Grand Prix Sailing

Zegers and van Even show how it’s done

 

 

Day 2 of Sailing World Cup in Hyeres

 

Afrodite Zegers and Anneloes van Veen (NED) were unstoppable on day two of Sailing’s World Cup Series in Hyères, France, winning both Women’s 470 races in convincing style.

Out of the 534 competitors from 52 nations racing across ten Olympic events, Open Kiteboarding and 2.4 Norlin OD, the Dutch team were the standout performers.

Following a brief morning postponement due to a wait for the wind, the 470 fleets got out for a 12:30 start, sailing in a westerly 10-15 knot breeze.

Zegers and van Veen were unrelenting, sailing their way to two convincingly victories to leapfrog Switzerland’s Linda Fahrni and Maja Siegenthaler into first place.

The Dutch duo are on a hot streak in the Women’s 470, winning gold at the opening 2017 World Cup Series event in Miami, USA before securing the Trofeo Princesa Sofia title in March.

They were agonisingly close to claiming a medal at Rio 2016, missing out by a single point and as their rivals have gone onto new ventures or taken time out of the boat, Zegers and van Veen were quick to get straight back into action.

“We already knew we wanted to continue as a team,” explained van Veen. “It was an easy choice to carry on.

“Since the beginning of the year at the World Cup in Miami we have made a lot of improvements, we still know there is a lot of work to be done but we feel like great improvements have been made.”

Zegers and van Veen got off to a strong start in both of their races and when compared to their rivals they were simply faster as van Veen explained, “We had good boat speed in the first race and from there we just tried to defend the lead and stay in front of the fleet which we did well.

“In the second race, we had a really good start from the pin and got the lead straight from that. We just played the shifts then.”

 

Watch, analyse and assess Zegers and van Veen’s races using the SAP Sailing Analytics. 

 

 

A familiar battle is developing in the Men’s 470 with Rio 2016 silver and bronze medallists separated by small margins. Greece’s Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis were made to settle for bronze at Rio 2016, beaten to silver by Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS).

The tables have turned, for now, in Hyères as the Greek team hold the lead on five points to the Australia’s seven. Both crews posted identical results on day two, recording a first and a third but the Greek team had a better opening day with a race win and a fifth to take the lead.

On the rivalry with the Australians, Kagialis said, “It is always nice to race against people like Mat and Will as they are top athletes. When the level is higher you try more and you push more so it’s nice.

“It makes the sport better.

“Our goal is always to get a medal. You do your best in the regatta and if you are up there near the end you then get to choose which medal you can push for. It’s still early though, we have three days of racing before we get to that point.”

 

 

An interesting battle is developing in the Nacra 17 as the top three continue to fight for supremacy.

Five points separate Moana Vaireaux and Manon Audinet (FRA), Fernando Echavarri and Tara Pacheco (ESP) and Lin Ea Cenholt and Christian Peter Lubeck (DEN). The trio shared the day’s race wins and have put some points between themselves and fourth place.

“We had good starts and took the right side so it was a good day for us,” said Lubeck who had a steady day with a 1-(8)-2 scoreline. Ea Cenholt added,

“We had an offshore tricky wind but we succeeded in what was important for us, to be at near the top of the fleet at the top mark.”

From a three-way fight to a three-way tie, Great Britain’s Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Stu Bithell, Argentina’s Yago and Klaus Lange and Spain’s Diego Botin and Iago Lopez are all locked on 16-points apiece in the 49er.

The trio scored a good set of ‘keepers’ on the second day, discarding their worst race which for all three was race one.

 

 

Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) had another consistent day to consolidate their lead. Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey (GBR) shone the brightest, however, winning a pair of races and claiming a fifth. As a result, they move into second place ahead of Victoria Jurczok and Anika Lorenz (GER).

 

From two Finn races, a 5-4 from Ben Cornish (GBR) and a 4-2 from Nicholas Heiner (NED) sees the pair tied at the top on ten points. The day’s race victories went the way of Jorge Zarif (BRA) who is 11th overall and the sixth placed Ed Wright (GBR).

 

 

Finland’s Tuula Tenkanen is making her first competitive appearance back in the Laser Radial after finishing fifth at Rio 2016. Any cobwebs were blown off on the opening day as she won the opening race. A mid-fleet finish followed but Tenkanen was back on form on Wednesday, winning another race. She leads on ten points, two ahead of Belgium’s Evi Van Acker. Maria Erdi (HUN) and Viktorija Andrulyte (LTU) are tied for third on 13 points.

As the day progressed in Hyères, the breeze began to decrease meaning the Laser and RS:X fleets could only complete one race in a challenging, fickle afternoon session.

Shahar Zubari (ISR) took the men’s race win and moves to second overall, one point behind Mateo Sanz Lanz (SUI) who consolidated first place with a third. Overnight Women’s RS:X leader Noga Geller (ISR) remains in control following a third. Zofia Noceti-Klepacka (POL) pulled within one point of the Israeli with a second. The single race win went the way of Patricia Freitas (BRA).

Sam Meech (NZL) moved from 11th to fourth overall as he took the single Laser race win. Pavlos Kontides (CYP) retains his lead by discarding his 14th. Nick Thompson (GBR) follows and Francesco Marrai (ITA) is in third.

Six further races were conducted in the Foiling Formula Kiteboarding and the perfect records held by Axel Mazella (FRA) and Nicolas Parlier (FRA) were crushed in the opening race of the day. Mazella finished second in the blue fleet and Parlier third in yellow.

 

 

That was, however, just one blip on the record as they got back to winning ways immediately after, taking the remaining five victories in their respective fleets. They are tied on 10 points at the top with Maxime Nocher (MON) following nine points behind.

Damien Seguin (FRA) and Xavier Dagault (FRA) shared the 2.4 Norlin OD race wins. Seguin, the Rio 2016 and Athens 2004 Paralympic gold medallist leads the 12-boat fleet on three points and is trailed by Dagault and Bruno Jourdren (FRA).

Racing continues Thursday 26 April at 11:00 local time. Live Medal Races will be shown on the World Sailing YouTube Channel on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 April, bringing the penultimate event before the Santander Final to a close.

 

Daily highlights video

 

http://www.yachtsandyachting.com/news/195531/World-Cup-Hyères-day-2

 

www.sailing.org/worldcup/results/index.php

 

Finding their feet on first day in Hyères

 

 

Day 1 at Sailing World Cup in Hyères 

 

Over 500 sailors from 52 nations opened their quest for World Cup honours, personal best performances and bragging rights as the second event of the 2017 series got underway in Hyères, France.

Events cannot be won on the first day in sailing but they can certainly be lost. So, in a stable 8-11 knot south easterly breeze, it was vital that those aiming for the top honours laid down a marker with consistent race results.

 

South American sailors occupy the top two places in the 49erFX.

Rio 2016 Olympic champions Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) lead on three points and Victoria Travascio and Maria Branz (ARG) follow on four.

The Brazilians are the ones to beat in the 49erFX having added Miami gold to their collection after Rio 2016. They got off to the best start in the 20-boat 49erFX fleet, collecting a 1-2-(4) scoreline.

Travascio and Branz were hot on the heels of the Brazilians on day one, finishing third in the opening bout and backing it up with a race win immediately after. They finished the day with a discarded 12th but are pleased to be on the tails of the Olympic champions,

“It was really windy and wavy today but it was good,” expressed Travascio.

“I’m happy we got off to a good start. We had two good races but then a bad third race. We went to the right when we really should have gone to the left. Overall we are happy though.”

 

 

There were some mixed scorelines in the 49er pack but it’s another South American contingent who lead the way. Brothers Yago and Klaus Lange from Argentina top the leaderboard on three points and World Cup Miami winners Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Stu Bithell (GBR) follow one point behind.

In the 470 fleets, Rio 2016 bronze medallists Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE) lead the men’s division and Switzerland’s Linda Fahrni and Maja Siegenthaler are in control in the women’s after two races each.

 

 

Pavlos Kontides (CYP) came out firing in the 60-boat Laser fleet, winning both of the days races. Good boat speed and positioning at the startline enabled Kontides to be within the leading positions at the top mark in both races. From there he was able to use his speed to take a lead at the first gate, in both races, and subsequently he dominated from there.

Watch the races back on the SAP Sailing Analytics to see how Kontides asserted himself.

Nick Thompson (GBR) and Rio 2016 Olympic Champion Tom Burton (AUS) kept Kontides in sight in both races. Thompson picked up a 3-2 and Burton a 4-5.

In the Laser Radial, Evi Van Acker (BEL) posted two strong results as she bids to defend her Hyères crown. A third and a first gives her an eight point advantage over Viktorija Andrulyte (LTU). World Cup Miami winner Vasileia Karachaliou (GRE) had a mixed day with a 35th and fourth. Sailors’ worst races will be discarded after the third race so a good performance on Wednesday will propel the Greek racer up the leaderboard.

 

 

 

In the 38 strong Women’s Windsurfer fleet, Israel’s Noga Geller came out flying with superb starts and speed. Feeling comfortable in the conditions, she snapped up the first two race wins.

Having won the first two races in the RS:X fleet, Geller was aiming for a perfect day but a bad start in the third bout of the day meant she was unable to assert herself as she had been doing.

Geller finished in 22nd place, quite the comedown from her flying start. Geller discards her 22nd and leads the way on two points. Zofia Noceti-Klepacka (POL) and Veronica Fanciulli (ITA) follow. The day’s other race win went the way of China’s Yunxiu Lu, winner at the World Cup Series in Miami, USA.

In the Men’s RS:X, Switzerland’s Mateo Sanz Lanz had a wonderfully consistent day, winning two races that were sandwiched with a fourth.

Moana Vaireaux and Manon Audinet (FRA) controlled the Nacra 17, picking up a (4)-1-2 scorecard to lead on three points. Lin Ea Cenholt and Christian Peter Lubeck (DEN) and defending champions Fernando Echavarri and Tara Pacheco (ESP) follow on six points.

In their first regatta together, Billy Besson, the four time Nacra 17 World Champion, and new crew Amelie Riou got off to a slow start with an 18th and 11th. By the third race, the pair were flying and took the race win.

 

 

Great Britain’s Ben Cornish and France’s Fabian Pic shared the race wins in the 34-boat Finn fleet. Cornish holds an early lead after he backed his race win up with a sixth and Pic sits in fourth after an 11th.

French racers Nicolas Parlier and Axel Mazella dominated their respective blue and yellow fleets in the Foiling Formula Kiteboarding. The pair won every single race, beating World Champion racers Maxime Nocher (MON) and Florian Gruber (GER) respectively.

Racing continues on Wednesday 26 April at 11:00 local time. Live Medal Races will be shown on the World Sailing YouTube Channel on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 April, bringing the penultimate event before the Santander Final to a close.

 

www.sailing.org/worldcup/results/index.php

 

Daily highlights video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxDfkodRs1s

 

 

Big steps and baby steps, Palma winners crowned

 

Gold for Afrodite Zegers and Anneloes Van Veen (470 W) – photo © Thom Touw Photography

 

A mix of established Rio Olympic campaigners and emerging young talent shared the top podium spots when the 48th Trofeo Princesa Sofia Iberostar ended Saturday with a brisk 25 kts Mistral offshore wind which brought the 646 boat regatta to spectacular, challenging finale.

While it is the first major Olympic classes regatta victories for the up and coming winners of the 49er class, for the triumphant Men’s 470 pair, the Laser Radial, the men’s RS:X, the outright winner of the Princesa Sofia Trophy is 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Zofia Noceti-Klepacka.

“I am so happy to win the overall trophy. I have been here 15 or 16 times maybe and usually finish in the top three but this is the first time I have won the class and to win the trophy is fantastic. We had a light winds series then finishing with nearly 30kts of wind was amazing today. This is the first regatta I have done this year and so to win is great.” Said Klepacka

 

Zofia Noceti-Klepacka – photo c Sailing Energy / Trofeo Sofia Regatta Iberostar

 

The Polish RS:X sailor snatched the class win from an amazing three cornered, sudden death Medal Race race over a new style course. Although the RS:X titles were decided only on these new short, sharp finales featuring only three sailors, Klepacka’s scoreline through the week counted no results worse than fifth over her 12 races. With the best average she wins the prestigious regatta’s top award. Pavel Tarnowksi made it a Polish double, winning the Mens RS:X.

The event which traditionally raises the curtain on the new European Olympic seas started in light winds Monday before the 8-10kt reliable Bay of Palma sea breeze prevailed, but when new format final races were scheduled for several classes the big breeze blew in. The Women’s FX skiff class only managed two of their planned three medal deciding races before the remaining races were cancelled. With the blustery wind peaking at over 25kts Race 2 of their Grand Final turned into a veritable demolition derby. Only two of the 10 finalists finished. Although they won the race, finishing with a broken mast, Germany’s Victoria Jurczok and Anita Lorenz had already wrapped up the class victory yesterday and finished a whopping 49 points ahead of Norway’s second places Helene Naess and Marie Ronninngen.

“It was hard today for the teams who are quite new in the fleet and there are a few of them.” Said helm Jurczok who finished ninth in Rio with Lorenz, “We sailed quite well through the whole week. We felt comfortable and ow because it’s our first medal here in Palma. This is a good start to the season and gives us confidence. Our boat handling is quite good in strong winds.”

The strong wind annulled any final racing for the 49er class, cancelling what would have been an intriguing title tussle between the young British duo James Peters and Fynn Sterritt, Spain’s Rio representatives Diego Botin and Iago Lopez and the new British pairing of Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell. But with no racing possible it is the first big regatta win in the 49er for Peters and Sterritt who had something of a nervous day, sitting one point clear of their Spanish rivals. Palma has traditionally been the least favourite regatta for the young pair, struggling here at times in the past, but it is now a favourite.

“We are stoked with how the week has gone.” Crew Sterritt smiled, “Our consistency paid off in the end. We are early in the cycle but it is nice to kick off the season with a win and gives us the target to go out and win some more. The quality of the fleet is not that deep at this point in the cycle but we wanted to put down a marker early on and to put us in the best possible shape for when it gets tougher.”

GBR took gold and silver in the 49er fleet and won two medals, silver and bronze in the Laser. Italy’s Rio selection Francesco Marrai gave regatta leader Elliot Hanson the slip just before the start of the medal race and went on to win the class. Double world champion Nick Thompson won the medal race and took bronze.

Marrai reported: “I feel at ease sailing here. I have a lot more experience than last time, especially having been to the Olympic Games, mostly about the whole approach to the whole sailing week and staying motivated and focused all the way through the regatta. And I am very motivated after Rio.”

And Thompson added: “I had a really good week working with a new coach for this week, Mike Bullough, and we were working on a few different key areas and so to come away with a medal is quite nice even though I was not really focusing on the result. I was looking at starting, some strategy and a lot of downwind technique. That is what we have been looking at. So it has been quite hard for me this week because I am generally a bit of an end starter (starts close to one end of the line or the other) and I was sticking out in the middle all the way through the regatta and so it was a bit of a test of my patience, but it was the right thing to be doing.”

Elliot sailed a fantastic regatta and deserved to win it. He has made big improvements working together through the winter. He just did not get it together in the Medal Race but I am sure he will learn from it.”

A capsize late in the Medal Race meant Lithuania’s Victorija Andrulyte let the Laser Radial gold slip from her grasp, handing the Palma title to China’s Dongshuang Zhang.

“I am delighted to be second. I have always been top 20, sometimes top five or ten but this is great. I was making smart decisions in the middle of the week and then today I was leading into the final mark but capsized and let the Chinese girl pass me. I am not too disappointed because this is a good result for me.”

 

Tetsuya Isozaki and Akira Takayanagi – photo c Thom Touw Photography

 

Confidence and accomplished crew work in the strong breeze and choppy waves made the winning difference for the jubilant Japanese pair Tetsuya Isozaki and Akira Takayanagi. Their third place in the Medal Race – trialled here at eight boats – was enough to overhaul Sweden’s Carl Frederick Fock and Marcus Dackhammar who finished a painful last in the medal race and so losing the gold by one single point. The Japanese duo finished second in Miami. “We are very happy with the gold.” Said Isozaki, “It was a difficult race today but we’ve managed to make a good performance in the strong wind which we feel used to.”

 

Afrodite Zegers and Anneloes Van Veen – photo c Thom Touw Photography

 

There was an encore performance in the 470 class where the Dutch duo Afrodite Zegers and Anneloes Van Veen repeated their success at Sailing World Cup Miami. Zegers, a concert pianist who has put her music aside as she pursues the Olympic dream in the 470, grew up in Athens, Greece before moving to Holland in 2011. Both girls are also pursuing degree courses away from sailing.

“Most of the days were quite light and so you had to be patient and we are good at that.” Van Veen commented, ” In the short races the places were settled quickly after the start and then finishing off with a lot of wind today added an extreme to the event.”

The duo have been together since 2012. “We are very different, have different backgrounds and complement each other. She keeps my calm at the right time. Physically we are both very good together and just work very hard.” Says Zegers.

“Most of the regatta would be Chopin or Liszt but today was definitely a Rachmaninov kind of day!” grinned Zegers.

 

Max Salminen – photo c Thom Touw Photography

 

Max Salminen of Sweden won the Finn class, emerging through Semi Final qualification to triumph in the new winner takes all five boat Final. Arguably the Finn class has been bravest in their desire to innovate and change. Turkey’s Ailcan Kaynar was best in the Opening series and went directly to the Final but took third.

Salminen, sixth in Rio, said, “I got better during the week and finally found my old speed and perhaps my performance is even better than before.”

The Nacra 17 fleet, like the 49ers did not get the chance to race because of the boisterous winds. That leaves Spain Fernando Echavarri and Tara Pacheco in gold with Britons John Gimson and Anna Burnet in second and Denmark’s Lin Cenholt and Christian Peter Lubeck third.

Crew Pacheco dedicated the win to her grandmother who died the week before the regatta. “It has been a difficult week so it is important to have won.” she said.

 

For all results see: www.trofeoprincesasofia.org

 

Showdown Saturday on the Bay of Palma

 

Photo © Jesús Renedo / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar

 

The final day of the 48th Trofeo Princesa Sofia Iberostar on Mallorca’s Bay of Palma will be a test for sailors but also for the new formats which are designed to produce simpler, more engaging action on the last day.

The prime example might be Saturday’s Finn finale which is now pared back to a five boat winner takes all showdown. First to cross the finish line wins the regatta. Accumulated, qualifying points count for nothing. Semi Final Qualifying and Semi Final positions do not mean anything.

Whoever wins between Turkey’s Alican Kaynar, Deniss Karpak of Estonia, Sweden’s Max Salminen, Zsombor Berecz of Hungary and Holland’s young Nick Heiner collects the regatta title for the class.

But some sailors or crews are already assured of leaving Palma with medals. Poland’s 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Zofia Klepacka and Spain’s Ivan Pastor, both winners of their Opening Series go straight to the three board RS:X Grand Final and are therefore both guaranteed a medal. The RS:X Men and Women race through a final day 10 board Qualifier and six board Semi Final to leave just three sailors in their respective Grand Finals.

The German FX duo Victoria Jurczok and Anika Lorenz appear to have beaten the FX and 49er change to three races Final format by amassing a lead of 38 points going into their final day, and are assured of gold. They wobbled with a tenth in their penultimate race but then bounced back with their seventh win from 15 starts.

“It was pretty challenging out there.” Said crew Lorenz, “We went out so late and they had to move the whole course. The first race there were only the guys in front of us when it was really breezy. The second race we smashed up the start but the third race we won. It is comfortable to go into the final day with such a lead but it will be challenging because the forecast is for it to be windy.”

Also guaranteed a medal, gold or silver, are Nacra 17 leaders Fernando Echávarri and Tara Pachecho. Spain’s 2008 Beijing Tornado gold medallist seized the lead and have now sailed a 1,1,1,2 from their last four races, leading Britain’s John Gimson and Anna Burnett by 16 points. So the Spanish duo who have been together in the class since just after the 2014 Santander Worlds are assured of at least silver, going into a conventional 10 boat one race Medal Race.

 

Fernando Echavarri and Tara Pacheco – photo © Jesus Renedo / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofia Iberostar

 

 

In contrast the 49er Men’s Skiff is poised for an exciting showdown. Under the usual Olympic Medal Race format that young Brits James Peters and Fynn Sterrit go into the Medal Race with a 25 points lead over Argentina’s fourth placed Lange brothers Yago and Klaus would normally have at least ensured a medal of some colour was assured for the British duo.

But the new three heat, single points Medal Race for the top 10 pairs changes the dynamic for the Finale. Peters and Sterritt lead their Spanish counterparts Diego Botin and Iago Lopez by a single point while Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell, third at 13pts behind their countrymen, still have a fighting chance of adding the Palma title to January’s Sailing World Cup Miami win. Fletcher and 2012 Olympic silver medallist Bithell had a 12th today but otherwise have never been out the top three during the eight other Finals races.

“We are just looking forwards to a good battle for the gold. These guys are all good competitors so it will be tough. The last race did not go our way. But we know we have what we have to win this regatta and are going to go out and do everything that we can to win the regatta.” Helm James Peters asserted.

 

 

James Peters and Fynn Sterritt – photo © Jesus Renedo / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofia

 

Unmatched consistency sees young British Laser helm Eliot Hanson holding the lead into a final day which may yield his first major regatta win at senior level. He finished the Finals series with a 2,1 to lead Italian rival Francesco Marrai into the Laser Medal Race, a conventional 10 boat one race double points showdown.

Outcomes are harder to predict in the Laser Radial and the 470 Men and Women where points are very tight. Just one point separates China’s Dongshuang Zhang from Lithuania’s Victorija Andrulyte.

In the 470 Men and Women the margin is just five points in both classes. Sweden’s Carl-Frederick Fock and Marcus Dackhammar hold on to first place ahead of Spain’s Rio selection Jordi Xammer and Nicolas Rodriguez, while Greece’s 2016 bronze medallists Pangiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kaglialis are 24 points off first. Both 470 classes now race one single eight boat medal race Saturday.

Dackhammar, the leading 470 helm commented: “We are enjoying the sailing out there, it’s been fun. We have managed to pull off the starts well, we have good speed and really are just enjoying the sailing. This is key point for us. Tomorrow anything can happen!” Spanish rival Xammar pledges: “Tomorrow we cannot be conservative. We have to fight for the gold. It’s better to fight and lose than to wait to see what happens and end up losing as well. We will focus on our performance. If we work hard we plan to make it hard for our rivals.”

For all results see: www.trofeoprincesasofia.org

 

 

Tension builds with new finals formats

 

Photo © Jesús Renedo / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar

 

Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar – Day 4

 

As the Finn class at the Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar trial a new format which gives the top two sailors from Qualifying fast track tickets directly into Saturday’s five boat Grand Final, the runaway fleet leaders in the Womens Skiff class racing on the Bay of Palma may wrap up their titles with a day to spare.

In the driving seat in the Womens Skiff, the 49er FX, Germany’s Victoria Jurcoz and Anika Lorenz currently look unstoppable having won six times from 11 starts to lead the 30 boat class by 34 points. The Kiel based pair who are the only crew in this Palma fleet to have finished inside the top 10 in Rio sailed to a 1,1,2 in the lighter, 7 – 9kts sea breeze conditions.

“We did not start so well in the third race and had to fight back with some other fast girls around. But we are giving everything we can to try and win tomorrow. That would be nice.” Helm Jurcoz commented.

 

Photo © Jesús Renedo / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar

 

The Finn class sailors holding counsel, not making any premature judgements about the format innovation which responds to the need to deliver easily understood, exciting, televisual finales to the Olympic events. Turkey’s Alician Kaynar and Estonian Deniss Karpak booked their places in Saturday’s five boat Grand Final and will be joined by the top three sailors from an eight boat Semi Final raced Friday.

Kaynar, 13th in Rio and 18th in London, has only four points of a margin after eight races over Sweden’s Max Salminen in third. The class leader has mixed feelings about his fast track to the final.

Kaynar said “It is nice to make the final early and it’s important. I will have time to rest a bit but I am not sure. It can still be unfair to some sailors. And from my own point of view if I carried on tomorrow there would still be the chance to guarantee a place on the podium. Now I don’t have that chance. There are two sides to it.”

Salminen, the Swede who was sixth in the Finn at the 2016 Olympic regatta, won both races today. He also has mixed feelings and contends:

“I am afraid about the new format that you can get in sticky situations because match racing or tactical sailing comes into play earlier rather in the Finals. I am trying to be open minded. There are a lot of other things we could do better. I do think we can televise the sport better. As a class we missed out in Rio on two of the most spectacular days of racing I have had in my career because we were not on the TV course. No one at all could see us on the course. There is a lot of basic stuff to do before we fine tune the format.”

Salminen’s Swedish compatriots in the Men’s 470 Class Carl-Frederick Fock and Marcus Dackhammer lead the Men’s 470 fleet after winning two of the three Finals races so far. Helm Fock believes they are profiting as a higher premium is placed on starting in the short 20 minutes duration sprint races of their Finals.

“We made it quite easy with the short upwinds. If you could get away off the line then it was easy. It is important to be on one of the ends.” Says Fock, “Unfortunately now we are the only 470 crew left at this level in Sweden. In the last cycle we were three boats but I think it will be just us this time. That is OK for selection but it makes it hard to for training.”

 

Photo c Thom Touw Photography

 

The new 470 Womens class leaders are a fresh partnership at their first regatta together. Helm Silvia Mas Departes has won the 470 Junior Worlds twice but her crew Paula Barcelo has committed to studying medicine. The Barcelona helm who sails for the Arenal club which hosts the 470s paired up with Patricia Cantero just four weeks ago and the duo have clicked, taking over the top of the Women’s ranking.

“We are fast together, especially upwind.” Canarian Cantero observes, “This is our first regatta together. I gave up sailing the 470 after I did not qualify for Rio. I did not sail from May last year until a few weeks ago. We feel good together. We trained a lot of hours before here to make it work. In the race I tell her what I see and she makes the final decision. It is working well.”

Solid consistency continues to serve the young British duo James Peters and Fynn Sterrit well, keeping them at the top of the 49er fleet for a second day in a row. Their 6,6,2 scoreline leaves them 13 points clear of Spanish Rio crew Diego Botin and Iago Lopez in second but the new partnership of Dylan Fletcher and 470 silver medallist Stu Bithell are on a charge after a mid regatta blip prompted by a ‘marginal UFD’ penalty. Miami winners Fletcher and Bithell have bounced back with a 3,1,1,2,3 to elevate themselves to third. Fletcher explained:

“It was nice to be out in the champagne conditions. It was awesome, typical Palma. We picked up at the UFD which was marginal and then there was a race run which we think should not have been run at all because there was no wind, so we did not do well. That is hurting us a little now. But otherwise today we were getting nice starts and going fast. It was easy when you were winning. It was hard when you are in the pack.”

 

Dylan Fletcher-Scott / Stuart Bithell (GBR) – photo © Jesus Renedo / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofia Iberostar

 

Rio Olympian Fletcher adds: “It is really cool with Stu. I had been sailing with Alan (Sign) for a long time and so this is new, fun and exciting. His background is the 470 and so he brings a different element into the boat, he helps out with the tactics and is really, really good at making the boat go fast. It keeps me in check and has gelled well. For sure our boat handling needs to get better and we can go faster. Pete and Blair (gold medallists Burling and Tuke) are always fast. They will be back.”

The GBR pair John Gimson and Anna Burnett retain a slender lead in the Nacra 17 class where the standings exactly mirror those of the 49er with British crews first and third and hosts Spain in second in this case Spain’s Fernando Echavarri and Tara Pacheco. Gimson and Burnet survived a something of a rocky day after getting a UFD in Race 10. A collision in Race 12 resulted in damage which required them to retire but the subsequent protest allocated them redress points for the race.

 

Photo c Thom Touw Photography

 

Grand Canarain 19 year old Joel Rodriguez is reaping the rewards of a winter of hard training on his home waters, in Tenerife and Miami, leading the Laser class by 15 points ahead of Italy’s Francesco Marrai. Three British sailors, Elliot Hanson, Scot Lorenzo Chiavarini and double world champion Nick Thompson, lie third, fourth and fifth.

The points are tight at the top of the RS:X fleets where Poland’s 2012 Bronze medallist Zofia Klepacka leads and Spain’s Ivan Pastor holds a small margin in the Men’s competition. On his return to the regatta site at Can Pastilla Pastor said:

“It has been a hard and physical day because of the light winds. When you are sailing now in the gold fleet every little mistake is paid for by many points. All the fleet is tired now and it is important to know who is behind you and so today I am happy with my results.”

 

Results after Day 4: (top three)

470 Men

1. Carl Fredrik Fock/Marcus Dackhammar (SW E), 20 pts

2. Jordi Xammar/Nicolás Rodríguez (ESP), 26pts

3. T etsuya Isuzaki/Akira Takayanagi (JPN), 28pts

 

470 Women

1. Silvia Mas/Patricia Cantero (ESP), 18pts

2. Mengxi Wei/Yani Xu (CHN), 20pts

3. Afrodite Zegers/ Anneloes Van Veen (NED), 22 pts

 

49er

1. James Peters/Fynn Sterritt (GBR), 43pts

2. Diego Botin/Iago López (ESP), 56pts

3. Dylan Fletcher Scott/ Stuart Bithell (GBR), 65pts

 

49er FX

1. Victoria Jurczok/Anika Lorenz (GER), 29pts

2. Helene Naess/Marie Ronningen (NOR), 62pts

3. Kimberly Lim/Cecilia Low (SIN), 66pts

 

Finn

1. Alican Kaynar (TUR), 40pts

2. Deni s s Karpak (EST), 42pts

3. Max Salminen (SWE), 44pts

 

Laser

1. Joel Rodriguez (ESP), 17pts

2. Francesco Marrai (ITA), 32pts

3. Elliot Hanson (GBR), 35 pts

 

Laser Radial

1. Viktorija Andrulyte (LTU), 46pts

2. Tuula Tenkanen (FIN), 49pts

3. Evi van Acke r (BEL), 51pts

 

Nacra 17

1. John Gimson/Anna Burnet (GBR), 46.45pts

2. Fernando Echavarri/Tara Pacheco (ESP), 48pts

3. Tom Phipps/Nikki Boniface (GBR), 63.73pts

 

RS:X M

1. Iván Pastor (ESP), 32pts

2. Mattia Camboni (ITA), 34pts

3. Shahar Zubari (ISR), 36pts

 

RS:X F

1. Zofia Noceti- Klepacka (POL), 22pts

2. Stefania Elfutina (RUS), 24pts

3. Marina Alabau (ESP), 25pts

 

www.trofeoprincesasofia.org

 

 

 

 

New racing formats come into play for finals

 

Alican Kaynor – Photo  © Pedro Martinez / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofía

 

Alican Kaynor (TUR) & Deniss Karpak (EST) go direct to the Grand Final

 

Trofeo Princesa Sofia Iberostar in Palma de Mallorca

 

It is the Finn class, ironically the longest established of the Olympic classes, which will be the first to really feel the effect of their new format which is being trialled for the first time at the Trofeo Princesa Sofïa Iberostar.

There is a greater incentive to press hard, take a few more risks to earn one of these two ‘golden tickets’. The two sailors who have benefitted from this new format are Alican Kaynar of Turkey and Deniss Karpak of Estonia. These two sailors have a layday by missing the semi-finals and progressing direct to the Grand Final race on Saturday which will consist of only 5 boats.

 

Deniss Karpak – Photo ©Pedro Martinez / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofía

 

Meantime the third, fourth and fifth placed boats go straight to the eight boat Semi Final. These sailors are: Max Salminen (SWE), Nenad Bugarin (CRO) and Nicholas Heiner (NED).

Friday consists first of a one race Semi Final Qualifier from which only the top five boats go forwards to the Semi Final. The Semi Final Qualifier is a standard 50 minutes race. The eight boat Semi Final has a target duration of 25 minutes and the Grand Final should be just 20 minutes from which the top three boats qualify for the final.

Otherwise the trial formats really start to take effect, Friday.

The most notable changes are in the RS:X fleets where at the end of Friday’s Gold fleet races the first placed sailors advance direct to the Grand Final. The Grand Final is a three board sail off.

In the 470 it is now only the top eight boats which make it to their Grand Final.

The 49ers and FX change is to a three race medal showdown, still for the top 10 boats.

The Nacra 17 and Laser finals are largely unchanged from usual.

The race formats will all be then evaluated by World Sailing.

 

 

 

Moving into the complicated finals race format

Photo  © Pedro Martinez / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar

 

 

Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar – Day 3

 

The Trofeo Princesa Sofia Iberostar regatta in Palma trials a number of complicated finals and medal race formats for all classes in an experiment by World Sailing to make sailing more understandable and more fun to watch.

The gold fleets now move into the final series stage and the fleet leaders are emerging from the pack.

A perfect day of three wins in the 49er FX fleet sees Germany’s Victoria Jurczok and Anika Lorenz sitting 30 points clear at the head of the Women’s Skiff class after nine races at Mallorca’s Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar.

Making the difference so far is the Germans’ superior strength and experience, as one of the crews in Palma which have carried on almost seamlessly from Rio where they finished ninth. After a winter off sailing they are straight into the new Tokyo 2020 quadrennial after a February training camp here.

 

Photo  © Jesus Renedo / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar

 

Hungry to make their mark at the 49er FX European Championships when they come to their home water of Kiel in June, the duo who have sailed together since 2011 have been a class apart so far at the European season opener.

“Conditions were good and stable outside and we were fast and so we had three good races. We have good technique and have been sailing the boat for longer than most of the other girls here. It is nice to be leading, on the one hand it brings more pressure but on the other it gives you confidence to know you are sailing well. We sailed together since 2011 and have known each other for more than 10 years.” Crew Anika Lorenz comments, citing input from new British coach Dave Evans as a positive asset.

“We have never even medalled here before. We often make it to the top six and the medal race and so on but maybe this can be the year we win in Palma. We had a long break after the Olympics and did not sail through the winter, so we are back fresh. We started training in February here with our German team mates. After Hyeres we will go back to Kiel to train for the Europeans which is great for us to be able to stay home. It will be great to be home, to race from home, to have friends and family about and all the other girls to come and sail and train with us at home.”

As expected at what is effectively the perfect showcase event for emerging younger talent in the immediate post Olympic period, there is no shortage of standard bearers for the next generation, not least in the 470 class where the host nation of the 2020 Olympics are proving to have strength and depth among their talent pool, many of whom come from their college sailing.

 

Photo  © Pedro Martinez / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar

 

 

Young Japanese duo Tetsuya Isozaki and Akira Takayanagi moved into the lead in the 470 class with their second and first places in the final two qualifying races for their fleet.

Isozaki and Takayanagi are among the vanguard of a new generation of Japanese 470 sailors breaking through from a productive squad which train through their national college system, notably from Japan’s Economic University in Fukuoka. Crew Takayanagi, 20, took the bronze medal at last year’s 470 Junior World Championships in Kiel-Schilksee, Germany when Japanese pairs took gold and bronze.

Isozaki and Takayanagi already finished second at the Sailing World Cup Miami in January, runners up to the highly experienced Americans Stu McNay and Dave Hughes who today finish the Mens 470 Qualifying phase in fifth, just three points behind the Japanese leaders Kenichi Nakamura, who coaches the squad and who represented Japan in the 470 in 2008 in Qingdao, explains that part of their growing improvement as a squad is intensive month long training periods in the Kerama Islands, a strong wind and big wave venue. They arrived in Miami directly from such a camp and come to Palma after another intensive period:

“In Zamami on the Kerama Islands where they sail, it is in strong winds the seas often between four and six metres. We went to the Miami World Cup and got second after the same pattern, one month of training before in Okinawa. This year they will do another three months of training there so over this year they will have done five months training there.”, says Nakamura.

Sweden’s 470 duo Carl Frederick Fock and Marcus Dackhammer, lying third believe they have made significant improvements since they were 28th at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia last year and 11th at the subsequent 470 European Championships.

“We had a good day.” helm Fock reported at the Club Nàutic S’Arenal, “We got yellow flagged in the first race and then it was hard to get back into it. In the second race we were second. There are a lot of good teams here at the start of the new campaign. We feel good in the boat and definitely have improved.”

China’s Mengxi Wei and Yani Xu stepped to the top of the 470 Women’s leader table completing qualifying with a 1,2 in the typical Palma sea breeze conditions to overhaul the Dutch duo Afrodite Zegers and Anneloes Van Veen.

 

Photo  © Pedro Martinez / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar 

Great Britain’s James Peters and Fynn Sterritt aggregated 12 points, going 3,6,3, over the first three Finals races for the 25 strong 49er Gold fleet to take the class lead, 11pts clear of the Spain’s Diego Botin and Iago Lopez and 17 points clear of Argentina’s Lange brothers, Yago and Klaus.

That the young Brits are in good shape after their excellent training with the strong British 49er contingent in Cadiz is confirmed in the knowledge that the Spanish and Argentine partners both finished top 10 at the Rio Olympic games.

Crew Sterritt commented, “We had a consistent day. It was not really classic Palma until later in our day so it was quite tricky to start with but we are happy to be at the front of the fleet. We are really happy with the way we are sailing together. We have made a jump since last year and we said that we wanted to make an impact early on in the campaign and so have been working hard to realise that, working a bit more than others. Down in training we were going well against the other British teams but really it is hard to know how that translates to the race course because all the time it is Brit v Brit, but we felt we were going well. Normally we have not been so comfortable here and it has not been so good, but it feels different this time. It is lovely on the water, such a great place to go racing. You cycle along the front here in the morning and then go racing. It is great. There are not many better venues.” 

 

Photo © Jesús Renedo / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofía 

 

After taking three of the top four places in the Nacra 17 fleet in Miami, British crews are to the fore again in Palma. John Gimson and Anna Burnett, a newer pairing who were fourth in the Florida round of the Sailing World Cup, return to lead the fleet after nine races with Tom Phipps and Nicola Boniface – Miami runners up – in fourth.

Equal levels of top consistency proved elusive across the two races for the Laser class, particularly among the top three sailors who all sailed one bogey result. Spain’s emerging Grand Canaria based Joel Rodriguez is back at the top of the fleet whilst in the Radial fleet Finland’s Tuula Tenkanen put herself back on track to repeat her Trofeo Princesa Sofía regatta win of last year en route to her sixth in Rio. She leads World Champion Ali Young by two points.

Holland’s Nick Heiner, 2014 Laser World Champion moved into the lead in the Finn class, courtesy of two fourth places, while there is no change in the RS:X classes where Spain’s Marina Alabau and Poland’s Pawel Tarnowski both retain slender points leads.

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Return to the reliable Embat after funky first day

 

Photo © Jesús Renedo / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofía IBEROSTAR

 

 

Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar – Day 2

 

From a funky first day of racing when the promising solid morning breeze evaporated to become difficult, shifty and unsettled and then disappeared, it was a return to business as usual for the second day of competition at the 48th edition of the Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar regatta.

The Bay of Palma was blessed by the reliable light ‘Embat’ sea breeze which filled in on cue to keep the 10 classes racing on, or close to schedule.

It is 21 years since Holland’s Roy Heiner clinched a bronze medal in the Finn class in Savannah at the 1996 Olympic regatta. Now the Finn fleet on the Bay of Palma sees the Heiner family name back near the front of the fleet, courtesy of son Nicholas.

After more than five years in the Laser class, peaking with a triumphant Laser World title in 2014 in Santander, Nicholas Heiner has beefed up, having already gained more than 10 kilos of muscle, and is making waves near the front of a competitive Finn fleet. Coached by Spain’s Olympic silver medallist Rafa Trujillo, Heiner is lying a provisional third place in the 57 boat Finn fleet after four races. It is very, very early days but the young Dutch sailor is enjoying the transition.

“It is great to now race in the big fleet in the Finn. I did Melbourne last year and there was only five or six boats so there are way more good guys here and it is now good to race against them.”

 

Photo. © Jesús Renedo / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofía IBEROSTAR

 

 

A rigorous winter training programme in the gym has seen the required dividends in muscle and fitness.

“I am 10 or 11kgs heavier than I was in the Laser, and going heavier. How far? I can’t say, that is top secret. It will depend on what we feel I can handle performance wise. We build it up slowly but the muscle comes on quick enough. I am happy with that. That has been a lot of gym work and a lot of food. You are just eating as much food as you can get in! Initially the weight was coming on with the gym work alone and now with the regatta when you are racing the Finn downwind, compared with the Laser, it is so brutal that a day like today I am quite tired. So I am ready for some pasta. In the Laser it was salad all the time and some pasta now and again.”

His father, a veteran of four Olympics between 1988 and 2000 in the Finn and Soling, was on hand during Nicholas’ last training camp.

“My dad came to the last training camp and it was great. Some old school stuff came up but he did make me think about stuff, some of the little things that matters, for example. It was great to have him around.”

The Finn fleet completed two races in the moderate sea breeze which dropped away during the afternoon. Estonia’s Deniss Kapak leads the regatta by a clear six points from Sweden’s Max Salminen. Miami Sailing World Cup winner Jorge Zarif of Brazil lies seventh.

 

Photo © Jesús Renedo / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofía IBEROSTAR

 

The 470 classes stayed on schedule with two races for both groups sailed. The Women, racing first, enjoyed the best of the day’s conditions before the breeze started to die during the late afternoon, making it especially challenging during the second race for the Men. Afrodite Zegers and Anneloes Van Veen, the winners in January in Miami and who just missed the Rio podium with fourth place, have retained their consistency – finishing no worse than fourth – to lead by one point.

“First race we had a good start and went OK but missed some pressure near the top, from then on we kept fighting and took some opportunities to catch up to the one and two who were in front of us. In the second race we were struggling a bit more. We were not so fast in our downwinds but we managed OK.” Recalled crew Van Veen.

“In Miami we sailed well to win and then got some good training afterwards but here the fleet is bigger, it is more challenging here. This season we are targeting everything towards the Europeans and Worlds in Greece which is still home territory in a way for Afro. I think we are on the right track.”

While the top female duo did not falter, the male Russian duo Pavel Sozkyin and Denis Gribanov struggled in the second race – sailing a discard 19th in the very light breeze. They still lead but only by a single point from the American pair Stu McNay and Dave Hughes who won the second race of their day. Brazil’s Geison Mendes and Gustavo Thiesen are third. Brazilan Helm Mendes explained:

“In the end we did not get such good starts but we did OK. We have done some training in Brazil with the younger guys and it is good to be pushed by them. We were very happy yesterday when there was more wind, we were very fast. Here we are looking for a good result from here so we can go to Hyeres and we want to go to Japan. The fleet here is good with many young crews and today in the light winds they were very fast.”

 

Photo c Thom Touw Photography

 

Spain’s 49er duo who finished ninth in Rio 2016, Diego Botin and Iago Lopez Marra continue to lead the Men’s Skiff class winning two of their qualifying fleet races, and so lie five points ahead of the GBR duo James Peters and Fynn Sterritt.

Botin commented: “It’s been a really solid day for us even it is was a bit complicated. Our goal is to be on top at the end of the championship. We’ve only sailed two days and we haven’t yet used the discard which is so important. We have to try to keep on sailing like today. And this being one of my favourite events helps. I love the conditions, the place and all the facilities we have! I love being here!”

 

Photo c Thom Touw Photography

 

The German pair Victoria Jurczok and Anika Lorenz have a ten points cushion at the top of the 49er FX fleet. Fourth on these waters one year ago they move into the Tokyo quadrennial after their ninth in Rio. Norway’s Helene Naess and Marie Ronningen are second. They could not quite match the German because they missed the key move in the first race before the breeze built. Ronningen recalls:

“The first race we did not have the proper sea breeze built and so that race was just all about getting into the shore. The sea breeze came in for the second race and I think we were the only ones who saw that coming and we went left and went from fifth to first. In the last race it was then all about getting to the left, to the shore and getting the shore effect, standard Palma sea breeze. It is always good to be in Palma. With six races done we have had four good races and two not so good races. And so we are happy. The fleet here is interesting. There are a lot of new teams, it is interesting to see people switching in and out from the Nacra and so many young girls coming into the class and the people who have been to the Olympics.”

Jeemin Ha, Korea’s representative in Rio, leads the Laser class, GBR’s past world champion Nick Thompson returning a solid 3,2 to lie second behind Canarian Joel Rodrieguez, while in the Radial fleet Holland’s Maxime Jonker is three points up on GBR’s world champion Alison Young.

 

Photo  ©Pedro Martinez / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Princesa Sofía IBEROSTAR

 

The Nacra 17 fleet has Denmark’s Lin Cenholt and Christian Peter Lubeck leading ahead of new pairing John Gimson and Anna Burnett with British compatriots Tom Phipps and Nikki Boniface in third. The newly formed dup of double Olympic medallist Iker Martinez and Olga Maslivets lie 11th. After five Olympic windsurfing campaigns, Maslivets is on a steep learning curve adapting to the Nacra:

“There are good things and many unexpected things for me. Definitely the high speed skills from windsurfing helps a lot in the catamaran, that’s’ a good thing. There are lots of weak points, of course, one is that I am not that much into pure sailing and I do not know a lot about boats, how they work, how the systems works and definitely team work. That’s my weak point, I’m used to sailing alone so now I’m learning new things. I was sailing in RS:X, top level RS:X, 5 Olympic campaigns, now jumping into Nacra 17, a very new beginning. The Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar is giving a real challenge to see where we are and what we need to work on. It is really exciting.”

Spain’ London 2012 gold medallist Marina Alabau is on form leading the RS:X Women’s class while Poland’s Pawel Tarnowski, the 2008 Youth World Champion and runner up here last year, heads the Men’s regatta.

 

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A new wave of passion in Palma

 

 

Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar – Day 1

 

For many of the 833 sailors racing at the Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar opening day of what is effectively the start of the new four year Olympic cycle of European regattas brings a unique excitement. For the seasoned campaigners who made it to Rio, and for those who didn’t, being back in their boat, fully engaged in the heat of competition, racing on the renowned Bay of Palma is the perfect reminder of the enduring appeal of Olympic class racing. Indeed, for some, it could be considered a lifetime addiction.

Laser Radial World Champion Alison Young did not have the regatta she dreamed of in Rio. But she is back in the boat she loves, doing what she loves. After a fifth at the 2012 Olympics, then eighth in Rio there was, she says, no hesitation about whether to roll directly into the new cycle.

“There was no decision to be taken. I am really excited to be back. I really enjoy my Radial sailing. It is great to be back racing. I love Radial racing and I have such a great opportunity to keep getting better.” Young highlighted after opening with a second in the breezier first race and a fourth as the offshore drainage breeze faltered, became shiftier and finally expired in the very early afternoon.

She starts off in third overall behind the Netherlands Maxime Yonker who began with a 1,2 and Belgium’s 2012 bronze medallist Evi van Acker, another sailor whose passion for the Radial remains undimmed, who sailed a third and a first.

 

 

The contrast in conditions across the two races on the Laser race track was notable, the first contests for Women and Men enjoying a brisk 12 – 15kt breeze, the second saw lighter conditions.

Yonker is ready to press hard here after two months hard training on the Bay of Palma, driven by her slight disappointment at not coming away from the Sailing World Cup Miami event with a better result.

“I am really focused at this event. I want to keep it fun and enjoy it. I did an 11th in Miami and that was a bit disappointing after I had trained so hard. So here I was looking forwards to getting back out and racing again. So it is good to have a strong opening day after two months away from racing.”

The Dutch early leader stated, “The first race was stable and strong I started well and just hiked really hard. I managed to stay in front for the whole fleet. The second race was more puffy and tricky.”

Spain’s Joel Rodriguez, past Ladial Radial Youth World Champion, made the best start of the 134 strong Laser Standard fleet with a first and second ahead of Norway’s Mathias Mollat.

 

 

The USA’s Charlie Buckingham started his European campaign with a solid pair of scores, fifth and tenth: “It was a good way to start the event. I could have started a bit better and a couple of decision did not go my way but it was solid. I love Palma. It is one of my favourite events and here I am just looking forwards to getting more racing in Europe this season. Here I am focusing on particular things, starts and upwinds. I want to do a lot of events this season, just trying to maximise my racing practice.”

Buckingham was 11th in the Laser class in Rio and reflects:

“From Rio I learned a lot of things. Mostly there are smaller things I need to improve on but I think I am just looking to get more and more experience. There I think I finished probably where I should have, last quadrennial between seventh and 15th and now I just want to keep getting better and build my experience.”

For Sailing World Cup Miami 49er class winners Dylan Fletcher and 2012 Olympic 470 silver medallist Stuart Bithell, there is the excitement of putting the building blocks together as a new partnership which clearly had huge potential. Smart starting and hooking into the crucial first windshift was key to their pair of solid second places which put them at the top of the fleet after the first two races. A seventh in the third leaves them third, behind their compatriots James Peters and Fynn Sterrit who count a 1,3. All three top boats have the same four points tally.

Bithell is a big fan of Palma, happy to be back at the regatta after a two year absence: “We are happy as a new team in the 49er. For us both it is different and really exciting. It is going really well at the minute after a really good winter of training. This week is a good week to see what we have learned and to learn more which we will hopefully take on to Hyeres.

Our objective this week? To win. We are looking to win but in fact we are not looking too much at the outcome. I know it’s boring to be saying that. But it is. There is a good fleet here with plenty of good guys, plenty of numbers.”

For the US 470 pair, too, Stuart McNay and Dave Hughes the choice to carry on was no big choice. According to helm McNay:

“I love sailing. It is not hard to go on. As long as my family say it is OK to keep going then I will be sailing. I love the sport. I love 470 sailing. I love Olympic sailing. It is the pinnacle of our small boat sailing.”

The Miami class winners McNay and Hughes lie third after the first two races: “It was good for an opener. We started towards the leeward end of the line both times and it turned out that the right hand end was a bit better. But we were able to keep fighting, we had good upwind speed there was plenty to play on the shifts and we had good downwind speed. And to end up with two solid scores is a good way to start. We are here to win, that is why we race. But it is the beginning of the season in Europe and we love racing in Palma. The class here is good. We have a number of guys from the Olympics and as well a whole crop of good younger guys coming up.”

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49er and 49er FX classes in Palma 2017

 

Photo @Jesus Renedo / Sailing Energy / Trofeo Sofia

 

Notable entries for Palma 2017

 

It’s Palma time again, and that means it’s the first chance to drool at sun soaked Mediterranean photos of some of the worlds best sailors, and those who wish to become them. Especially fun is Palma in the year after the games, as it’s the first large regatta where many of the top sailors will get back into the game. So let’s see who’s showing up, and why that’s notable.

 

Squads

The first thing we notice is there are some very deep squads. 6 Danes, 4 French, 4 Spanish, 7 Brits, 4 Germans, 4 Irish, 3 Dutch, and 4 Poles in the 49er.

The Danes… 6 teams and no Jonas Warrer, and no Allan Norreggaard… so the old man medalists are out of the way and a new generation is looking to replace them. The Danes have been one of the most successful nations in 49er since the start, taking medals in 2008 (Gold) and 2012 (Bronze) and then the leather medal in 2016. Jonas Warrer is off match racing and Allan is sailing Nacra, which means a whole new generation can fight to be the next great Danish skiff team!

3 Dutch – 4 Irish? Well, that’s a change! For the entire life of Olympic skiff sailing, Ireland and Holland have been committed 470 nations, ignoring the skiffs. Matt McGovern and Ryan Seaton have blazed a path in Ireland and they’ve split to form 2 teams, with 2 younger teams also in the mix. Of significance though, is that both Ireland and the Netherlands have decided to compete in skiffs now. The Netherlands sailing team is the most selective in the world, typically only supporting a handful of teams in any quad, but then supporting them to the max. Whether any of these new skiff teams earn that support, we do not know yet, but the Netherlands has also committed to a strong 49erFX transition squad from youth to senior sailing, so they should have a strong supply of excellent young talent to fill the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 berths in upcoming games!

These strong squads so early in a quad sets up classic Olympic scenarios, where national teams form and work together, but ultimately know they are all chasing a single prized Olympic berth. It takes talented coaches and a very long term approach from a nation to make these situations work well, and there is sure to be some drama along the way!

 

Mix and match and internal strife

The most ambitious Olympic sailor of all time is back! Robert Scheidt shocked the sailing world when he decided to get back into the laser for Rio 2016 after the Star was removed. Many thought it was understandable for him to try and race in a home games, and many assumed at his age he wouldn’t be competitive in such a physical boat as the laser. Well, competitive he was, though he felt short of another medal. Well, he’s back, and he’s shocking again! He quietly started training with Brazilian crew Gabriel Borges through the winter, but he seems to like learning the skiff, and while we shouldn’t expect top results for at least a year, the true test will be if Robert’s ambition can lead him to put in the hours to learn all the new skills needed for a fast boat. If he puts in the time though, who would doubt his ceiling!

Another notable team from Brazil is Gabriel’s skipper from Rio 2016, Marco Grael. Marco is back to crewing, where he started his skiff career, and has brought over Carlos Robles who sailed for Spain last quad. This duo should be competitive from the get go, and if they can mesh as a team could become top contenders over time. Both sailors are top young talents, so we’ll see how they come together.

The Alonso brothers are back from Spain, and could now be the most senior members of the fleet. Also back are Diego Botin and Iago Marra, and these two teams had quite an off water battle for the Olympic berth after the Alonso’s won a Bronze at the 2015 Worlds and then match raced their countrymen back at the 2016 Worlds to win the berth mathematically, only to have their MNA launch another qualifier which they lost. All four sailors are complete gentlemen, but you can imagine there must be some bad blood there. In fleet racing, both should find themselves at the top of the fleet, so if they can avoid fixating on each other or not will be an interesting situation to follow.

If you haven’t noticed yet, Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell, who raced against each other for Rio 2016 berths have now teamed up and dominated Miami. They will be looking to win Palma having done a lot of training in Cadiz this winter. James Peters and Fynn Sterritt will need to emerge this quad from potential top sailors to top level competitors, as there should be little to slow Dylan and Stu down. A blast from the real past is Simon Hiscocks, 2000 Silver medalist and 2004 Bronze medalist is lining up as a skipper. He’s a guy who is more addicted to sailing than almost anyone else, and while he likely won’t rank at the top of the standings given his full time work schedule, it’s great to see a hero of the class stay involved.

Returnees

On an individual basis, there are also plenty of interesting teams entering. The Lange Brothers return after a strong first games. Their father won gold in the Nacra and they were one of the fastest improving teams last quad ultimately finishing 7th at the games, the highest placing for a first quad team. They should be contenders for the podium all quad long.

Yannick Lefebrve and Tom Pelsmaekers, from Belgium, are back. This duo were the last to successfully form and Oympic parthership, coming together in 2016. They sailed well together from the start and now look to put in the long hours of training needed to compete, we’ll see how they do without the freshness of a new team and a games just around the corner.

For the first time since 2001, the feature Austrians are not Nico Delle Karth and Niko Resch. Ben Bildstein and David Hussl started training alongside their countrymen in 2013 and have had numerous outstanding performances and set backs. They’ve been training hard all winter with top finishes at both Melbourne and Miami, and will be competitive all quad long. The biggest question remaining from them is if they can put up top performances at top regattas?

From Poland, Lukas and Pawel are back after an eighth in Rio. They could have contended for the medals but the regatta didn’t quite go their way. Their long term training partners split, seeing Tommy retire, but Jake has picked up young skipper Prz who has been developing along the Junior ranks and team Poland should remain a force to Tokyo.

Swiss Olympians Sebastien Schneiter and Lucien Cujean are back, as you’d expect given their young age, and they have two other Swiss teams joining them. This is the largest Swiss contingent in recent memory and is driven by a strong national class association who are working hard to build Swiss skiff sailing.

The Swedish squad are back, and we can only hope their NOC, which blocked their participation from Rio, can pick up some of their Olympic spirit and give them quality support all the way to Tokyo.

It’s fantastic to see our friends from Oman return. Musab and Hashim are wonderful gentlemen and sailors, and had it not been for an unfortunate quirk of the qualificaiton procedure for Rio, they would have been Olympians. There are a lot of Asian teams working hard for Tokyo, but with the Japanese gaining an automatic entry there might be additional space for them, and given their early start, they have a fantastic chance.

 

In the 49erFX its transplants all over

Clearly, the strong sisterhood that’s developed within the 49erFX culture is getting known! A large number of top sailors have transplanted themselves into 49erFX racing. So lets look at who’s joining the fleet.

The headlining name is 2016 World Sailor of the Year, Hannah Mills, 470 Gold Medalist from Rio. Hannah has been a top 470 sailor for two quads and is looking for a new challenge. She’s taken a unique approach to starting her 49erFX campaign… without a partner. For now she’s sailing with 49er Olympian Alain Sign, meaning she’ll be working on her skills for the near term and look to pick up a crew later. With Alain as her crew.

Palma is allowing male and mixed teams in the 49erFX this year, being a post Olympic year, to aid teams of all stripes get their campaigns going.

Another standout transfer is Nacra 17 Bronze medalist Tanja Frank, moving from crewing the Nacra to helming the 49erFX. She’s teamed up with Austrian crew Lorna Abicht and no doubt will be on a quick learning curve to start out.

Nicole Van Der Velden is on the opposite path as Tanja, moving from helming a Nacra 17 to a sixteen place finish in Rio to start crewing for Aruban Odile Van Aaholt. The duo are both young but have plenty of international experience and will have four years to build up a campaign.

 

Returning Olympians

Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey are both returning Olympians, the interesting part here is that Saskia has shifted over to racing for Team GB and abandoning Ireland after her skipper retired. Charlotte split with crew Sophie Ainsworth after an eighth place finish in London. Sophie has teamed up with Kate McGreggor though they are busy training down under and won’t be in Palma… so team GB is a jumble, and there is surely one more shoe to drop once Hannah looks to pick up a female crew.

Returning from Estonia are Kaitin Tammiste and Anna Maria Sepp, who were the last to qualify for Rio and were both teenagers at the games. They’re continuing on and will look to develop up the fleet over the next four years.

Returning from France is crew Aude Compan, but with skipper Sarah Steyaert retiring, she’s teamed up with former rival Julie Bossard. Julie spent a lot of time crewing last quad, but also has plenty of experience on the helm and they’ll be looking to get their project going.

German Olympians Vicky Jurcsok and Anika Llorenz are back and pushing straight through from their first games. They finished ninth in Rio and were probably a bit disappointed in that, but are charged up and getting ready for the new quad. They won the practice regatta.

 

Absences, Changes and Notes

Absent are all four of the girls tied heading into the Rio medal race. Clearly Palma is going to be a development regatta in 2017 rather than a top championship.

However, from Denmark we have a new team with 2016 Worlds Silver medalist Anne-Julie Schutt with a new crew, Iben Neilsby. Anne-Julie had been crewing for her sister, Maiken, for the chase to Rio, so she’s switched so skippering and will be working on a new project.

Check out the regatta photos all week long, starting on Monday, March 27th, and note the Theatre Style final on Saturday April 1st. The scoring for the Theatre Style will be single points added to the points scored during the week, unlike other reports that stated the weeks points won’t count. Some other classes are testing other final formats, so sailing fans can tune in to see what excitement is generated.

 

by 49er Class

 

 

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