by Lindsey Bell
The 43rd Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia – Mapfre will see the return of British sailing’s multiple Olympic gold medallists Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy who will return to competitive action for the first time since the Perth World Championships in December when racing gets underway at the Palma leg of the World Cup circuit on Monday (2 April).
Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, Star.
Ainslie, Percy and his Star teammate Andrew Simpson are among the 40 Skandia Team GBR sailors across nine classes who are set compete at this six day regatta (2-7 April), which is the first European World Cup regatta of the 2012 season and has welcomed some 900 sailors from 53 nations.
A back injury to Percy saw a premature halt to his and teammate Andrew Simpson’s Worlds campaign in the Star keelboat class, but a period of rehabilitation during the key winter training months sees him ready to race again, where they will try and defend the pair’s Princess Sofia Trophy title which they won with a day to spare in 2011.
Ainslie, crowned winner of the Finn class at last year’s event held in Palma Bay, has also been recovering from an operation on a long-standing back injury but has been pleased with recent progress and the long-term outlook.
'The last four weeks have seen some great gains in the reduced level of pain and my ability to train hard both on and off the water and it is a huge relief,' reflected the triple Olympic gold medallist.
'I still have some way to go but if I can continue training at this intensity then I am confident that I will be fitter and stronger than I have been for a long time.'
Ben Ainslie lets fly at the media boat as he enters the boat harbour Fremantle - ISAF World Sailing Championships
With the exception of Nick Dempsey and Bryony Shaw, who concluded their RS:X Windsurfing World Championships in Cadiz last week, all of Britain’s selected 2012 Olympic crews will be action at the Palma regatta.
Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark will look to complete the loop of podium finishes at the one event which eluded them in their first year of campaigning together in the 470 women’s class, while Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell will be in the fight in the 93-boat 470 men’s fleet.
In the Laser class, Paul Goodison will aim for a second straight World Cup win to add to his victory in Miami in January, as will the Elliot 6m trio of Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor who will be considered among the medal favourites in the 18-team women’s match racing event.
Skandia Team GBR sailors are also out in force in the three classes where 2012 team selections have still to be made. In the 49er class, Stevie Morrison-Ben Rhodes, John Pink-Rick Peacock, Dylan Fletcher-Alain Sign and Dave Evans-Ed Powys will be among the names to watch, while performance squad sailors Charlotte Dobson and Alison Young will be among those looking to impress in the Laser Radial event.
In the one-person 2.4mR class – the only Paralympic class to be racing in Palma – Skandia Team GBR’s Megan Pascoe and Helena Lucas will look to build on their respective fourth and fifth place finishes at the Miami World Cup event.
'This regatta will provide a good opportunity for sailors to review their progress against their Olympic plans, following spring training,' remarked RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park.
'With just 117 days remaining until the first race of the Olympics, the number of high quality regattas remaining for sailors to test their performance are few, and we are confident the Princess Sofia Mapfre will live up to expectations and deliver a fantastic ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta.'
The Palma World Cup regatta will run from Monday 2 April with medal racing scheduled for Saturday 7 April.
Team GBR website