The rise of kite racing has seen American Daniela Moroz rise with it, claiming her first world championship at 15 years of age. She won four titles in a row before the pandemic, and picked up where she left off in 2021 to snare number five.
But now as an Olympic event, with maximum international effort to dethrone her, her dominance waned through the 2022 season. So she made a plan to push the bar higher and successfully claimed her sixth World title on October 11-16 in Cagliari, Italy.
In her own words, Daniela explains how she ended 2022 on top:
I arrived in Europe at the beginning of September to start my preparation for the World Championships, giving me six weeks to train before the first day of racing. My priorities were to test out some new kites I had just received and to also gain some muscle mass as I believed that these things were key to gaining back the speed I had been missing over the summer.
I also began working with Chris Rashley (GBR), who was joining my team as my full time coach for the rest of this campaign, and also brought in my good friend Nate Housberg (USA) to help me as my technical advisor for the next several weeks, which I had divided into two phases.
Phase 1 was three weeks in Hyeres, France, entirely dedicated to testing out my new kites and spending lots of time in the gym getting stronger. Hyeres is one of my favorite places to kite because of the different conditions, and in September you can ride in anything from 5 knots to 30 knots within the same week, so it was the perfect place to go test all my kites in a wide range of wind conditions.
It was nice to be in a single place for so long (yes, three weeks in one place is a long time for me), and we built an awesome routine while we were there. I went to the gym every morning to work out. There was an incredible bakery just across the street from the gym, so of course I had to stop for coffee, croissants, and baguettes on my way home (by the end of the trip, Nate and I were eating one baguette a day).
Next, I would make breakfast and meet with Chris to plan the sessions for the day and what we would be working on depending on the conditions. Then we would head to the beach once the wind picked up and get on the water.
Hyeres delivered incredible conditions as usual, with several days of more than 25 knots and big swell balanced with some days of completely flat water and barely enough wind to foil. We made the most of every day, and by the end of the three weeks I was extremely confident in my new kites and much faster than before.
Phase 2 of my World Championships lead-up plan was two weeks spent training at the venue where the regatta was being held: Poetto Beach, located just outside the city of Cagliari on the Italian island of Sardinia.
I’ve been coming to Sardinia to race every year since 2018 (apart from 2020), and it’s become another one of my favorite venues. It’s a very technical spot with many different wind directions, and the offshore mistral is my favorite.
The offshore wind can blow to 30 knots, sweeping across the island and eventually spilling out over Poetto Beach. It’s not far from my home conditions in San Francisco, except that it’s completely flat water, no current, and no shipping traffic, making it significantly easier for riding.
On the onshore days, a strong sea breeze picks up, bringing big swell with it. There are several other wind directions and sea states common this time of year, and the biggest reason I wanted to arrive at the venue this early was to get familiar with these different types of days and practice riding in the different conditions.
It was for this reason and a few others that I decided to skip the 2022 European Championships, which were happening about a week before the Worlds. Although it was a bold move, I believe it was the right call.
After two weeks at the regatta venue, I could not wait to get racing – I had never felt more ready to deliver my best performance at a regatta. Despite being slightly disappointed with my results from the summer, I had no doubt that I was going to be more competitive than ever. I was really proud of the progress I had made in the weeks leading up to the Worlds, not only on the water, but off the water.
I had been meeting with a sport psychologist on a weekly basis to help me build a strong and confident mindset. I had been practicing mindfulness, meditation, and visualization. I had been working out and felt super fit. I felt so good and so ready in a way that I had never felt before. And on October 11, it was finally time to get racing.
We started with three days of the opening qualifying series in which competitors are mixed in two separate fleets based on world ranking. We did three races in strong onshore conditions on day 1, no racing on day 2 because of a lack of wind, and one race on day 3.
I was the only competitor, male or female, to win every race of this qualifying series, but my closest competition, Lauriane Nolot from France, was only a point behind.
On day 4, the top 25 sailors went into gold fleet, completing four races. It was a beautiful mistral day with 20-25 knots eventually picking up to gusts to 30 knots, extremely gusty and shifty, and completely flat water. It was a day I had sailed in repeatedly in training, and I knew exactly what I had to do.
After a disqualification due to being over early (UFD) in the first race, I continued to win the following three races, even finishing with a healthy lead of about 800m in the last race. This scoreline kept me in first, but still only a couple points ahead of Lauriane, who was consistently finishing second.
Day 5 brought more offshore wind, but this time it was extremely light and patchy. I started the day a bit slow but progressed throughout the four races. Going into the final race, I was 1 point ahead of Lauriane, and needed to stay ahead in order to maintain my first place advantage going into the last day of the regatta. I managed to do just that, and so with the format used, only needed to win one race in the final series in order to win the world title.
The final day brought the onshore wind back with some big chop. I was nervous but excited, and proud of how I had performed and progressed all week. Now it was time for the last little push. It was Katie Dabson (GBR), Ellie Aldridge (GBR), Lauriane Nolot (FRA), and me in the women’s final.
As I was waiting for our start, the wind picked up just a couple knots, and the other girls went in to change from 15m to 11m kites. I opted to stay on my 15m, knowing I should be able to match their speed upwind and be faster downwind. Off the start it was Lauriane that took the lead clear ahead with me just to windward. As we were approaching the top mark, Lauriane crashed and I was able to take the lead. From there I knew I just had to sail clean and I could win this race.
On my 15m kite I quickly extended my lead on the downwind, and by the end of the second lap, I was 300m ahead in first place. When I rounded the last mark and reached across to the finish line, there was an overwhelming sensation of pride and joy unlike anything that I had ever felt before. I immediately found Chris out on his coach boat, and as I sat down, I said, “I think we got the job done.”