strength of the previous day, 50-year-old Paolo Migliorini came ashore this afternoon with a big grin. The Italian, who runs a wing and kiteboarding centre in Brazil, was loving the sunny day on the blue waters of Urla. “The wind was perfect, so constant, just an excellent day on the water. The conditions were constant, and so were my results, seventh race after race. Tomorrow I aim for sixth!”
132977000002518048 zc v1 1716564467996 internet 2024 05 24 wfwc d3 344 rh
© IWSA media/ Robert Hajduk: Manon Pianazza less than happy with the plastic minefield

Probably tomorrow’s goal for Nia Suardiaz is to win all races in the women’s fleet. The young Spanish rider might well have achieved a perfect sweep today but for starting a bit too soon in the first race. “I was over early so I got disqualified for that, but then it was a good day afterwards,” she smiled. “It was really hard though, because the other girls were pushing really hard. Good battles with Maddie [Spanu], Manon [Pianazza] and Karolina [Kluszczynska], so I’m really exhausted. Everything is aching and I’ll sleep well tonight. But first I’ll have two desserts at dinner,” she laughed.

Polish rider Kluszczynska was also happy with her day in stronger winds than she has enjoyed in the past. “I was pushing a lot and it felt super nice on the downwinds and the fast reaches,” she said. “But on the upwind I struggled a bit with the pointing, so I have to try to figure it out for tomorrow to make it better. Really nice day out there and I hope we get more like that on the next days.”
132977000002518048 zc v1 1716564522921 internet 2024 05 24 wfwc d3 376 rh
© IWSA media/ Robert Hajduk: Nia Suardiaz in supreme form and leading the women's contest

This evening the men’s fleet was reseeded into gold, silver and bronze groups. So in gold we’ll see if the other riders can take the fight to reigning world champion Mathis Ghio, while the women’s group continues, with a close battle in store for second place behind Suardiaz who is starting to look uncatchable.



Mathis Ghio


6.6 pts


Julien Rattotti


7.4 pts


Alessandro Tomasi


10.0 pts



Nia Suardiaz


7.0 pts


Maddalena Spanu


17.0 pts


Manon Pianazza


20.0 pts

132977000002518048 zc v1 1716564616773 internet 2024 05 24 wfwc d3 388 rh
© IWSA media/ Robert Hajduk: Mathis Ghio getting an unwanted hose down from brother Romain

© 2022 International Wing Sports Association. All Rights Reserved