Britain’s Ellie Aldridge has been crowned Formula Kite European champion just a year after taking up the sport.
Aldridge, 22, switched from sailing the 49erFX skiff to kite foiling when the British Sailing Team launched its #kite4gold talent search in September 2018.
The initiative, in conjunction with the British Kitesports Association and the English Institute of Sport, was a response to the decision to include kite foiling at the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Aldridge was among seven talented young women to join the programme and begin training under the expert tutelage of experienced riders Connor Bainbridge and Johnnie Hutchcroft.
She finished on the podium in 12 of the 19 races at the Formula Kite European Championships in Torregrande, Sardinia, and was only beaten overall by world champion Daniela Moroz of the USA, who took the open European title.
Lily Young was the next best Brit in 10th, Jemima Crathorne was 12th, Maddy Anderson 14th and Katie Dabson was 16th in the 30-rider fleet.
Aldridge had already secured the European title in the Mixed Relay event – the proposed format for Paris 2024 – alongside Bainbridge earlier in the week.
“It’s crazy – I can’t believe that it’s only been a year since I started foiling,” said Aldridge, from Poole in Dorset.
“It was a big risk leaving my 49erFX campaign when it was going well but I felt this was something I needed to do.
“This event has been the ultimate goal since we started this journey and it’s incredible to come away with a win. I’m speechless.
“The #kite4gold programme has been amazing. To get so many girls interested in the sport in the first place and now to have five of us now racing on the international stage and pushing each other every day has been great.”
Britain’s success in Sardinia comes as the #kite4gold programme celebrates its first anniversary and conclusion, with riders now looking to be selected as full-time athletes with the British Sailing Team.
Successful athletes will join world class riders Bainbridge and brothers Guy and Olly Bridge who became part of the team earlier this year.
“Winning both the European Championships and Mixed Relay event is an important milestone on the journey to Kite Gold in 2024 and a great success,” said Mark Nicholls, who leads the RYA’s Paris 2024 kite programme.
“There is still some way to go to match the speed of the fastest riders on the world stage but as the #kite4gold project concludes and the athletes are considered for selection on to the British Sailing Team we are now well placed to match the high expectations we set when we started this journey – that of having three world class female riders capable of matching our exciting male talent to win gold in 2024.
“Thanks and credit should go to our partners in this project – the BKSA and EIS – whose support and technical expertise helped make the difference. And all of the hundreds of female applicants who have been part of the process and who’s contribution and endeavour sit behind this result.”