© Sailing Energy
Top 49er racers will be in Palma for the Princesa Sofia Trophy
The current Olympic and World Champions in 49er and 49erFX will compete for the 51 Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca against many of the top contenders in both classes. Many of the leading sailors have been training during recent days, taking advantage of the excellent conditions on the bay of Palma, sporting the striking black sails that have been incorporated as the new official equipment for Paris 2024.
Among the ten classes that will compete for the 51 Trofeo Princesa Sofía, the 49er stands out as the fastest and most spectacular monohull in the fleet. The powerful two person skiff has been an Olympic class for the 49er since the Sydney 2000 Games and since Rio 2016 for the 49erFX (women's). Both share the same hull and crew of two, but the FX has a scaled down rig.
According to Canadian Ben Remocker, manager of both classes: "The special thing about the 49er and FX is the balance between skipper and crew. In other classes, the crew is almost anonymous, whereas here he basically drives the boat with the sails and works in full conjunction with the skipper, which has allowed many sailors in the class to become great and respected sailing professionals, such as Xabi Fernandez, Blair Tuke or Iain Jensen. The 49er was the catalyst for them to become what they are today."
With just under two weeks to go before the annual showdown begins on the waters of Palma, the list of entries includes a total of 80 boats from 28 nations in the 49er class and 59 teams representing 25 nations in the 49erFX class.
A cocktail of talent
The 49er fleet will include the world leaders in the class, who arrive in Palma after making interesting crew changes. Such is the case of GBR's Olympic champion helm Dylan Fletcher, who will now compete with Rhos Hawes as crew. Also changing partners are the 2021 world champions, the Dutchmen Bart Lambriex and Pim van Vugt, now in different boats, and Denmark's representatives in Tokyo 2020, Jonas Warrer (the 2008 Olympic champion) who now sails in a rival boat against his former crew Jakob Precht Jensen.
In addition to the performance of these new partnerships, the new Spanish duo formed by Diego Botín and Florian Trittel is generating a lot of expectation. This new pairing will land in Mallorca directly from San Francisco, where they are competing with the Spanish SailGP team. The 470 Olympic runner-up, Swedish Fredrik Bergstrom, will be making his debut in the 49er. Two boats will fly the Indian flag, something slightly more unusual in this division.
Simply the best
In the 49erFX category, the Olympic champions of Tokyo 2020 and Rio 2016, Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, will be back in Palma. The Brazilians' track record includes six medals in the last nine World Championships (one gold, four silver and one bronze) and the title of champions in the last edition of the Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca.
The Mallorcan Javier Torres, Grael/Kunze's coach in their last titles, highlights the revolution undergone by the 49erFX fleet since the Games. "Of the top ten from Tokyo, seven are no longer here, but there is a young generation that is very strong and will give us something to talk about: the Belgians, the Poles,... We will have to see how the change of the New Zealanders works out." He is referring to Alexandra Maloney (Olympic runner-up at Rio 2016), who is now competing with Olivia Hobbs. Other pairs making their debut in Palma are those formed by the current world champion, the Dutch Odile van Aanholt, and the Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist, Annette Duetz; or the British Freya Black and Saskia Tidey (world runner-up in 2020).
As the first scoring event for the Hempel World Cup Series, the 51 Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca will be the first time that the teams will use the new regulation equipment for Paris 2024 in competition, in which the incorporation of 3Di technology sails stands out. This detail will mean a spectacular aesthetic change in the fleet due to the characteristic black colour of the material, but it will also mean an interesting change in performance, at least in theory. "Still a few teams that don't have it, and of course teams can use the old equipment through the season as well," explains Remocker. "We'll see what the performances differences are."
The 49er and 49erFX teams will be based at the Club Nàutic S'Arenal. Their competition programme will consist of a maximum of 12 races to be sailed between the 4th and 8th of April, and their Medal Race on the 9th of April.
The 51 Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca is the first qualifying regatta for the Hempel World Cup Series 2022, organised by World Sailing, the International Sailing Federation.
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 and the Federación Balear de Vela, with the backing of the main Balearic public institutions.