Friday, 08 December 2023 22:53

Cappuzzo gears up for final showdown with Ghio

© IWSA media: Tight starting in big breeze, and even some bold port tack starters © IWSA media: Tight starting in big breeze, and even some bold port tack starters IKA media

- The windiest day ever in the history of the circuit, wind gusting over 30 knots
- Nia Suardiaz has won 16 out of 18 women’s races
- Francesco Cappuzzo closes the gap on men’s leader Mathis Ghio
- A radical format change, the ‘Golden Ticket’, means ANYONE can still win

Nuclear gusts gave Francesco Cappuzzo the ammunition he needed to close the gap on Mathis Ghio on a barnstorming day three in Jericoacoara, the venue for WingFoil Racing World Cup Brazil.

Today was Gold Fleet racing, the first time the top 14 in the fleet would line up against each other for seven short-course heats. It was a great opportunity for moving up the standings if you could keep pushing without falling over.

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© IWSA media: Cappuzzo (right) proved to be the biggest threat to Ghio (left)
The Italian started the day in fourth place but in hot winds gusting over 30 knots, the big man Cappuzzo harnessed the power and showed devastating pace around the course, particularly on the downwind legs.

Usually the reigning World Champion Ghio is flawless, but no one is immune to crashing in these extreme conditions. The Frenchman started the day badly, crashing while leading to fall back to 9th place.

“I hit a clump of seaweed which stopped me in my tracks,” said Ghio. “The guys went past me and it was a long time getting back up on the foil, but I came back with some good results later on in the day.”

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© IWSA media: Ghio (centre left) charging out of the start

Even the experienced Ghio was gobsmacked at today’s extreme winds. “This is the windiest we have ever seen on the WingFoil Racing World Cup,” he said. “I was overpowered on the 4 sqm wing, and I wasn’t able to accelerate like I wanted. The 3 would have been too small but maybe a 3.5 would have been about right for today.”

That’s the size - 3.5sqm - that Nia Suardiaz is using to great effect in the women’s competition. A freestyle specialist, the Spanish 16-year-old is operating at a different level in these extreme conditions. She won all seven heats today and has claimed 16 out of the 18 races completed so far. Paula Novotna is almost as consistent with her string of second places, and she has booked her spot in Saturday’s four-rider Grand Final alongside Suardiaz.

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© IWSA media: Nia Suardiaz in imperious form

As for third-placed Maddalena Spanu and the rest of the women, they will have to fight their way through from the knockout rounds if they’re to take one of the two remaining places in the Grand Final.

In the men, Cappuzzo’s rate of gain on Ghio was impressive. In the last race of the afternoon it looked like the Italian might seize the leader’s yellow bib from the Frenchman at the critical moment. “I was going fast and leading but then I crashed while I was switching my feet during a tack,” shrugged Cappuzzo, his smile masking his bitter disappointment to have missed a crucial opportunity.

“If I had won that race or even if I was top three I could have been in the lead going into tomorrow. But anyway, I think there is not much between me and Mathis at the moment, so tomorrow I will push hard and I do my best to win that first race of the Final.”

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© IWSA media: Francesco Cappuzzo at full send in big conditions

Ghio only needs to win one race and the championship is his, so Cappuzzo and the other two riders in the Final will be doing everything to beat the ever-consistent Frenchman.

Meanwhile there’s a new twist to the final day format. Any rider in the whole fleet still has the potential to win the championship outright. Yes, you read that correctly. Here’s how it works.

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© IWSA media: The free massages at Vila Kalango are booked out to capacity

Only the top 9 men and the top 9 women have booked their places in the Medal Series. All the other riders, from 10th place downwards, will go out on the water for one last Golden Ticket race over a long distance course.

As they launch out of the rabbit start, all the riders will be gunning to take the winner’s flag 20 minutes later. Whoever does win the long distance race will get the Golden Ticket to go through to the Medal Series and compete in the Repechage. This applies in the men’s and women’s competitions.

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© IWSA media: Anyone can still win this regatta, thanks to the Golden Ticket opportunity

Will the male and female Golden Ticket winners survive all the knockout rounds and take a place in the Grand Final? It’s certainly a long shot, but we’ve seen the likes of Italian rider Ernesto de Amicis rise from 8th to 3rd on the final day at previous events. Anything is possible, and it means everyone will wake up on Saturday with the feeling that something special could happen.

This evening the riders meet at the host resort Vila Kalango for a discussion about plans for the WingFoil Racing World Cup 2024. While the lure of caipirinhas is always present in the oasis village of Jericoacoara, it will be an early night for those who still want to perform on what promises to be a thrilling final day of competition.



Mathis Ghio


27.0 p


Francesco Cappuzzo


30.7 p


Bastien Escofet


33.6 p



Nia Suardiaz


15.0 p


Paula Novotna


29.0 p


Maddalena Spanu


42.0 p

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© IWSA media: Paula Novotna in Ninja Mode, ready for a big day in hot wind and warm water

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