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Australian Formula Kite winner claims overall trophy in Palma as Olympic rival falters

by World Sailing 6 Apr 13:12 PDT 1-6 April 2024
53 Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mallorca © World Sailing

Australian kiteboarder Breiana Whitehead has been awarded the trophy for overall winner of the 53 Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mallorca by Iberostar at the World Cup Series event in Palma.

It was the icing on the cake for Whitehead, among those tipped for medal contention at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games this summer, after a dramatic conclusion to the women's kiting event on another day of light breezes on the Bay of Palma.

Twice, the overall leader Daniela Moroz of the United States started a fraction too soon and false started, picking up two costly UFD disqualifications. After Moroz's successive errors an amazed Whitehead only realised she had won many minutes after the last race when she reached her coach.

In contrast to the six-times world champion Moroz, who admitted later she had pushed too hard when looking for her limits under pressure, Whitehead started cleanly each time to earn the event win, both the Formula Kite and the overall regatta trophy. The latter means she follows in the footsteps of 2018 winners Matt Belcher and Will Ryan, the double Olympic 470 medallists and the only other Australians to have earned the event title.

"It is so incredible to win the whole top trophy, I am literally lost for words," grinned Whitehead who grew up in North Queensland and is a convert to the new Olympic discipline from the 29er youth skiff class. "With so many great sailors here I am blown away. And to join so many great sailors who have won in the past like Matt and Will in 2018, it is amazing."

On the kite beach after being told of her event win she enthused: "To win the Princess Sofia regatta overall is just so cool, it is amazing. It is a world-level event, it is incredible! I had a regatta the week before, the Europeans, and I did not do so well and so I worked out the things I had not done so well there and put them into practice here.

"I needed to get off the start line cleanly, that was my number one goal and I did that. I analysed a lot of video and got in my head properly what I wanted to do and I did it. Today was so cool, a whole day of waiting and then everything happening in the last hours, in the last minutes. We got a little bit of wind and then you just have to go for it."

Despite her costly starting errors, Moroz was philosophical about losing gold to Whithead with a bigger prize ahead of the American at the Olympics this summer.

"I am not so, so disappointed, no. We learned so much this week and as a team accomplished a lot of valuable lessons. Even though it was not the final result I wanted I am in a really good spot overall both mentally and in my racing on the water. Today's lesson is actually what I have been working on with my sports psychologist, to push hard when it really matters, when the pressure is on. And today it was good to find that upper limit."

Last year's Men's Formula Kite victor 17-year-old Max Maeder of Singapore closed out his second Sofia title triumph in a row.

"I would rate this much harder than the last time here as the level has gone up and it is closer. I have had some ups and downs this week, more ups than downs. But the downs are a learning opportunity and I am happy to have learned a lot this week. It is great training for the Olympics and great to see how I match up to the other riders."

ILCA 6 success for Erdi

Hungary's new European champion Maria Érdi added the Sofía title in the ILCA 6 women's dinghy with a ninth in the Medal Race which was won by France's Louise Cervera.

Australia's Zoe Thomson finished second overall and Britain's young Mathilda Nicholls took her first senior World Cup medal in third. The Hungarian took encouragement from her performance against a field stacked with Olympic contenders.

Erdi said: "Palma is always such a high-scoring event I knew at the beginning of the week that it was going to be extremely tricky and I would have to fight for every point and we also saw that we would get a variety of conditions and so I knew I would have to just chip away.

"I did not have a lot of good first-mark roundings and so the key was my downwind speed and I performed on the very tricky light winds days when a lot of people score big points. And so I am very proud of my performance over the week over the conditions. Everyone is here, all of the Paris 2024 rivals were here, and a lot seemed to be struggling but I am super stoked that my best friend Zoe Thomson finished in second place."

Programme curtailed

Very light winds curtailed the final day programme and the 49erFX women's skiff, iQFOiL men's and women's windsurfing and the 470 mixed dinghy events had their finale cancelled, which meant their standings from Friday stood.

The ILCA 7 men's dinghy title had already been won with a day to spare by Team GB's Micky Beckett and, while the Nacra 17 mixed multihulls did their Medal Race, the Palma title was already in the bag for Italy's Olympic champions Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti. Germany's Philipp Buhl finished runner-up ahead of his French training partner and fellow former World Champion Jean Baptiste Bernaz.

Italy take home both men and women's skiff titles as Jana Germani and Giorgia Bertuzzi won by a single point. Germani said: "Winning here is really important for us because we see that all the training and the hard work is paying off. It's four more months until the Games, and we will push every day for the best result of our career."

French 470 success

The result also stood for the 470 mixed dinghy where the French duo of Camille Lecointre and Jeremie Mion denied the local Spanish hopes of their new world champions Jordi Xammar and Nora Brugman.

They, too, won by just one point with three German crews in the top five. Simon Diesch and Anna Markfort in fourth still lead their Olympic selection trials which will conclude at the Europeans in Cannes.

Mion said: "The key this week has been to be consistent and polyvalent because across the week we had strong light and medium winds. It is always the same thing in sailing, you have to be fast and to be fast in every conditions. And also to stay very open-minded on what was happening on the water.

"This was not a classic Palma like we all know. We had to look every time at the others and to the wind to see what can happen. Now also that we are approaching the Olympics, I think one of the keys is to stay together on the boat, to have very, very good communication and trust each other until the end."

While Spain was denied the opportunity for a win in the 470s, there was home-grown glory in the 49er men's skiff where second in the 10-boat showdown was enough for Diego Botin and Florian Trittel to finally land the Sofia title which has eluded them over the years.

Botin smiled: "It is a special day for us, because we have just won our first Princesa Sofía, which is a very special regatta that we have been coming to all our lives. We've been close but we've never won it before."

Poland's Pawel Tarnowski was another event leader who endured the nervous wait for wind. Admitting his preference would have been to race in the men's iQFOiL decider, the two-times past Sofía winner in the RS:X class commented: "It is a shame we didn't have a chance to race the Medal Series. But overall, speaking of all the races of the week, I'm super happy. I think I've basically got faster through the winter, that's for sure. I am a bit more patient, a bit more calm.

"My mentality when it comes to pressure has improved, some of which comes from being a new dad and having a kid. I was afraid that maybe it would be difficult but my baby and my wife give me so much motivation."

Norway showed depth in the iQFOiL women's windsurfing where Mina Mobekk won on tiebreak from her compatriot Maya Gysler, almost certainly earning selection for Paris 2024, and Tuva Oppedal finished fifth.

Winner Mobekk said: "This was quite an important event for us since it was the last Olympic qualification, so it means a lot to win. I've not officially qualified yet but it's most likely. I think it's amazing that we Norwegians have three people in the top five.

"I think it's just really cool and I think it will be exciting to see what we can do in the future."

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