European competitive debut for the 49erFX
ISAF Sailing World Cup Palma (aka the Trofeo Princesa Sofia) will see two undefeated 49erFX crews go head to head for the first time as racing begins on 1 April.
Held across Club Nàutic S'Arenal and Club Marítimo San Antonio de la Playa over 900 sailors will fight for the titles across the ten Olympic classes including one of the two latest, the women's skiff, the 49erFX.
Two of the 36-boat FX fleet competing on the Bay of Palma took part in Miami. Brazilians Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze are top ranked at present following three consecutive victories at the 49erFX North Americans, ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami and the 49erFX Mid-Winter Regatta, all sailed in Miami.
They will be up against World #2 Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) who hold regatta victories at ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne and Sail Sydney.
While Grael is happy with her success so far, the Palma 49erFX fleet will be the biggest one she and Kunze have sailed in and they are relishing the challenge, “I’ve been looking forward to Palma,” said Grael, daughter of Olympic legend, Torben. “It seemed for us that the races we've participated in so far have not shown us where we are. Of course I was very happy with the results but a big fleet is completely different when you have more boats in the area.”
Grael and Kunze won gold together in the 420 at the 2009 ISAF Youth Worlds in a fleet that featured Maloney, who came down in fourth overall. On the prospect of facing Maloney again Grael added, “I’m very good friends with Alex and Molly. I met Alex long time ago, and will be very nice to race against her. I know she`s a very determined person and a great sports woman.”
Maloney and Meech are looking forward to getting on the water. “Since everyone is so new to the class it’s an even playing field which is exciting for everyone,” said Maloney. “We think the level of the whole FX fleet will have a really steep learning curve for the first year, so it will be interesting where everyone is at.
“Our team has been putting in a lot of hard work in the boat since it was selected. Going over to Australia to do their circuit was a great experience as well as having some Danish friends Ida [Marie Baad Nielsen] and Marie [Thusgaard Olsen] in New Zealand for some training.”
The Danish pair will be joining the Brazilians and Kiwis in the fleet and will come in with some confidence following a second place at the 50-point Palamos Christmas Race in Spain. Having trained with the Kiwis over the winter and holding many years of 29er experience the Danes have been enjoying a fresh test, “I find the 49erFX very fun and fast,” said Olsen. “In high winds it is very challenging to handle.”
Like the Brazilians and Kiwis Olsen is wary of the learning curve that many of the new crews will have to take, “I expect that the competition in the FX will be very hard in everything under 15 knots. If it's starts to blow more than that, I think that we will see a lot of capsizes. It is very difficult to know the level in the class because we are all new in the boat, but I would be happy if we finish in the top eight.”
At such an early stage in the quadrennial the fleet are adjusting to the new boat and skiff sailing, with time on the water imperative to early success. Many of the crews come into the event as unknown quantities
The Laser fleet welcomes 133 registered sailors, making it the biggest fleet at ISAF Sailing World Cup Palma. Eight of the world’s top ten sailors will make the journey to Palma to stake their claim for the gold medal including World #1 Tom Burton (AUS) who has hit the podium in his last five regattas.
At ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami new formats across the fleets were trialled and Palma will see adaptations of the formats applied to the next instalment of the Sailing World Cup.
With three double-point Medal Races at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami, Estonian Olympian Karl Martin-Rammo blitzed the day, winning two races and finishing second in the other to move up dramatically to second place overall.
Two Medal Races will help determine the winners in Palma and the Estonian is keen to see modifications, “I really like the fact that ISAF is trying new things. I think sailing needs changes to make it more interesting for the fans and trying to work in that direction will benefit us all. Keeping that in mind, I really like the carryover or carry forward race. That makes the qualifying round similar to other sports.
“Usain Bolt doesn't always run the fastest in the qualifiers; it's the finals that matter. So the new system puts more emphasis on the finals, which makes it more interesting for the fans and competitors also.”
While Rammo benefitted significantly from the three Medal Races he is pleased to see changes for Palma, “Even though I did really well, I think three races might be too much. Of course it keeps things open, and makes the medal round day as a winner takes all, but on the other hand, having that many races makes it hard to follow for the fans. It is a perfect amendment to the version we had in Miami, in my mind.”
Sixty nine sailors will be vying for the Laser Radial honours in Palma with World #2 Tatiana Drozdovskaya (BLR) the most experienced sailor in the relatively young fleet that features several athletes who competed at the ISAF Youth Worlds over the last two years including 2011 Radial Champion Tiril Bue (NOR) and 2012 silver medallist Line Flem Host (NOR).
Making her first appearance in a Laser Radial since her inaugural appearance at the 2009 Worlds in Karatsu, Japan is Wakako Tabata (JPN) who formerly sailed with Ai Kondo in the Women’s 470 at London 2012.
Coming into ISAF Sailing World Cup Palma ranked World #1 with a perfect record is Men’s 470 Olympic Champion Mat Belcher sailing with new crew Will Ryan. Belcher picked up where he left off with former crew Malcolm Page, by winning regattas and the new duo have two regatta victories to their name whilst Belcher is on a run of ten straight regatta victories dating back to November 2011.
ISAF Sailing World Cup winners Stu McNay and Dave Hughes (USA) make the step over the Atlantic to see if they can replicate the form they found in their first regatta together.
London 2012 Olympic silver medallist Luke Patience and Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Olympic silver medallist Joe Glanfield team up in their quest to go one better than their previous Olympic experiences for Rio 2016.
World #1 Women’s 470 crew Fernanda Oliveira and Ana Luiza Barbachan (BRA) will be the favourites for the Women’s title in Palma and will be joined by World #3 Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar (AUT) in the 45-boat fleet.
There is also further action in the Nacra 17, Finn, 49er and the Men’s and Women’s RS:X.
Racing is scheduled to start at 11:00 local time on 1 April through to 6 April across the ten events.