Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca – Day 4

By World Sailing

Poland’s Lukasz Przybytek and Jacek Piasecki made a vital move to the top of the 49er Skiff leaderboard on a light-wind day four of the World Cup Series event at the 53 Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mallorca by Iberostar.

The fickle light winds on the Bay of Palma wreaked havoc with the fortunes of some sailors, but for the Polish skiff sailors it has launched them to the front of the pack in a vital week of competition. 

This regatta is a selection event for Poland’s Olympic team and Przybytek and Piasecki are strengthening their claim to the coveted Olympic ticket for Paris 2024 this summer. Ninth at Tokyo 2020, the duo are tied with Spain’s Diego Botín and Florian Trittel who were fourth at the last Games.

“Our race course was close to the shore and the left side paid all the time,” said Piasecki. “We got good starts and made four solid races. Last time here we just missed the Medal Race so this time we are aiming to make it, and then who knows? This and Hyères [Semaine Olympique Francaise] are our final trial events. We got a seventh at the Worlds but when it’s not based on points then it is always hard to say who will be selected.”

While the Polish pair rose to the top of the Men’s Skiff standings with one more day of Gold fleet racing to go before Saturday’s Medal Races, Norway’s European champions, Helene Næss and Marie Rønningen extended their cushion in the lead of the Women’s Skiff, the 49erFX. They count a 3,1,5 from today’s tricky races.

“We had three good ones and one very bad race when the wind disappeared and we ended up on the wrong side of the course,” said Næess. “But we are still leading so that is fine. We have been here 11 times now and have been second here before, so here’s hoping! This is a good regatta for our Olympic preparations.” 

Can Tita win a gold and a Cup in the same year?

The light breezes proved the undoing of a few top contenders, not least former event leaders, Germany’s Nacra 17 mixed multihull team Paul Kohlhoff and Alica Stuhlemmer, who tumbled from to ninth in a particularly painful afternoon for the Olympic bronze medallists.

Now it is the reigning world and Olympic champions from Italy who take up the overall lead in the foiling catamaran, not that there was a sniff of any hydrofoiling in today’s conditions. 

Helmsman Ruggero Tita harbours a dream of this summer first retaining the gold medal he and indefatigable crew Caterina Banti won in Tokyo 2020 and then, only a few weeks later, steering Italy’s America’s Cup challenger Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli in the 37th America’s Cup off Barcelona. 

Dividing his time between Olympics and Cup has been a challenge, not least as the levels in the mixed foiling multihull go up and up. His other job with Luna Rossa is to be one of the ‘young gun’ challengers, alongside Marco Gradoni, pressing Francesco Bruni and Jimmy Spithill to keep improving. Tita has high hopes he could get the nod as a Cup helm, ideally with a second gold medal in his locker. Could both happen? 

“Life is beautiful, let’s see, let’s go step by step,” smiles Tita in the Nacra 17 boatpark at CN Arenal. “The Games are before and so we are really focused on them. We know that winning again will really depend on the conditions we will find there. But for sure as soon as it is foiling we are happy. In this light winds sailing like today we are not so good, but we are getting better.” 

The Italian duo today consolidated their overall lead over three races in a tricky, light sea breeze which was unsettled in terms of direction and pressure. 

All of the top teams recorded a big score today, the leaders finishing 19th in the third race to hold a seven points margin over Great Britain’s European champions, John Gimson and Anna Burnet. 

Top scorers of the day were the French duo Billy Besson and Noa Ancian. With a second and first they are now five points behind Tim Mourniac and Lou Berthomieu with whom they are reported to be neck and neck in the selection for the last remaining spot on France’s team for their home Olympics.

Percentage Game in the ILCAs

Australian Mara Stransky maintained her lead in the ILCA 6 women’s dinghy event, counting a 16th from the second race as Hungary’s European champion Maria Erdi proved the most consistent of the title contenders in another fleet which again saw many land one good result and one bad. 

In the ILCA 7 men’s dinghy, after two general recalls Britain’s Micky Beckett pushed too hard on the first start and landed a BFD [black flag disqualification]. However, his overall margin at the top of the Gold fleet is a very tidy 14 points over Germany’s past world champion Philipp Buhl. 

Poised behind Buhl is Australian Olympic and world champion Matt Wearn, who is now 14 points behind the German. Buhl commented: “The winds were light and quite shifty, the wind strength pulsating, sometimes more, sometimes less, not rhythmic, difficult to predict. That’s why I’m very happy with my results. On a day like today, there is about 30 to 40 per cent unpredictability. On normal days, it’s more like 10 per cent. If you then manage to be alert and very focused you can determine the other 60 to 70 per cent.”

Moroz flying high in the Kites

Excluding discard, the best scoreline at the regatta is that of Poland’s iQFOiL Men’s Windsurfing event leader Pawel Tarnowski who has only six points from eight races so far to lead by five points. The women’s iQFOiL windsurfing event has Norway’s Maya Gysler still in charge.

Six-time world champion Daniela Moroz (USA), leader of the Formula Kite event is – like most of her top rivals – using the regatta as something of a training, testing and fine-tuning regatta as she seeks to deliver on high expectations. Her scoreline is composed only of top three finishes and from 15 starts the American counts nine race wins. 

“Today was pretty tricky,” said Moroz. “The wind was changing all the time and so you had to keep looking and adjusting your strategy, so it was really good practice to have these conditions where it is not so consistent and it really keeping you on your toes. I am trying out a few different strategies here, and really using it as practice for the Games. That is what is on everyone’s minds, prepping as best as possible. For me who has been in this sport since the beginning, I have been kiting for 10 years, the prospect of the Games is so exciting. And we are the fastest Olympic sport!”

Moroz’s counterpart in the men’s Formula Kite, Singapore’s Max Maeder is not so dominant and leads by three points. But in the kite class the final day is when it really matters. As with the iQFOiL, in Formula Kite class any of the top 10 can still win on the final day.

Just one day of Gold Fleet racing remains. Once Friday’s competition is complete it will be only the best 10 in each of the 10 fleets who will progress to the Medal Race battles of Super Saturday on the Bay of Palma.

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