A mix of established Rio Olympic campaigners and emerging young talent shared the top podium spots when the 48th Trofeo Princesa Sofia IBEROSTAR ended Saturday with a brisk 25kts Mistral offshore wind which brought the 646 boat regatta to spectacular, challenging finale.
While it is the first major Olympic classes regatta victories for the up and coming winners of the 49er class, for the triumphant Men’s 470 pair, the Laser Radial, the men’s RS:X, the outright winner of the Princesa Sofia Trophy is 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Zofia Noceti-Klepacka.
“I am so happy to win the overall trophy. I have been here 15 or 16 times maybe and usually finish in the top three but this is the first time I have won the class and to win the trophy is fantastic. We had a light winds series then finishing with nearly 30kts of wind was amazing today. This is the first regatta I have done this year and so to win is great.” Said Klepacka
The Polish RS:X sailor snatched the class win from an amazing three cornered, sudden death Medal Race race over a new style course. Although the RS:X titles were decided only on these new short, sharp finales featuring only three sailors, Klepacka’s scoreline through the week counted no results worse than fifth over her 12 races. With the best average she wins the prestigious regatta’s top award. Pavel Tarnowksi made it a Polish double, winning the Mens RS:X.
The event which traditionally raises the curtain on the new European Olympic seas started in light winds Monday before the 8-10kt reliable Bay of Palma sea breeze prevailed, but when new format final races were scheduled for several classes the big breeze blew in. The Womens FX skiff class only managed two of their planned three medal deciding races before the remaining races were cancelled. With the blustery wind peaking at over 25kts Race 2 of their Grand Final turned into a veritable demolition derby. Only two of the 10 finalists finished. Although they won the race, finishing with a broken mast, Germany’s Victoria Jurczok and Anita Lorenz had already wrapped up the class victory yesterday and finished a whopping 49 points ahead of Norway’s second places Helene Naess and Marie Ronninngen.
“ It was hard today for the teams who are quite new in the fleet and there are a few of them.” Said helm Jurczok who finished ninth in Rio with Lorenz, “We sailed quite well through the whole week. We felt comfortable and ow because it’s our first medal here in Palma. This is a good start to the season and gives us confidence. Our boat handling is quite good in strong winds.”
The strong wind annulled any final racing for the 49er class, cancelling what would have been an intriguing title tussle between the young British duo James Peters and Fynn Sterritt, Spain’s Rio representatives Diego Botin and Iago Lopez and the new British pairing of Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell. But with no racing possible it is the first big regatta win in the 49er for Peters and Sterritt who had something of a nervous day, sitting one point clear of their Spanish rivals. Palma has traditionally been the least favourite regatta for the young pair, struggling here at times in the past, but it is now a favourite.
“We are stoked with how the week has gone.” Crew Sterritt smiled, “Our consistency paid off in the end. We are early in the cycle but it is nice to kick off the season with a win and gives us the target to go out and win some more. The quality of the fleet is not that deep at this point in the cycle but we wanted to put down a marker early on and to put us in the best possible shape for when it gets tougher.”
GBR took gold and silver in the 49er fleet and won two medals, silver and bronze in the Laser. Italy’s Rio selection Francesco Marrai gave regatta leader Elliot Hanson the slip just before the start of the medal race and went on to win the class. Double world champion Nick Thompson won the medal race and took bronze.
“I feel at ease sailing here. I have a lot more experience than last time, especially having been to the Olympic Games, mostly about the whole approach to the whole sailing week and staying motivated and focused all the way through the regatta. And I am very motivated after Rio.”
And Thompson added:
“ I had a really good week working with a new coach for this week, Mike Bullough, and we were working on a few different key areas and so to come away with a medal is quite nice even though I was not really focusing on the result. I was looking at starting, some strategy and a lot of downwind technique. That is what we have been looking at. So it has been quite hard for me this week because I am generally a bit of an end starter (starts close to one end of the line or the other) and I was sticking out in the middle all the way through the regatta and so it was a bit of a test of my patience, but it was the right thing to be doing. Elliot sailed a fantastic regatta and deserved to win it. He has made big improvements working together through the winter. He just did not get it together in the Medal Race but I am sure he will learn from it.”
A capsize late in the Medal Race meant Lithuania’s Victorija Andrulyte let the Laser Radial gold slip from her grasp, handing the Palma title to China’s Dongshuang Zhang.
“I am delighted to be second. I have always been top 20, sometimes top five or ten but this is great. I was making smart decisions in the middle of the week and then today I was leading into the final mark but capsized and let the Chinese girl pass me. I am not too disappointed because this is a good result for me.”
Confidence and accomplished crew work in the strong breeze and choppy waves made the winning difference for the jubilant Japanese pair Tetsuya Isozaki and Akira Takayanagi. Their third place in the Medal Race – trialled here at eight boats – was enough to overhaul Sweden’s Carl Frederick Fock and Marcus Dackhammar who finished a painful last in the medal race and so losing the gold by one single point. The Japanese duo finished second in Miami.
“ We are very happy with the gold.” Said Isozaki, “It was a difficult race today but we’ve managed to make a good performance in the strong wind which we feel used to.”
There was an encore performance in the 470 class where the Dutch duo Afrodite Zegers and Anneloes Van Veen repeated their success at Sailing World Cup Miami. Zegers, a concert pianist who has put her music aside as she pursues the Olympic dream in the 470, grew up in Athens, Greece before moving to Holland in 2011. Both girls are also pursuing degree courses away from sailing.
“Most of the days were quite light and so you had to be patient and we are good at that.” Van Veen commented, “ In the short races the places were settled quickly after the start and then finishing off with a lot of wind today added an extreme to the event.”
The duo have been together since 2012.
“We are very different, have different backgrounds and complement each other. She keeps my calm at the right time. Physically we are both very good together and just work very hard.” Says Zegers.
“Most of the regatta would be Chopin or Liszt but today was definitely a Rachmaninov kind of day!” grinned Zegers.
Max Salminen of Sweden won the Finn class, emerging through Semi Final qualification to triumph in the new winner takes all five boat Final. Arguably the Finn class has been bravest in their desire to innovate and change. Turkey’s Ailcan Kaynar was best in the Opening series and went directly to the Final but took third.
Salminen, sixth in Rio, said, “I got better during the week and finally found my old speed and perhaps my performance is even better than before.”
The Nacra 17 fleet, like the 49ers did not get the chance to race because of the boisterous winds. That leaves Spain Fernando Echavarri and Tara Pacheco in gold with Britons John Gimson and Anna Burnet in second and Denmark’s Lin Cenholt and Christian Peter Lubeck third.
Crew Pacheco dedicated the win to her grandmother who died the week before the regatta.
“It has been a difficult week so it is important to have won.” She said.