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Beckett takes ILCA 7 dinghy lead after dramatic changes in World Cup Series event

by World Sailing 2 Apr 21:53 BST 1-6 April 2024
53 Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca © World Sailing

Great Britain's Olympic hopeful Micky Beckett took advantage of a dramatic change of conditions at the 53 Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca by Iberostar on the second day of the World Cup Series event.

Day 2 produced such different conditions on the Bay of Palma, the sailors could have been forgiven for thinking they were racing at a different venue.

After winds gusting close to 30 knots and monster waves kicking up to three metres. the Bay of Palma dawned to light winds and flat water. Somehow the best Olympic sailors managed to make sense of all manner of wind and wave conditions, such as Beckett in the ILCA 7 men's dinghy.

Looking to win overall for a third consecutive time, Beckett seized the lead after wins in both his heats today. This puts the Briton four points ahead of Germany's 2020 world champion Philipp Buhl.

"It is such a big change to go from the massive waves of yesterday to the light and tight stuff of today," said Beckett.

"I was pleased to be able to do so today, leading round both windward marks. I didn't actually extend much but I did enough to stay ahead both times."

Beckett led Cyprus' 2012 London silver-medallist Pavlos Kontides across the line in the first race and Ireland's Finn Lynch in the second.

Things have not gone so well so far for last year's ILCA 6 women's dinghy winner Marit Bouwmeester, the Netherlands sailor who already holds a full set of gold, silver and bronze medals from 2016, 2012 and 2021 respectively. The Dutch star was third in the first race yesterday after breaking a vang which she replaced only for the new one to go again forcing her to abandon the second race. Second and 10th today Bouwmeester is up to eighth whilst Belgium's Emma Plasschaert tops the fleet.

"I liked the conditions yesterday, strong winds and big waves," said Bouwmeester.

"I think sailing is about consistency and doing it well in every condition so it's nice to get different conditions. Today, the first race I didn't get it quite right, and the second race was a good one." By which she meant a second place in her qualifying group. Bouwmeester admitted that, compared with bringing up a young toddler not yet two years old, the white heat of Olympic competition can actually feel like a holiday.

Another new parent, Poland's vice world champion Pavel Tarnowski conclusively dominated the iQFOiL men's windsurfing fleet winning all four races whilst in the women's fleet Norway's Mina Mobekk leads after three.

Just over a week ago in Mar Menor, Spain, Max Maeder dominated the Formula Kite European Championship to add the title to the world title he took in The Hague last summer. Today the unstoppable 17-year-old from Singapore delivered two first places and a second. Last year's overall Trofeo Princesa Sofia regatta winner is seven points up on Austria's Valentin Bontus who was fourth at last year's worlds and seventh at the Marseille test event. Bontus admits that Maeder is in a class of his own.

"I think most of us have accepted that we are in a race for second because Max has a different gear," said Bontus. "The riders who don't want to say it is because of pride, but at the moment Max is just unbeatable. It's clear to see."

That reputation of invincibility used to be part of Daniela Moroz's story until the end of 2022. Since then the six-time women's Formula Kite world champion has struggled to maintain that world-beating form, but the American is going well this week. Moroz won three of her four races today, to extend her lead over Australia's Breiana Whitehead.

Other Olympic events have already contested their 2024 world championships, like the 470 mixed dinghy, ILCAs and the 49er skiffs. Not so the Nacra 17 mixed multihull fleet which has not raced since the Europeans in early November. They must wait until early May for their Worlds in La Grande Motte. So after a period of winter training there is some curiosity to see who has made the biggest advances.

Germany's 2020 Olympic bronze medallists Paul Kohlhoff and Alica Stulhemmer have had to recruit a new coach in that intervening period and now have Australian double Olympian Andrew Palfrey in their corner in Palma. Counting two second places and a third, the Kiel duo lead European champions John Gimson and Anna Burnet (GBR), last year's Sofía winners.

"Consistent starting and going the right way were key and we did that quite well," said Kohlhoff. "It is tough to know what to expect here because we have not seen most of the fleet since the Europeans. It's always exciting to come back together after a big winter training block. We were in Lanzarote and did a lot of racing in light and windy conditions, so it's nice to be back racing in a big fleet like this here. And working with our new coach is inspirational who brings new ideas, new ways and a lot of experience."

While their compatriots in the 470s, ILCA 6 and 7s and 49ers have all now booked their selection for France's home Olympic Games, Nacra 17 pair Tim Mourniac and Lou Berthomieu believe they are ahead of their rivals - although France's process is believed to be subjective and ongoing. They know this will be a key, observed regatta whereas the Worlds on their home waters will not. They lie fourth after today with four-time world champion Billy Besson, who represented France in the class in Rio 2016, now sailing with Noa Ancian, lying in eighth.

"We were looking to not start with too many points on the board from the first day and we achieved that," smiled Mourniac, past youth world champion.

"Our selection process has been going on since we were here last year and Hyères [Semaine Olympique Francaise] we know will be important. Nothing is mathematical so we don't really know where we are, all we know is every regatta is super important. We keep pushing all the time trying to stay in the top five, top ten all the time. But we think the best French crew will be selected before the Worlds."

In the 49er skiffs, being able to risk on the busy start line and get to the left was the key ingredient. Not easy to execute in such a tough fleet, but somehow it worked for Aussies Jack Ferguson and Max Paul who landed three wins and an eighth in the Yellow fleet to take the overall lead in the men's skiff. Paul was second last year at this regatta crewing for Laser Olympic champion from Rio 2016, Tom Burton.

Having recently lost the trials for Paris 2024 to Jim Colley and Shaun Connor, Paul got back into the 49er with his previous helmsman Ferguson, who was delighted to be racing again, never mind dominating the day. "It was a left-hand track for us all day and the key focus was to get off the start line quick and get left. We executed that more times than we didn't,and so it is a good outcome right now. This is my first time back in the 49er since the Worlds last year and I used to sail with Max, so we are pretty happy with the first day. I am just here because I missed 49er sailing."

The 49er FX fleet launched later in the afternoon as did the 470s. The women's skiffs only managed two races before the thermal wind got too light. Norway's Helen Naess and Marie Ronnigen won both heats to take the 49erFX lead. In the 470s, Germany's husband-and-wife duo Malte and Anastasiya Winkel are still top, ahead of Britain's Vita Heathcote and Chris Grube, recently selected for the Games.

Qualifying races continue for all 10 events on Wednesday morning, with first races scheduled to start at 1100 hours.

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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