Olympic selections for Europeans at Palma

Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher lead at the top mark - 2008 Tornado Worlds Race 8
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The start of the European sailing season is the opportunity for many nations to start their Olympic selections. A lot is at stake and the pressure is on in Mallorca for the 39th Trofeo Princesa Sofia MAPFRE! While some are fine tuning their equipment for the big event in August, some are passing the final hurdle to the 2008 Olympic regatta!

Absent from all the other events, the only Australians in Mallorca will be on a 49er! Nathan Outteridge and Ben Austin fresh from winning the Worlds in Melbourne will meet again the world’s best to repeat their earlier performance.

World ranking leaders the Sibello brothers (ITA) world one and Peckolt brothers (GER) world number two, Athens medalists Martinez/Fernandez (ESP), Rodion/Leonchuk (UKR) or British Draper/Hiscocks will provide a tough competition.

With 21 countries represented among the 38 470 women teams, it is a talented field who has gathered in El Arenal.

Marcelien de Koening and Lobke Berkhout (NED) are back to defend their title. They will face strong competition with world number one and vice world champion Giulia Conti and Giovanna Micol (ITA) on top form after placing second in the World Championship in Melbourne early this year.

World number two Japanese Ai Kondo/Naoko Kamata, and Lenka Smidova with Lenka Mrzilkova (CZE) will also be serious opponents. To note the absence of World Champions, the American pair of Erin Maxwell and Isabelle Kinsolving who had taken third place last year in Palma.

Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page (AUS), world ranking leader, and current world champion Asher/Willis non attendance will not lower the level in the men’s division.

Last year winners, Portuguese Alvaro Marinho and Miguel Nunes have started the Olympic year with a second place at their World Championship. The French team will be a major threat with three boats placed among the world’s top five on the starting line.

Gideon Kliger and Udi Gal (ISR), third in the world ranking have taken a world championship Bronze medal, placing them in contention for the title.

With 119 entries, the Laser will have the bigger fleet. The 39 Trofeo Princesa Sofia MAPFRE, will be used as selection event for many countries. The largest international contingents are coming from Denmark with 11 Laser sailors in contention for Olympic selection, Sweden and Great Britain with nine and Estonia with eight.

Julio Alsogaray will be the only Argentinean representative but is one of the hot favorite. After a mixed year in 2007 where his best result was to win the Princesa Sofia MAPFRE regatta, Alsogaray starts the year with promising results, taking Silver at the Laser Worlds in Australia and Bronze at the Central and South American Championship. Among the 23 Spanish laser sailors, Javier Hernandez (ESP) is the local hope, he finished third at the World Championship and is leading the selection to represent Spain in the Olympic regatta.

It will be a 'full house' in the 49er fleet with all the top sailors on the starting line to prepare for the European Championship.

Marina Alabau (ESP) is dominating the RS:X women division and will set her goal to improve from her third position during last year Princesa Sofia MAPFRE trophy. Current European Champion and third at the worlds in new-Zealand, the Spanish is leading the world ranking.

Other favorites include French Faustine Merret (second in the World Ranking) and Charline Picon, who had placed second last year behind the Spanish. Winner of the 2007 Olympic Test Event, Bryony Shaw (GBR) will be another hot prospect for the title.

The Polish team will probably make an impact on the competition with 18 starters. Among them are last year silver and bronze medals at the 'Sofia MAPFRE' event: Przemyslaw Miarczynski (World number one) and Piotr Myszka (World number four)!

Unfortunately, current world champions from New-Zealand, Barbara Kendall and Tom Ashley will not attend the event this year.

Olympic selections will spice up the Finn event with France, Italy, Russia, Sweden and Poland among the countries that have made the Princesa Sofia MAPFRE Trophy selective for the Olympic Games. Undefeated since 2005 Ben Ainslie is collecting victories in every Finn regatta he has entered since: 2005 Finn European Champion, 2005 and 2008 World Champion, 2006 and 2007 Olympic test events winner…

He is surely the top favorite but will not have it easy with World number one Jonas Hoegh-Christensen (DEN), Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) or Aimilios Papathanasiou in top form. This will be the first international regatta in the Finn for Eduardo Couto who won the Olympic trials for Brazil in the Finn class. Growing out of his Laser, Couto will surely enjoy the light weather predicted for next week!

Despite low entries, the Yngling fleet will have an outstanding level with most of the top teams present at the Real club Nautic de Palma. The Russian team of Skudina/Ivanova/Krutskikh is leading the ISAF World ranking.

Current European champions, they have placed fifth at the Worlds in Miami and third at the 2007 Olympic Test event. World numnber three, the German team of Schuemann/Hoepfner/Bleck or current World Champion, the British trio of Ayton/Wilson/Webb will try to take the Princesa Sofia Mapfre title from Americans Barkow/Capozzi/Howe.

The Yngling fleet is seeing the constant improvement from Athens Gold medalists in the Europe and 470 classes: the Norwegian boat helmed by Siren Sundby and the Greek team led by Sofia Bekatorou.

The Tornado fleet will start without 2007 World Champions Echavarri/Paz who had to pull out from the regatta from a last minute physical problem. Double Olympic Gold medalists: Hagara/Steinhacher (AUT), World number three Mitch Booth and Pim Nieuwenhuis (NED), Argentinian Lange/Espinola (Athens Bronze medalists) or French pair of Revil/Espagnon (third at the 2007 Europeans) are among the favorites.

Despite a clash with the World Championship in New-Zealand, the Laser radial class has 22 entries.

The first warning signal will be given from 2PM on Sunday for the 39th Trofeo Princesa Sofia MAPFRE.