by Neus Jordi
The 44th Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mapfre, opening European stage of the ISAF Sailing World Cup, is set to get underway in Palma from the 31st of March to the sixth of April for all 10 Olympic classes and the 2.4 paralympic event.
This new Olympic quadrennial is announcing many changes with new faces and different opportunities for sailors seeking new challenges. Many of the stars of the 2012 Olympiad have moved on to new projects leaving the places to young and eager sailors who have not lost any time starting their Olympic campaign...and for many it will start in Palma.
Only three of last years' winners will be back to defend their title.
Alicia Cebrian (ESP) will try to repeat last year form with the absence of her closest rivals and Olympic medallists in the Laser Radial.
Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan racing at Sail Melbourne
Mat Belcher (AUS), who added the 470 Sofia title to his impressive tally in 2012, went on to win Olympic Gold but is back in Palma with new crew Will Ryan (AUS). Pierre Leboucher (FRA) third in Palma last year will be sailing with coach Nicolas Leberre. However, the newly combined team of British Olympic Silver medallists, Luke Patience (London) and Joe Glanfield (Beijing and Athens) will be among the ones to watch, along with London Bronze medallists Lucas Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente from Argentina.
The 49er will also present some new associations with 2012 Sofia Mapfre winner and 2008 Gold medallist Jonas Warrer defending his title with London Bronze medallist Peter Lang. Allan Noregaard (London Bronze medal) will start this new Olympic quadrennial with new crew Alders Thomsen. The British teams will be present with two new pairs. Stuart Bithell (with Chris Grube) and Nic Asher (with Fynn Sterritt) have both switched from the 470 to the 49er for the Rio cycle. The french pair of Manu Dyen and Christophe Christidis, winner of the Trofeo Mapfre in 2012 and second last year will come as favourites to challenge the strong Danish squad.
The large Laser fleet will see many favourites to grab the title. Nick Thompson (GBR) 2011 vice world champion has climbed three times on the podium in Palma winning the title previously in a post Olympic year 2009. Pavlos Kontides (CYP) London Silver medallist, world number one Tom Burton (AUS) third last year in Palma or world number two Philip Buhl (GER) winner of Hyères, Kiel and the Europeans in 2012 will all stand good chances of taking the title. This year will see the return of Tobias Schadewaldt (GER) to the Laser after four years in the 49er where he still hold the first place in the World ranking!
Andrew Murdoch - New Zealand Finn Nationals, Takapuna, February 2013
The title is also open in the Finn class in the absence of last year Palma top three. Olympic bronze medallist Lobert (FRA), Laser medallist Vasilij Zbogar, 2011 World and European champion Giles Scott (GBR) or PJ Postma (NED) will face new challengers against Star medallists Prada (BRA) and Salminen (SWE) and other newcomers from the Laser class, New Zealanders Andrew Murdoch and Josh Junior, Zsombor Berecz (HUN) or Alejandro Foglia (URU).
The 470 women fleet has seen a renewal with some of the 'old' favourites switching to the 49er FX. Many new, young sailors will make a start on their 470 Olympic campaign in Palma.
Meanwhile, the RS:X class will see a minimal attendance after the Worlds in Brazil. However many class favourites will be present including SWC Miami winners Ivan Pastor (ESP) and Maayan Davidovich (ISR). They will face 2013 Vice World Champion Bryony Shaw (GBR) and World Number 1 Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) in the women division and Ricardo Santos (BRA), Julien Bontemps (FRA) or Toni Wilhem (GER) in the Men's.
The new Olympic events, the Nacra and the 49er FX are set to create the show!
They are the perfect opportunities for bringing new challenges for teams seeking to test different skills or the ones in search of a fresh start!
Nacra 17 fleet making debut at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami 2013
The Nacra will create history with a full fleet of mixed teams. The Spanish have jumped on the opportunity to showcase some of their most talented sailors: Iker Martinez and Tara Pacheco will bring attention to Palma for the Spanish sailing aficionados.
The Nacra has also attracted some of the cream from the London match racing event: Lucy Macgregor has seek new challenge after Olympic disappointment and has quickly stepped into the Nacra with Tom Phipps, three-time Youth Worlds medallist (including two Golds) in the Hobie 16.
Same fate for other match racer Marie Riou (FRA) who is learning multihull techniques from Tornado sailor Billy Besson. Silke Hahlbrock (GER) is teaming up with Christoph Buttoni.
The Dutch teams will be among the favourites with Mandy Mulder (NED) teaming with 2011 Nacra World Champion Thijs Visser and Renee Groeneveld with Karel Begeman. The keelboat sailors will have to match the multihull skills of the third Dutch team formed by A class World Champion Micha Heemskerk and Elke Delnooz.
Other match racers, Anna Tunnicliffe or the Australian Silver medallists have also embarqued on a Nacra but will not be in Palma.
Winners are expected to come from traditional multihull countries like the Netherlands, France or Germany with the Gaebler couple among the favourites. The Australians are not yet ready to enter the Nacra scene but are also expected to be among the favourites.
The 49er FX will see 36 teams on the water of El Arenal. The teams are a real mix from skiff, 470, Radial and match racing sailors from last Olympic cycle. With only a few regattas held, it is hard to predict who will take the advantage in Palma!
A practice race will be stage for all classes on Sunday with racing starting on Easter Monday.
Trofeo Princesa Sofia website