One hundred and fifty of the world’s best racers from the Olympic circuit have taken to the waters off Eastney beach in Portsmouth for the title of European champion – and potentially a place at the Paris Olympics in 2024. Kite foiling sees athletes “fly” above the water riding boards with hydrofoils on, propelled to speeds of more than 50mph by enormous kites.
Kite foiling is one of two new sailing disciplines for Paris 2024, joining the roster along with foiling windsurfing. Both promise plenty of thrills and spills for spectators and TV audiences.
“The Europeans in Portsmouth will bring the international fleet to the UK, which will be a sight to see,” said Maddy Anderson, one of six female athletes flying the flag for Great Britain. “If we can grow the audience for kite foiling now it will only make its impact in the Games even better.”
The Formula Kite European Championships will be a homecoming of Olympic sailing for the British team. The last time the Olympic classes circuit visited the UK was in 2019 for the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 European Championships, held in Weymouth and Portland.
It is the first time Portsmouth has hosted an Olympic class regatta, although the city is no stranger to big sailing events having previously staged the America’s Cup World Series.
Racing will take place just a few hundred metres off the beach at Eastney. An event village will be in place over the weekend of September 23 and 24, offering visitors the chance to watch the racing on big screens and hear directly from the athletes.
There will also be face painting and treasure hunts for the kids, competitions and Virtual Reality kiting, sailing and windsurfing experiences as well as a chance to get on the water with wingsurfing taster sessions.
For those that can’t make it to Portsmouth the final two days of the event will be livestreamed on social media.
The British Sailing Team’s female riders will be looking to replicate their recent success at the World Championships last month. Ellie Aldridge, Lily Young and Katie Dabson all made the final four, with Maddy Anderson ninth in the 53-strong fleet.
Britain will field six male athletes including Connor Bainbridge, who will be looking to avenge his out-of-character 12th-place finish at the worlds.
As well as being a competition for the European title, the regatta is also a crucial step in the journey to Paris 2024. Before choosing their Games athletes, nations must qualify for quota places, the first eight of which were up for grabs at the World Championships.
Britain secured its place in the women’s fleet but finished outside of the top nine places in the men’s fleet. With just one quota place available in each fleet at the Europeans, the pressure is on to guarantee a place on the Paris 2024 start line.