by Neus Jordi
Olympic medallists Hugo Rocha from Portugal, skippering 'New Territories', and Catalan José María van der Ploeg, commanding 'Factor Energía', will battle from Monday at Barcelona's Maresme waterfront for the J80 European championship, organized by Club Náutico El Balís at Sant Andreu de Llavaneres. Rocha is the current world champion of this class and Van der Ploeg won the championship the year before. Another olympic medallist, Sandra Azón, will also be at the starting line of this international event in which 50 boats and almost 300 sailors will participate until the final day on Friday.
2014 J80 European Championship
'New Territories' of Portugal's Olympic medallist Hugo Rocha (CN Arenys de Mar) is the favourite team of this European championship. Despite joining this class recently, Rocha won the world title last year and also conquered the national championship and the Copa del Rey Mapfre. Only two weeks ago, Rocha also won the Catalan title, which was also organized by Club Náutico El Balís.
Main opponent will be 'Factor Energía', skippered by José María van der Ploeg (CN El Balís), who won the gold medal in the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, won the J80 world title in 2012 and finished second the year before. He also has the advantage of sailing at his home water.
Other top oponnents include 'Bribón-Movistar' of Marc de Antonio (RCN Barcelona), who is new at this class, but joins the event after winning the Gaastra PalmaVela and Trofeo Conde de Godó-Merchbanc, and 'Deltastone', skippered by Carlos Martínez (RCR Santiago de La Ribera), who has won the world bronze three different times and won the European championship in 2010.
0628 Balis Europeu J80 Sandra Azon y familia Esteban - 2014 J80 European Championship
Sandra Azón, who finished second in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, is also sailing in Club Náutico El Balís, but she has no possibilities of finishing amongst the top three. She is part of the amazing crew of 'Lapsus' (RCN Barcelona), skippered by Diego Esteban and with his three sons Pablo (16 años), Ignacio (15) and Santi (12) on board.
'We almost do not have racing experience, but we were looking for a sport where we could spend some quality time with my children instead of just playing videogames', said the family father. 'At this J80 European championship we will be racing next to Olympic and world champions. We bought the boat in February and then asked the Azón sisters to coach us. We are very happy. My three sons are excited and all have taken their role very seriously'.
Rocha, Van der Ploeg, De Antonio, Martínez, Azón and the Esteban family, as well as all the other participants, are finalizing the last details for the Europeans, including the registration, the sails measurement and the weighing of the crews and boats.
The practice race will take place tomorrow and the official ones will go from Monday June 30 to Friday July 4. The opening race is scheduled every day at 1:00 p.m. The program includes 12 races.