- Olympic Games and test event selections start in Palma
- 710 entries, 53 countries
- Top sailors back to defend titles
by Corinne Rolland-McKenzie
The Princesa Sofia MAPFRE trophy, the first European Sailing World Cup event will bring fierce competition to Palma with many teams in contention for Olympic test event and Olympic Games selections.
The Italian team who has chosen Palma to select its representatives for London; has entered 63 teams across all Olympic events. « The Princesa Sofia regatta is the first of three selection events for the Olympic Games. » explains, Italian team manager, Valentin Mankin.
Many other countries will also use the Spanish regatta to select their athletes for the Olympic test event next August in Weymouth.
All 10 Olympic classes and the 2.4 Paralympic event have attracted a very high level of competition with all the best sailors and most of last year defending champions present.
“This year, the Princesa Sofia Mapfre Trophy has reached the unprecedented record of 710 boats from 53 countries. There is little doubt that any other sporting event in Spain has ever reached such a level of international competition.” explains Event Director, Jaume Carbonell.
In seven of the 10 Olympic classes, the top three will be back to defend their medals.
For Alessandra Sensini (ITA), the Princesa Sofia Mapfre trophy will be a regatta with multiple objectives: Olympic selection, event title and Ultimate winner Trophy at stake in the women RS:X class. She will face the talented Spanish windsurfers Marina Alabau (ESP), strong from her victory in the Rolex Miami OCR and ISAF Sailor of the Year and SWC winner and World Champion Blanca Manchon (ESP).
In the Men's division, Byron Kokalanis (GRE) will be back trying to add another victory in a competitive fleet including 2011 Sailing World Cup leader Dorian van Rissejlberge (NED) who started the year with a win in Miami, King Yin Chan (HGK) winner of Sail Melbourne or Julien Bontemps (FRA) 2010 SWC champion.
Reigning World champions and 2010 SWC circuit winners Belcher and Page from Australia are expected to take the lead in a strong 470 fleet. Continuing on with their good form, the pair won Sail Melbourne and placed second in the Rolex Miami OCR and will be one of the main threats for last year's winners Leboucher/Garos (FRA).
If they succeed in keeping the Princesa Sofia trophy title, Julia Conti and Giovanna Micol (ITA) will also score valuable points towards their Olympic quest. But it will not come easy for the 2010 vice European champions, who will firstly have to beat a very talented field. French pair Petitjean/Douroux took first place in Miami at the start of the year. Another SWC circuit title is not excluded and they come to Palma as hot favourites. The German team of Kadelbach/Belcher won Sail Melbourne and is aiming for another title.
The Star event sailed with the Women Match racing from the Real Club Nautico de Palma has attracted a talent packed fleet. Last year medal winners are back with some crew changes in two teams. Fredrik Loof (SWE) will defend the title with Max Salminen, while Johan Tillander has returned to the Finn. Alexander Schlonski (GER) 2010 Bronze medalist in Palma, with Frithjof Kleen, will return this year with Matthias Bohn. After successfully pairing over the last few months with O'Leary (IRL) in Weymouth, Georg Szabo (USA) at the North American and Scheidt (BRA) at the Eastern Hemisphere championship, Frithjof Kleen will race in Palma with Robert Stanjeck (2009 Princesa Sofia Mapfre winner). The Star competition will be interesting to follow with many renowned sailors like Roy Heiner (NED), Robert Scheidt (BRA); Torben Grael(BRA), Marazzi(SUI), Kusznierewicz(POL) and many more.
The 24 teams engaged in the Women Match racing will represent 18 countries including Peru. All the favorites will be on the starting line and last year winner Groeneveld(NED) back with a different team. After winning the 2010 SWC, Claire Leroy(FRA) and her team will be back as favourite. The french trio has started the year by winning convincingly the Rolex Miami OCR against Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) in the finale.
2010 Princesa Sofia regatta winners Manu Dyen and Stéphane Christidis (FRA) will face a strong 70 fleet including some strong opponents like the Austrians Nico delle Karth and Nikolau Resch(AUT), Sail Melbourne winners or the british pair of John Pink and Richard Peacock(GBR) victorious in Miami..
The main absentees in Palma will be the Croatian sailors in the dinghy classes. For Tina Mihelic, Ivan Gaspic and Tonci Stipanovic, the Sailing World Cup circuit will start for them at the next SWC event in Hyères.
Tina Mihelic who won the Laser Radial last year, will leave the floor to Marit Bouwemeester (NED) who leads the Sailing World Cup series after two events or Paige Railey (USA) confident after her victory at home in Miami.
In the Laser men, Tonci Stipanovic, second last year will miss the 2011 event. Javier Hernandez (ESP), SWC winner and second in the 2011 standings, will be among the favourites to retain the title won last year, along with Rasmus Myrgren (SWE) winner in Miami, or Nick Thompson (GBR) leading the series.
Meanwhile the Finns will not miss competition with an all time record fleet of 85 boats. After a brilliant start of the year, the British team will try to continue claiming the top spots. Ben Ainslie (GBR) winner in Sail Melbourne, Giles Scott (GBR) in Miami or Ed Wright (GBR), Palma defending champion, World champion, and SWC winner will set the pace. Olympic Silver medalists Rafa Trujillo (ESP) and Zach Railey (USA), or french Lobert and Lebreton will provide a tough challenge. With the free pumping rule lowered to 10 knots, the athletic level required will reward the fittest.
The Women Match racing competition will start on Sunday, one day ahead of the other classes, scheduled to commence on Monday.
Princesa Sofia Trofeo 2011