A 22-YEAR-old from Poole has been crowned Formula Kite European champion just a year after taking up the sport.

Ellie Aldridge, who started out sailing at Parkstone Yacht Club at the age of seven, switched from sailing to kiteracing last year and has since gone from strength to strength.

She finished on the podium in 12 of the 19 races at the Formula Kite European Championships, held in Torregrande, Sardinia, from Tuesday, September 24, to Sunday, September 29. She was only beaten to the overall European title by world champion Daniela Moroz of the USA.

“It’s crazy, I can’t believe that it’s only been a year since I started foiling,” said Ellie.

“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.”

Ellie made the change from sailing the 49erFX skiff sailing boat to kite foiling, a sport combining racing and kitesurfing, 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.

She continued: “It was a big risk leaving my 49erFX campaign when it was going well but I felt this was something I needed to do.

“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 has been great.”

Ellie was one of seven talented young women chosen from hundreds to join the programme and begin training under the expert tutelage of experienced riders Connor Bainbridge and Johnnie Hutchcroft.

Mark Nicholls, who leads the RYA’s Paris 2024 kite programme, said: “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.

“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.”