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Sunshine and fresh breezes set to open 53rd Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca by Iberostar on Monday

by Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofía 31 Mar 20:38 BST 1-6 April 2024
Last day of practice © Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca

After nearly two week of strong winds and unruly seas which have prevailed for the hundreds of teams and Olympic classes sailors who have been training on Mallorca's Bay of Palma, competitors at the 53 Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca by Iberostar look set for a breezy, sunny opening day Monday before winds revert to early Spring thermal breezes.

The huge showcase regatta, which opens the 2024 Sailing World Cup, should be an indicator of medal potential as the first event of the year to muster all 10 Olympic events in advance of this summer's Olympic regatta. Nearly 850 boats sailed by 1100 athletes from 76 different nations will take to the waters of the Bay of Palma, racing between Monday and Saturday. For many countries this traditional curtain raiser to the European Olympic classes season is an Olympic selection event.

Singapore's Max Maeder won the overall Trofeo Princesa Sofia top award last year at just 16 years old and on current form has established himself as the most likely candidate to take the inaugural men's Olympic gold medal when the high speed, high octane Formula Kite makes its Olympic debut this summer (see interview). Logically, given that most of the top French riders who will be his nearest rivals this summer are not at this Mallorcan showcase event, Maeder is out and out favourite.

Strength and depth

The Mixed 470 sees the host nation's favourites, recently crowned World Champions, Jordi Xammar and Nora Brugman back racing on the same Bay of Palma waters where they clinched their world title in very breezy conditions one month ago.

Olympic selection pressures are now relieved for the likes of the British duo Vita Heathcote and Chris Grube as world champs runners up, and France's double Olympic bronze medallist Camille Lecointre and crew Jérémie Mion, the stress continues for those still chasing the golden ticket such as the top Japanese crews, 2023 world champions Keiju Okada and Miho Yoshioka and Tetsuya Isozaki and Yuri Seki - who led in the early stages of the world championships here - and more especially among Germany's 470 squad which shows incredible strength and depth with 14 duos in Palma.

After the worlds Sofía is the second of Germany's three selection events, ahead of the decisive European champs in Cannes. Theirs is very much an empirical, first-past-the post system and with their fourth at the worlds Simon Diesch and Anna Markfort are clear ahead. But all three top German duos could be considered Olympic medal contenders, Luise Wanser and Philip Autenreith were 2022 world champions and Malte and Anastaysia Winkel already took silver at the Marseille test event last year.

Selected French are smiling

Around the Palma boat parks there have been big smiles among the French crews which are present after having selection to their home Olympics confirmed on Friday. Their announced Formula Kite representatives Lauriane Nolot and Axel Mazella, are among France's best medal chances are not in Palma, but les plus grosses bananes (colloquial French for biggest smiles) belong to France's first ever, newly crowned 49er World Champions Erwan Fischer and Clément Pequin. They are ready to defend the Palma title they won here in 2022. Pequin was injured this time last year, Fischer also immediately after and so the worlds win in Lanzarote was only their second regatta together since the end of the 2022 season.

"There is no pressure for us here at all other than we want to perform. It is great here to have the respect in the boat park from the other sailors as world champions and to feel we are on the right course. I think we have a special energy, a hunger because we missed so much through our injuries, so it we feel good here." Says crew Pequin. Considering the forecast for light sea breeze winds through the week he adds, "We are quite big guys, yes, but I think we are confident too in the light winds and have to be as it can be quite similar to Marseille here."

Their 49er FX counterparts Sarah Steyaert and Charline Steyaert are selected but are not in Palma. Absent also are the Netherlands' 2024 world champions Odile van Aanholt and Annette Deutz which should leave Brazil's double Olympic champions Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze with a strong chance of defending the Palma title they won last year although Sweden's vice World Champions Vilma Bobeck and Rebecca Netzler and Italy's Jana Germani Giorgia Bertuzzi overshadowed the Tokyo gold medallists at the worlds.

From a full strength fleet Great Britain's Micky Beckett sets out to win the Trofeo Princesa Sofia ILCA 6 title for the third time in a row. Olympic and world champion Matt Wearn is the sailor most likely to stand in his way at a regatta that the Australian has made a high scoring start to at these last two editions.

"In some respects I am under much less pressure than this time last year as this event was part of our selection trials that was stressful so I am really looking to just enjoy this week."

"Monday looks like it will be a reasonably large day and then it will drop"

According to Beckett, "Monday looks like it will be a reasonably large day and then it will drop. The fleet has really reached a point where everyone has been forced to get good at the conditions they don't like, myself included, so I am happy in the medium breeze and maybe less so the real extremes. This is such an iconic event which has been around for twice as long as I have been alive, everyone watches it closely because it is the first big event of the season so I really want to win."

Denmark's Tokyo gold medallist Anne Marie Rindom who won her fourth ILCA 6 world championship title in Argentina in January took not won the Sofía title since 2019 but will be among the favourites on the Bay of Palma. Last year's winner Marit Bouwmeester only earned the right to challenge for her fifth Olympic medal when she beat Dutch rival Maxime Jonker on the last race in Argentina. Last year's runner up Zoe Thomson leads a strong contingent of Australian women whilst Hungary's Mária Érdi has just won the European title at a light winds Europeans in Athens.

Since winning the Sofia Nacra 17 title here last year GBR's John Gimson and Anna Burnet have not finished off the podium at any major regatta, most recently the 2020 Olympic silver medallists collected the European title. Their training partners, Olympic champions Rugero Tita and Caterina Banti, have had their selection for Paris 2024 confirmed, and this week should see an engaging foretaste of who might win gold in Marseille this summer.

Sam Sills and Emma Wilson added to GBR's medal success last year, both winning the iQFOiL classes and both will be among the top contenders next Saturday when the giant regatta concludes.

The 53 Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofía Mallorca by Iberostar is jointly organised by the Club Nàutic S'Arenal, the Club Marítimo San Antonio de la Playa, the Real Club Náutico de Palma, the Real Federación Española de Vela and the Federación Balear de Vela, with the support of World Sailing and the main Balearic public institutions.

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