49er Europeans set to rock

49ers practicing ahead of the Europeans
Tomeu Bibiloni /CNA
The 49er European Championship – Madrid 2016 kicks off tomorrow with a forecast of winds up to 30 knots.

Spanish pairing Iker Martínez and Xabi Fernández, gold medallists at the 2004 Athens Olympics, will defend their 49er European champions title from tomorrow in waters of S’Arenal, in the renowned bay of Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

The European Championship – Madrid 2016 of this spectacular Olympic class, organised by Club Nàutic S’Arenal, starts tomorrow and will go on until next Sunday, 30 March in Majorca.

The best 64 crews in the world, representing 22 nations, will compete in this European championship, sponsored by Fundación Madrid 2016 -in charge of the management of the Spanish capital Olympic candidature-. The Govern de les Illes Balears and Llucmajor city council also collaborate in the event that have started today with a training race, that does not score.

Yesterday and this morning, teams registered and underwent measurement controls. Club Nàutic S’Arenal has given today a start to the training race so crews could test their equipment.

In any case, most of them tested their material at the Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofia Mapfre, which finished last Friday. The regatta was a good opportunity to check the racing area near S’Arenal, in the famous bay of Palma, and to train for the European championship – Madrid 2016.

The official regatta start tomorrow, Monday, with three races scheduled. It will be a tough start with North-Northeast winds of up to 30 knots forecast.

The wind in this racing area comes from the shore, gusty and with constant changes of direction, with flat sea and no waves. If the forecast is confirmed, the Race Committee of Club Nàutic S’Arenal will be forced to leave the 64 boats of the 49er fleet ashore, because these are extreme wind conditions for the class.

The qualifying rounds will be held from Monday to Wednesday, with finals starting on Thursday. On Sunday 30, the top ten teams will sail the Medal Race to decide the 2008 49er class European champion. A most precious title at just five months from the Beijing Olympics. And a very tight competition: nobody wants to miss one of the last international regattas before the Games in China!

Iker Martínez and Xabi Fernández is one of the favourite teams to win the title. The Spanish sailors, that were crowned European champions last year in waters of Sicily and will represent Spain in the Beijing Games -following the 2004 Athens gold medal-, say “they feel at home” in Club Nàutic S’Arenal. The sixth place obtained at the Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofia Mapfre confirms they are in good shape and with options to revalidate the title.

Their main rivals will be Australian sailors Nathan Outteridge and Austin Ben, who won the Worlds in Melbourne some weeks ago, as well as Italian brothers Sibello, the leaders of the class world ranking list and that finished third in the Sofia Mapfre.

Two other teams probably battling for the podium will be Ukrainian sailors Rodion Luka and Georgiy Leonchuk as well as the Peckolt brothers, first and second respectively in the Majorcan regatta held last week. Another tough opponent will be British team Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks, who did no participate in the Sofia Mapfre, saving themselves for the European - Madrid 2016 championship.

The opening ceremony of the European Championship – Madrid 2016 will be held this evening at 19:30 hours at Club Nàutic S’Arenal.
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