All eyes are on the Bay of Palma as the 52 Trofeo Princesa Sofía opens today

Mallorca‘s renowned Bay of Palma is set to see the biggest ever racing fleet take to its waters as the Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mallorca by Iberostar lifts the curtain on the 2023 Olympic classes season. The Balearic showcase ‘Sofia’ always marks the critical point at which winter and spring training stops and the serious business of racing, measuring up against full scale opposition starts in earnest.

From their various training hubs and complexes the classes converge on Palma for a 52nd edition that carries even more importance than usual. With the period between Olympics compacted this time to just three years and already there are just 15 months or so before Paris 2024.

As usual some aspiring athletes have been here for between six weeks and two months. Europeans have been in breezy, wavy Lanzarote or Vilamoura, Portugal. But commitments and needs vary. Reigning Olympic medallists, who perhaps have America’s Cup or Sail GP commitments, or are perhaps enjoying parenthood for the first time have programmes pared back to what they consider spells of essential racing and training.

The ‘Sofia’ is the first Sailing World Cup of 2023’s four regattas along with the Allianz Regatta (The Netherlands), the Semaine Olympique Française (Hyères, France) and Kieler Woche (Kiel, Germany). And as such many nations are using 52 Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca by Iberostar as a trials or observed event alongside with one or two other key regattas to make their team selections for the Olympic test event, the Games dress-rehearsal 7-16 July in Marseille.

Italy’s dominant duo in the Nacra 17 foiling multihull, Olympic, World and European Champions Ruggera Tita and Caterina Banti have reduced the volume of their training and racing programme as Rolex World Sailors of the Year helm Tita takes on an increasingly important role with the Italian Luna Rossa America’s Cup challenge.

Looking relaxed, completing his final bits of boat work in the S’Arenal Club boat park last year’s Sofia winning helm enthuses:
“This regatta is important for us to validate what we did through the winter because we did not do a lot of volume but focused on good quality in Cagliari with the British (John Gimson and Anna Burnet), the Italians and Santi Lange a bit too. We want to see how the level of the fleet has gone up which it certainly has. I think the level of the fleet is very high now and much more even than this time last year.”

Explaining how their priorities lie, he says, “I will be very busy with Luna Rossa and so we will just do the key events, here and then Hyeres, we will then train in Sardinia and then do the test event – if we manage to qualify – and the worlds. Qualification is something to be accomplished and of course the Italians are pushing very hard and working together so the level there is higher all the time…… and of course they came second at the worlds. Sailing with Luna Rossa is give and take, somethings you can learn on the technical side that you can bring to the NACRA and somethings we practice on the water with the Nacra and we have done this for such a long time that it all helps with Luna Rossa.”

All of the Tokyo medal winning pairs are racing in the 52 Trofeo Princesa Sofia Nacra 17 fleet. Tita points to their training partners, silver medal winning British counterparts John Gimson and Anna Burnet as perhaps having a slight speed edge in the lighter conditions which are forecast for the first days of the regatta.

The 470 Mixed fleet has strengthened significantly since it debuted in ‘mixed doubles’ format here one year ago when Spain’s Jordi Xammar and Nora Brugman won. Sweden’s Anton Dahlberg and Lovisa Karlsson, European Championships led February’s Lanzarote International Regatta into the final stages but finished last in the medal race. “We had a communication problem then and it cost us but we are confident here, we have been going well in training. I just love sailing on the Bay of Palma with so many different boats around us.” smiles Dahlberg, silver medallist in Tokyo 2020.

Xammar says he is liking the shorter, intense three year pogramme, “I personally like it. We have been able to plan it accurately in advance, not like the Tokyo campaign, which nobody knew would go on to be five years. At a sporting level, I think it is very interesting because a year and a half ago all the athletes were at our maximum peak and in a year and a half we will have to be once again. And in terms of the media it keeps the focus on. A year and a half ago everyone had their eyes on Tokyo and in half a year we will be back into the Olympic year. So I think it is very positive in many areas and it is the same for everyone.”

The 49er skiff class sees Holland’s double world champions Bart Lambriex and Floris van der Werken (NED) starting as favourites along with Spain’s local heroes Diego Botín and Florian Trittel who fit their training and racing around Spain SailGP commitments. Britain’s James Peters and Fynn Sterritt’s won the Lanzarote event and took bronze at last year’s European Championships.

And in the 49erFX fleet the Dutch double world champions must be favourites too. Odile van Aanholt and Annette Duetz won here last year ten points clear of Brazil’s two times Olympic champions Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze.

The ILCA 6 racing will be fascinating, the fleet is stronger again this year. Canada’s Sarah Douglas was on relentless form after disappointment in Tokyo. But the Netherlands’ new mum Marit Bouwmeester is back in the fleet, hungry for a fourth Olympic medal after gold in Rio 2016, silver in London 2012 and bronze in Tokyo. So too Denmark’s 2020 Olympic champion Anne Marie Rindom returns to the Bay of Palma where she won class at the 2019 Sofia. And the ILCA 7 fleet is as densely packed with talent including gold medallist Matt Wearn who finished second last year behind GBR’s Micky Beckett after the Australian had to fight back from a bogey opening day with DNC due to a technical problem and a 26th.

Top seeds in the Formula Kite Men include Solvenia’s Toni Vodišek (SLO) and 16 year old Singaporean Max Maeder, first and second at the world championships. Gold, silver and bronze medallists from last year’s Sofia debut were first and second placed French duo Théo de Ramecourt and Benoit Gomez while GBR’s Connor Bainbridge was third. In the Women’s kite event the USA’s Daniela Moroz finally prevailed over France’s Lauriane Nolot.

In the Women’s iQFOiL the duel is likely to be between France’s Hélène Noesmoen and Spain’s local favourite Pilar Lamadrid (ESP) along with Italy’s reigning world champion Marta Maggetti whilst Britain’s Sam Sills has shown strongly in the early stages of several events this season – as he did here last year – but this might prove to be his event. Among the contenders will be France’s Nico Goyard, Germany’s reigning world champion Sebastian Koerdel and Poland’s Pawel Tarnowski, winner of the iQFOiL Games in Lanzarote in January.

52 Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca by Iberostar – Day 1 planned programme:

1100hrs
iQFOiL Men, 4 races for Yellow and Blue Fleets

1200hrs
470 Mixed, 2 races for Yellow and Blue Fleets
ILCA 7 Men, 2 races for Yellow, Blue and Red Fleets
ILCA 6 Women, 2 races for Yellow and Blue Fleets

1230hrs
iQFOiL Women, 4 races for Yellow and Blue Fleets

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Jeanneau JY60
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JPK 11.80 July 2024