At the Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mallorca, the opening Hempel Sailing World Cup Circuit regatta of 2022 which is the first major Olympic classes sailing event since the 2020 games last year, the penultimate day of racing saw one pair of Italian Olympic gold medallists carry on from where they left off in Tokyo, one Dutch female duo comprehensively overshadow the 2020 Olympic champions and one delighted Canadian single-hander make a dream start to her post-Tokyo pledge to start the new ‘quadrennial’ on the podium. All three have clinched their Palma World Cup titles with a day to spare.
With a convincing overall class win in the ILCA6 single-hander on a sparkling Bay of Palma’s, Sarah Douglas today delivered on a promise to herself to prove she was much more than ‘the queen of sixth places’ – the position she finished in Tokyo last year and one which has been too common on her final scoresheets. She has been the dominant force in the class this week in winds which have varied from nine to 25kts. Tokyo medallists have yet to return to the class but Douglas is now doubly determined to become Canada’s first ever female sailing medallist,
“It is so surreal at the moment.” Grinned a delighted Douglas who grew up in Barbados where she started sailing in Optimists, ”I am so excited. Last quad I realised I had become the queen of sixth place, I had a lot of them. And so I started here saying ‘This quad I want to step on the podium and here I am. I have worked so hard this week. I was mentally fresh. I had stepped back from the ILCA 6 for some time and did some big boat sailing and SSL sailing, so it was great to be connected to the sport still. I have been full force since January, training in Mexico and Florida. Our training is always very specific and in Mexico I did nothing but two weeks of downwind sailing. I have seen improvement here and that was my weakness in the last quad. This is only the beginning. My aim was to be on the podium and to be more comfortable in that position with the pressure.”
Douglas sailed for Barbados until 2008 in the Optimist and then ILCA 6 before a brief spell in the Byte She took a break from sailing, quitting at the age of 16 before coming back in 2014 with the sole aim of pursuing the Olympic dream.
Italians Do It Better
The reigning Nacra Olympic Champions Italians Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti (ITA) started their journey towards Paris 2024 in the best possible way. With a 24 point gap back to the Finnish crew in second place, they have wrapped up the Palma World Cup title with the Medal Race to spare.
As the whole foiling catamaran fleet gets to grips with the adjustable rudder elevators and experiments with the possibilities of upwind foiling, the Italians seem to be further along the learning curve than their rivals.
“Every upwind leg of this week has been a new learning opportunity,” said helm Banti. “We were very focused on trying to make this work as it changes the way we sail so much. Tita added: “We had no idea where the level was until this week. We did a good job in improving day by day and learned quickly how to sail with the new system. I don’t really know what we did differently, we didn’t really watch the others. We just focus on our sailing, just to get the best from the boat.”
Behind the unbeatable Italians, the Medal Race will still be a close battle for the silver and bronze. Sinem Kurtbay and Akseli Keskinen (FIN) have been improving throughout the week and now sit in second overall, six points ahead of the Tokyo silver medallists John Gimson and Anna Burnet (GBR). Gianluigi Ugolini and Maria Giubilei (ITA) are 12 points behind, are the only other team with a shot at the Nacra podium.
Gold Medallists Left In The Shade
Already assured of the overall win in their class are Holland’s Odile van Aanholt and Annette Duetz who, this time, have left Brazil’s reigning Olympic Champions Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze in their. Solid scores of 1,6,4 were sufficient for the new pairing to secure the Palma title early.
“We are very happy and we sailed a great event,” smiled van Aanholt, the reigning World Champion and rapidly rising star of the women’s skiff. “It was the first time Annette and I sailed together in a major regatta, so we have good reasons to celebrate, and also a lot of improvements to make. We work really well together but we are still finding our feet in some places too.”
Duetz, the 2020 Olympic bronze medallist, added: “Today was quite a hard day, but even if we didn’t get away well at the start we were still able to fight back, boat by boat. That’s a good sign.”
In Saturday’s Medal Race the Brazilians will have to sail at their best to defend the silver from a chasing pack who are close behind on points. Currently in bronze are Isaura Maenhaut and Anouk Geurts (BEL), with Italian, Swedish and Danish teams in close pursuit.
When A Lead Is Not A Lead
Going into the showdown Saturday with a lead of 24 points like the Italian Nacra duo have, if she was in a dinghy class or still on the RS:X French iQFOiL windsurfer Hélène Noesmoen would have won her division with a day to spare.
But the Finals format for foiling windsurfers – which are making their Olympic classes debut – here means Noesmoen goes direct to the three board Final tomorrow to face the two riders who will have advanced all the way through tomorrow’s quarter and semi finals. But at least she, like Mens iQFOiL leader GBR’s Andy Brown, is certain of a medal.
Noesmoen is well used to the winner-takes-all finale and, as world and double European champion, has both track record and experience in her corner. She enthused, “I am happy with the week. And it is all the same in the final, we have all done a lot of racing and are tired but this is not the first time I have been in this position and I like it. I do my own warm up and get into the mind set you have to have. We know in this kind of final anything can happen. I just try to have a good technique on the foil and I always manage to look around and adjust my tactics. For some girls that is a problem.”
Staying Cool Under Pressure
GBR’s Andy Brown is also certain of a medal and is keeping a positive, open mind, ready to take on whoever he comes up against whether they are strong or light winds specialists
Brown’s British counterpart in the ILCA 7 singlehander class Michael Beckett is also similarly guaranteed a medal and equally chilled about carrying an 11 points lead into his medal race, ahead of Germany’s 2020 world champion Philipp Buhl and Australia’s Tokyo gold medallist Matt Wearn:
Beckett said , “I love the medal races. It is good to have a points gap. Last time I did this regatta I was 21st and this is a great regatta and everyone is back after the Games. I have done a lot of work with the squad and this week I have been fast and it has just felt as good as I have felt in training.”
Kites Up In The Air…Or Not
In the 470 Mixed class Spain’s bronze medallist helm Jordi Xammar now sailing with Nora Brugman carries a margin of 16pts into the medal race and so looks a good bet to go one better than his silver here in 2019.
And France have a strong chance of securing medals in the 49er where Erwan Fischer and Clément Pequin lead into the medal race by 11pts while the Formula Kite classes see French riders Lauriane Nolot and Theo de Ramecourt. The kite class leaders now carry two points into their four rider final and need to win just one race in what amounts to a first to three points showdown.
The 51 Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca is jointly organised by the Club Nàutic S’Arenal, the Club Marítimo San Antonio de la Playa, the Real Club Náutico de Palma, the Real Federación Española de Vela, the Federación Balear de Vela and World Sailing, with the backing of the main Balearic public institutions.