Fresh challenges for Palma
ISAF Sailing World Cup Palma (aka the Trofeo Princesa Sofia) sets sail on 1 April showcasing the new classes for Rio 2016 for the first time in Europe. Held across Club Nàutic S'Arenal and Club Marítimo San Antonio de la Playa over 900 sailors will fight for the titles in the ten Olympic events.
37 of the 38-boat Nacra 17 fleet will take to the race course for the first time. ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami victors Sarah Newberry and John Casey (USA) are the only team racing from the inaugural appearance of the multihull in January.
From skiff sailors to former windsurfers the fleet welcomes a blend of sailing talent who are looking to apply their skills and mind set to the Olympic multihull.
Making the switch from the Laser Radial to the Nacra 17 is two time Olympian Nathalie Brugger (SUI) who is teaming up with former Men’s 470 sailor Matias Buhler. “After six years in the Radial it is quite demanding on the body and I was looking forward to a change and a new challenge,” said Brugger.
“I am lucky to get to team up with Matias – we have known each other for quite a while and he has a lot of racing experience from the 470 and other big boat programs. I guess we both knew that if either of us was to campaign in the Nacra 17 for Switzerland, together we would be the best team.”
Brugger is no stranger to multihull racing after she competed on Dona Bertarelli’s Decision 35 Ladycat on Lake Geneva, Switzerland. Even though Brugger has sailed with some skilled multihull sailors she isn’t expecting miracles overnight at ISAF Sailing World Cup Palm: “I think all the teams will be watching Sarah and John as well as the Dutch teams as they have maybe had the most time and experience with the boats. It will be about learning to get the best speed and boat handling but this early in the Olympic cycle the focus for Matti and I will be about building our own team.”
Three Dutch teams will be sailing in Palma: Mandy Mulder and Thijs Visser, Renee Groeneveld and Karel Begemann and Elke Delnooz and Mischa Heemskerk. Mulder and Groeneveld come from women’s keelboat backgrounds and fought tooth and nail for the Dutch Women’s Match Racing Olympic spot over the last four years and have had to learn how to sail multihulls with their new partners. On the other hand Delnooz and Heemskerk are multihull sailors through and through.
Heemskerk holds a wealth of experience on two hulls and last year was crowned A-Class Catamaran World Champion in Florida, USA. Like Heemskerk, Delnooz has also been on the multihull scene for a number of the years and Heemskerk believes he has a strong team mate: “Elke and myself have been racing against each other in the Formula 18 class for the last seven years,” said Heemskerk.
“She has been improving her performance rapidly in the last two years so when the Olympic catamaran came about she was a good candidate to team up with. She is a more mature woman, very intelligent and stable character which will help over a four year campaign to stay a good team. We have been training in Palma with the two other Delta Lloyd teams and she is very quick on the helm with me on the trim.”
With plenty of time on the water Heemskerk has a firm understanding of the boat: “The Nacra 17 is upwind a mix between a A-Cat and a Formula 18 downwind because of the spinnaker it is an overpowered A-Cat. Downwind the two of us have to control the beast which requires great teamwork cause the delicate balance between steering, trim and weight makes you either fast or out of control.”
Whilst the American duo and the trio of Dutch teams could be seen as favourites to take the final honours the fleet also includes 2010 Tornado World Champions Roland and Nahid Gaebler (GER), Beijing 2008 Yngling gold medallist Pippa Wilson (GBR) and familiar Olympic campaigners all starting off on a new adventure.
A strong Finn fleet at ISAF Sailing World Cup Palma welcomes 76 sailors and includes World #1 Brendan Casey (AUS), Olympic veterans and fresh new faces.
Moving back to the Finn fresh from winning gold in the Star at the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition is Sweden’s Max Salminen. The Swede took a memorable gold on the final day of the competition with Freddie Loof when it looked like gold would go the way of the British team. Salminen last sailed the Finn in 2010 and is looking forward to the new challenge, “It's a nice boat that fits me pretty well. You also realize how much you've learned during the star period and that you're coming in to the class as a new sailor and not the one that stepped out of the boat three years ago.”
Salminen will be joined by ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami Champion, Caleb Paine (USA), 2011 World Champion Giles Scott and London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Jonathan Lobert (FRA).
With some of the old guard retiring and a bigger emphasis on powerful young sailors in the fleet Lobert is excited about the challenges that he’ll face, “The good thing in sailing is as the venue changes the game changes, so Rio will be different from Weymouth and I will need new skills to succeed there. I see this new campaign as a super exciting challenge with some new guys such as Max joining the fleet and a lot of old guys leaving so it will be interesting to see the new fleet classification.”
Many seasoned campaigners return in the Men’s RS:X with 40 registered entrants all vying for top spot. ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami victor Ivan Pastor Lafuente (ESP) will be the one to beat as he competes on his home waters and steady results that has seen him climb to World #3 in the Men’s RS:X Rankings. With the likes of Toni Wilhelm (GER), Ricardo Santos (BRA) and Julien Bontemps (FRA) joining him the competition will be tight.
Fresh from victory at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami and a third place at the 2013 RS:X Worlds in Buzios, Brazil, Israel’s Maayan Davidovich will be one of the favourites in the Women’s RS:X fleet. Joining her in the fleet will be RS:X Worlds silver medallist Bryony Shaw (GBR) and World #1 Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) making for tasty competition in the 28-person fleet.
There is a strong contingent of Danish, Spanish, French, British, German, Italian, Russian and Swedish crews that will make up the bulk of the 81-boat 49er fleet. The entrants include Olympic bronze medallists Allan Norregaard and Peter Lang who have gone their separate ways, Norregaard is sailing with Alders Thomson and Lang is crew with Beijing 2008 gold medallist Jonas Warrer. Athens 2004 gold medallist and Beijing 2008 silver medallist Iker Martinez (ESP) has also teamed up with Iago Lopez.
Racing is scheduled to start at 11:00 local time on 1 April through to 6 April across the ten events.