The 42 Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mapfre, third event in the ISAF Sailing World Cup, started on today in Palma with sun, clear blue sky, and challenging 20-30 knot wind conditions gusting up to 35 knots, brisk enough to keep the 49ers and Star races delayed waiting for the wind to ease. In the end a thousand sailors took the start, filling the Bay of Palma with sails.
The 2.4 paralympic fleet, sailing out of Calanova Yacht Club, was the first to complete two races. Thierry Schmitter (NED) enjoyed the strong winds to win both races and take the lead from German Heiko Kroger and Megan Pascoe (GBR).
Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata (JAP) took a convincing lead in the 470 Women’s fleet with two victories. Gil Cohen and Bouskila Vered (ISR) and the British team of Penny Clark / Katrina Hughes (GBR) are second and third overall at the end of this first race. “It is good to have a bit of breeze” says Cohen. “It was good fun! We are having a good start in the regatta so let's see how we go.”
Renowned as the master of strong conditions, Dorian van Rijsselberge (NED) took a clean sweep in the RS:X fleet with two bullets, leaving his closest rivals, 2009 World Champion Nick Dempsey (GBR) and German Tony Wilhelm, in second and third with a six points margin. The Dutchman is clearly continuing his good form after claiming victory at Rolex Miami OCR.
The scenario was the same in the Finn for Miami winner, Giles Scott (GBR), who enjoyed the strong wind in Palma and won both today's races. In the other group, races went to Finland’s Tapio Nirkko and Pieter-Jan Postma (NED). They place second and third respectively in the general results, only a few points behind Scott.
“The first race was pretty tight with Rafa [Trujillo] and then in the second one I managed to get a bit of a lead out on the second beat and had quite a comfortable win, which was nice,” said Scott of his opening day’s performance.“I went out to win [today] and that’s what I managed to do. Obviously when you can win two races in a day that’s great, so I’m over the moon!”
But Scott was not getting too carried away, with five days of racing still to come: “Everyone’s turned up here and I think it’s going to be very competitive especially towards the end of the week when we go into gold fleet. I’ll just take it step by step and hopefully it will come good.”
The young New Zealanders, Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders claimed both races and the lead, in the 470 Men’s class. The 20-year-olds won Sail Auckland in February and will represent New Zealand at the Olympic Test event next August in Weymouth. Behind them are the British teams, Nick Rogers making his Olympic come-back with Chris Grube and followed by past World Championship Nic Asher and Elliot Willis. “We had a solid day in tricky conditions,” said Asher. “The wind was strong and gusty. It is a long regatta but if we keep sailing like that we can come up in the medals.”
Australian Tom Slingsby, the current Laser and the Etchell World Champion, enjoyed his most favoured conditions and also claiming both races in the Laser. Simon Grotelueschen from Germany and Belgium sailor Van Laer Wannes now lie second and third overall. The Lasers are divided in three groups.
In the Laser Radial, Belgium Evi van Acker claimed the day in her group and lead the overall standings with a narrow margin over Ireland’s Annalise Murphy and 2010 Sailing World Cup winner, Marit Bouwmeester (NED). They both won a race today and placed second and third respectively in the other, leaving Paige Railey (USA) fourth overall with two seconds.
After a postponement, the Star fleet completed the two scheduled races. Double Gold medallists and current World Champions, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson made a successful come back to the competition after a long break with two bullets claimed in a fleet packed with medallists and world champions. The top five share a total of 15 Olympic medals including seven Golds in the Star and Finn classes. Second to fifth place are taken by Kusznierewicz/Zycki (POL), Scheidt/Prada (BRA), Grael/Ferreira (BRA) and Loof/Salminen (SWE).
“We’re happy to have got back into it to have been up there in the mix today,” Percy surmised. “It was pretty ragged out there at times, but we’re glad it all seems to be coming together.”
Last out on the water today were the 49ers where Dylan Fletcher and Alan Sign (GBR) have taken the lead with two bullets, Fletcher celebrating his 23rd birthday today. In the Yellow group, Germany’s Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel posted a second and first, to claim second overall.
Alessandra Sensini, who is racing in Palma to qualify for the Olympic Games and defend her Gold medal, is setting the pace in the strong RS:X Women’s fleet. “I have a lot at stake here and I will give my maximum!” One of the most experienced Olympic sailors in the whole event, Sensini won the first race and placed second in the next. In second overall is Lee el Korsiz from Israel who placed third in the first and went on to win the second, Chan Wai Kei from Hong-Kong lies third. Bryony Shaw’s first races were overshadowed by equipment failure leaving her in 22nd at the end of day one.
The women’s match racing teams completed their full schedule of matches today with 10 of the 21 flights sailed in Stage One. The 24 teams are divided into three groups for the Stage One round robins. In Group A, Claire Leroy (FRA) and Silja Lehtinen (FIN) are undefeated with scores of 3-0. In Group B, four teams are undefeated and leading the way with scores of 3-0: Nicky Souter (AUS), Renee Groeneveld (NED), Sally Barkow (USA), and Silke Hahlbrock (GER). Group C completed four flights and two teams are undefeated with scores of 4-0: Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) and Anne-Claire Le Berre (FRA). Stage One will continue tomorrow. The top two teams from each group will move into the Gold Group and the next two will move into the Repechage Group. The Repechage Group will sail a round robin to determine who will join the Gold Group in the knock-out quarter-finals.
Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor won three out of their four opening round robin group bouts.
Racing will continue tomorrow with starts scheduled at 1100 and 1000 for the Women’s Match racing.
Challenging 20-30 knot winds tested the preparedness of the Finn fleet to the full on day one of the 42 Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia MAPFRE in Palma, Monday with Giles Scott (GBR) taking the early lead after winning both his heats. Other race wins went to Tapio Nirkko (FIN) and Pieter-Jan Postma (NED).
The wind on day one was averaging 24 knots and gusting 30 before the start of race one, though the forecast said much less. The offshore wind meant that the waves were not very big, but very short so the boats were travelling faster than the waves This made downwind sailing quite tricky and about 18 sailors never even made it down to the start. Top Russian sailor Eduard Skornyakov (RUS) had problems with halyard lock on his mast and had to stop just after start in both races. Tomas Vika (CZE) managed to break his mast and many sailors just stopped and struggled back to the harbour.
The large entry meant that the fleet was split into two groups – yellow and blue. While yellow got away first time for race one, blue had a general recall. Giles Scott (GBR) led yellow fleet across the finish with 2007 World Champion Rafa Trujillo (ESP) close behind and then the winner in Perth last year, Jonathan Lobert (FRA) behind. In the blue fleet Tapio Nirkko (FIN) crossede ahead of 2010 world champion Ed Wright (GBR) and Pieter-Jan Postma (NED).
In the second race of the day Scott again won the yellow fleet ahead of Gasper Vincec (SLO) and Trujillo, while Postma went two better to win the blue fleet from Nirkko and Daniel Birgmark (SWE), who had picked up an OCS in race one.
Scott had been dominant in Miami on the windier days and has opened his Palma challenge in the same fashion with a double win. He said, “The first race was pretty tight with Rafa and then in the second one I managed to get a bit of a lead out on the second beat and had quite a comfortable win, which was nice. Everyone’s turned up here and I think it’s going to be very competitive especially towards the end of the week when we go into gold fleet.”
Third overall Postma has been training hard over the past few months and his results today of 3, 1 show his new direction. “Three weeks in February and three weeks in March together with coach Stefan de Vries. We've put considerable effort into training on feeling the boat. There was a big catch up in terms of boat feel, in the light weather range. In addition, we've also done some equipment development and physically we have worked on endurance and resilience.”
“The 85 best Finn sailors in the world are here. And you hear from everyone that they have trained hard and are ready.”
The 2008 Olympic silver medalist Zach Railey sits in 19th after a 10, 9 today He said, “In the second race I was sailing very well and happy with my speed. I was in around third or fourth on the second upwind protecting the left side at the top of the beat. This was a misread on what I thought the wind was going to do. The wind ended up shifting right another 10 degrees and with the racing so close at the top I ended up dropping to 11th. I was able to pull back a few boats before the finish getting ninth.”