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Ireland’s Olympic sailors will return home to training in Dun Laoghaire to put into practice the lessons they’ve learned during a week of challenging conditions at the 49er European Championships where the teams competed in the silver fleet divisions. The Irish crews are still a long way off the pace that will be required if Tokyo 2020 qualification is to be achieved later this year.

Full results are here

After very strong conditions earlier in the week, the regatta ended with a bit of a whimper today, when a lack of wind in Weymouth Bay meant that there were no silver or bronze fleet races.

With 18 races already completed over six days, the race officer made the decision not to force any races in very light conditions for the silver and bronze fleets, although there were final races in the gold fleet competitions.

Irish Sailing 49er coach Ross Killian said: “It’s been a long regatta with seven consecutive race days. The wide variety of conditions has challenged our sailors, we’ve had very windy races and very light races. Steady breeze and shifting breeze, big waves and flat water. An all-round test really."

“Across the 18 races sailed the Irish results were up and down, areas that need work have been highlighted during the course of the competition, so now we will tailor or training to focus on those areas.

“We are bringing the equipment home tomorrow and will be working from the new Performance HQ in Dun Laoghaire for the next block of training. It’s a great thing that we can work together as a three-boat team at home while recharging the batteries. It’s been a busy start to the season with Palma, Genoa and the Euros one after another with little turnaround time in between.”

The lack of action today meant that in the men’s 49er class, Ryan Seaton, from Co Antrim, and Cork’s Seafra Guilfoyle finished highest of the Irish in 43rd place overall, after placing 2nd and 28th in Saturday’s two races. They were just one spot ahead of Dublin duo Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove after their 29th and 9th place finishes on Saturday.

Also in the 49ers, Dalkey brothers Seán Donnelly and Tadgh Donnelly finished 33rd and 26th in Saturday’s silver fleet races to claim 57th place overall, while the new Cork pairing of Mark Hassett and Johnny Durcan claimed 4th and 11th place in the bronze fleet races to finished the regatta in 88th place overall.

There was also no silver fleet races in the women’s 49erFX, which meant that Annalise Murphy and Katie Tingle finished the competition in 51st place overall after their 22nd and 9th placings in Saturday’s races.

In the 49er gold fleet, 49erNew Zealand pairing Peter Burling and Blair Tuke claimed victory, holding off the challenge of Britain’s Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell.

The 49erFX competition was won by Brazil’s Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, ahead of reigning World Champions from the Netherlands, Annemieke Bekkering and Annette Duetz.

The next regattas for the Irish Sailing team will attend will be Kiel in Germany in late June and the 49er Junior World Championships, in early July.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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There was consolation of sorts for Annalise Murphy and Katie Tingle who posted their best results of the week at the European 49er Championships in Weymouth Bay today.

Racing in the 49erFX silver fleet, with lighter, easterly winds of around 10-knots, the Dublin-Cork pair improved with every outing and claimed 9th, 3rd and 2nd place finishes in the day’s three races.

They now lie 45th overall out of 57 boats.

Seaton & Guilfoyle are 43rd

In the 49er silver fleet races, Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle came 8th, retired and 25th to lie 43rd overall out of 98 teams. Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove are in 48th place after posting results of 26th, 14th and 20th.

They were two places ahead of brothers Seán and Tadgh Donnelly, whose impressive 6th place in the second silver fleet race was bookended by 35th and 26th place finishes.

The men’s race is divided into gold, silver and bronze fleets, and being in the middle class means that Ireland’s sailors will not be able to finish higher that 26th overall.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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The much hoped for Irish breakthrough into the Gold fleet of the 49er European Championships – that would have been such a boost towards Tokyo 2020 qualification –has failed to materialise for any of the four competing campaigns in Weymouth tonight and they will now complete this week's series in the silver fleet of the 49er and 49fx classes.

There will be some consolation that a former Dun Laoghaire teammate from the Rio 2016 cycle is lying second in an inspirational performance in the 49erFX, even though the Royal Irish Yacht Club's Saskia Tidey is now racing for Team GB.

Belfast Lough's Ryan Seaton and Cork Harbour's Seafra Guilfoyle maintained their mid-fleet position scoring two counting races with a 7th and an 18th place recorded to lie 38th from 96.

The team will now aim to take as much as possible out of the Weymouth competition in the hope of improving scores later this season. None of the Irish crews has yet secured a Tokyo berth and this can only be achieved in December at the World Championships in New Zealand.

Rio Olympic medallist Annalise Murphy and partner Katie Tingle were back in action after their battles with the high winds of the day before. The pair recorded a 25th, 22nd and a 26th in racing today which see them set to continue the regatta in the 49fx silver fleet. 

Brothers Tadgh and Sean Donnelly of the National Yacht Club are lying one place behind U23 World Champions Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove of Howth Yacht Club having scored a 17th a 6th and a 21st placing today. Dickson and Waddilove recorded a counting 14th and 23rd. Both will join Seaton and McGovern to compete in the silver fleet.

Full Results

Published in Tokyo 2020
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49er duo Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle continue to lead the Irish teams, scoring a 17th, 9th and 14th place yesterday to lie 37th in the fleet of 96 boats at the European Championships in Weymouth.

Guilfoyle, who was ill during the week leading to the event, continues to recover his strength and the pair are looking forward to the last few races of the opening section of the regatta.

U23 World Champions Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove, from Dublin, recorded similar results to their first day placing results of two 13th places and a 15th to lie 44th overall, while brothers Tadgh and Sean Donnelly, from Dublin, are in 53rd after they improved on Monday’s performance by scoring a 15th, 16th and a 12th over yesterday’s races.

They’re not long back in the boat after their two-and-a-half year holiday in the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race, but already Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are back at the top in the 49er after firing three bullets in a row today. “Nice day out,” smiled a typically straightforward Burling, checking carefully over every part of the rig after a testing outing for the 96-boat fleet.

It’s not that it was uber-windy, but the easterly breeze had kicked up some big waves in Weymouth Bay, offering plenty of opportunity for an unwanted high-speed pitchpole. The Antipodeans are muscling in on the European party, both Kiwis and Aussies enjoying the big breeze, big wave conditions. The only European team in the top four is Spain’s Diego Botin and Iago Lopez who were almost as dominant as the Kiwis in their third of the qualifying draw, scoring 2,1,1. “It’s so nice to be racing in good conditions again,” said Lopez. “Today was a great day for 49er sailing.”

The Spaniards are just a point off the Burling/Tuke lead, and just two points adrift of the Spanish are the Aussie brothers Will and Sam Phillips who scored three second places behind the unstoppable Kiwis. “Got to be pretty happy with that,” said Will after snapping at the heels of the reigning Olympic Champions all day. “Still a long list of things to work on, but we’re getting there with our starting and boat speed was pretty solid.” His favourite bit of the day was the two-sail blast back across Portland Harbour, back in the relative safety and comfort of the flat water after the lumpy challenge of the Bay.

Rio 2016 bronze medallists Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel were fast out of the blocks in the morning, winning their first heat, but ran out of steam as the day progressed. “I was getting tired,” smiled Heil, sounding like a broken man. They pitchpoled in race two but recovered to a still respectable 10th place. “I was losing concentration because we were getting tired.” Then they capsized again in the final race of the afternoon, this time only managing an 18th. Despite their topsy-turvy moments, the Germans hold on to 7th place overall.

Austria’s Benjamin Bildstein and David Hussl struggled in yesterday’s conditions but got their mojo back on day two, scores of 1,1,5 lifting them to 12th overall. Great Britain’s Chris Taylor and Sam Batten had just put together a good set of results – 7,4,9 – and were enjoying the ride back home across the harbour when their forestay snapped at the top terminal. “The rig dropped back but the boom sat on the leeward wing and sort of supported the mast until we had time to re-tie the kite halyard as a temporary forestay,” said Taylor. So no real harm done, and a big day’s sailing that has planted a big grin on every face of the 49er fleet.

49er Top 5 – Full Results
1            NZL       Peter Burling, Blair Tuke                             7
2            ESP       Diego Botin, Iago Mara Lopez                      8
3            AUS       Will Phillips, Sam Phillips                          10
4            NZL        Logan Dunning Beck, Oscar Gunn            12
5            GER       Justus Schmidt, Max Boeme                     18

Published in Tokyo 2020
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North-South Olympic sailing duo Ryan Seaton of Belfast Lough and Seafra Guilfoyle of Cork Harbour led the Irish charge and are in 35th place after four races on the first day of the 96-boat 49er European Championships in Weymouth today.

Illness and injury continue to plague this campaign, unfortunately, with Guilfoyle only passed fit for the important championship at the weekend.

U23 World Champions Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove of Howth Yacht Club are 49th while Dun Laoghaire brothers Tadgh and Sean Donnelly of the National Yacht Club are 60th.

Full results are here.

Six races remain before the fleets are split into the final series but consistent good scores will be key over the coming days if Ireland is to make the gold fleet cut.

Kiwis leading the charge around a square course

Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn from New Zealand started with a 4th followed by a trio of bullets in their third of the qualifying fleet, which totals 96 international entries from nations as diverse as Oman and India. After a discard, the Kiwis top the leaderboard with 3 points, one point ahead of their fellow Kiwis and training partners, Pete Burling and Blair Tuke, returning to the same waters where they won an Olympic silver medal at London 2012 seven years ago.

Dunning Beck said the key to success was pretty straightforward – get a good start, do minimum tacks upwind, one gybe downwind. Sailing a square course, with one tack and one gybe, sounds easy enough except that everyone’s fighting for to do the same, simple thing. Which makes it not so simple. Maybe it’s the strong training program back in the New Zealand summer that’s paying dividends now for the Kiwis.

Still, it’s early days in the regatta, and on equal points with Burling and Tuke are Spain’s Diego Botin and Iago Lopez.

It was a pretty impressive day for the Phillips brothers from Australia, particularly in the first three races with scores of 1,2,1 before a less memorable 15th in the last race of the afternoon. “Nice to be back in Weymouth,” said Sam, crewing for brother Will. “You don’t miss many days sailing in Weymouth, it’s nearly always good here.” The Phillips missed most of the 2018 season after Sam broke his foot in a bone-crunching nose-dive at 35 knots in the now-defunct SuperFoiler circuit which lit up Australia just over a year ago. The Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma a few weeks ago was their first competitive 49er outing together in a year, so to find themselves near the front of this world-class fleet after the first day is a welcome return to form for the brothers.

Just behind the Phillips brothers are the Rio 2016 bronze medalists from Germany, Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel. Just a week ago the 2017 European Champions, Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell, were racing at 47 knots across San Francisco Bay in a SailGP F50 catamaran, but the Brits are pleased to be back on home waters with a “boring” opening day, according to Fletcher, which puts them in sixth overall. “Nothing special, just solid, which is fine for day one,” he said.

The 18-race series is forecast to have strong winds over the early part of the week. Racing continues tomorrow.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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This week's 49er 2019 European Championships, to be held in Weymouth from 13-19 May includes the 49er, 49erFX, and Nacra17 and Ireland is competing in both the men and women's division of the  Olympic skiff class. See details of the Irish Olympic Sailing team competing here.

There are more potential winners than any 49er event in history. Returning to the waters which hosted the 2012 London Olympic Games sailing regatta, any one of twenty teams from around the world have the proven ability to take their place on the top step of the podium.

In past Olympic cycles, the 49er fleet has had stand out performances by a number of teams which ultimately resulted in Olympic medals and top professional skippering positions in the America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race.

In the Rio 2016 cycle, New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke dominated the class, winning four World Championships in a row on their way to Olympic Gold. Preceding Burling/Tuke, Australian’s Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen were the form boat during the lead into the London 2012 games which also culminated in Olympic glory. Preceding that were the reigns of Chris Draper (GBR), Iker Martinez (ESP), and Chris Nicholson (AUS) all of whom went on to helm America's Cup or Volvo Ocean Race teams.

In 2018 and 2019, the 49er class has seen a plethora of event winners and no one team dominating. Whoever manages to emerge will truly be one of the best sailors today.

The most noticeable recent performance was by Great Britain’s Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell (GBR), who won the Trofeo Princesa Sofia regatta in Palma with a lead large enough to wrap up the event prior to a medal race being sailed. While Fletcher & Bithell have had large amounts of time away from the 49er this year due to their involvement with SailGP, this does not appear to have any effect on the British duo.

“Palma was an awesome regatta for us.” Says Fletcher. “We have been pushing for a performance like that. Weymouth is our home and we know it very well, Stu [Bithell] won his Silver Medal [in the 470] here at London 2012. We are feeling good and excited to have everyone back in our home town. The 49er fleet is incredibly strong at the moment, so we are coming here to just put our best foot forward and we know that if we do that we will be hard to beat.”

The rest of the British squad also have ambitions on home waters, none more so than James Peters and Fynn Sterritt. The duo have had a wildly up and down quad so far. They were flying high in the middle of last summer with a 5th at worlds and then winning the 2018 Test event, and critically, ahead of Dylan and Stu in both cases. They did so after spending months on the sidelines as Sterritt recovered from an injury which kept them off the water until just before Worlds.
So riding high into 2019, they entered Palma, as a British test event qualifier and suffered from a dire performance that put them into silver fleet. A controversial OSC call was their final downfall, spelling the end of their chances at a good finish in Palma.

With Dylan and Stu winning Palma, their chances of getting to the Test Event this year took a serious tumble. The test event spot for the British squad can be critical, as it's been practice for any team medaling at the test event to be given the Olympic berth. So, staring into this championship, one of the top 49er teams could already be staring down the last moments of their Tokyo campaign.

Reigning Olympic champions Burling & Tuke (NZL) have only recently stepped back into the 49er after taking time away from the class to compete in the America's Cup and The Ocean Race. The 4x World Champions are already back in form with their two international events in 2019 resulting in a 3rd and 7th place. Their fellow New Zealand teammates of Isaac McHardie & William McKenzie, Josh Porebski & Trent Rippey, and Logan Dunning Beck & Oscar Gunn have all placed in the top ten in 2019, showing that the New Zealand squad will be a force to be reckoned with. Discussing the New Zealand Sailing Team's recent success, McHardie said “I would have to put it down to the squad of 49ers we have working together. Also now with the likes of Pete and Blair back there is a lot of experience in the squad. As the younger team, we are very lucky to be apart of this tight group.”

The German Sailing Team will once again be looking to put on a strong performance, with their cumulative results including a string of podium placings in 2018-2019 as well as an extensive range of top 10 finishes spread out among their pairings. With an Olympic bronze from Rio 2016, 4th at the 2018 World Sailing Championships and a win at the recent Miami World Cup Series, Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel be in with a good chance of a podium. Jakob Meggendorfer & Andreas Spranger will be looking to bounce back from two poor results in Palma and Genoa, while Tim Fischer / Fabian Graf and Justus Schmidt / Max Boehme will once again be expected to finish inside the top ten.
As a country who has already qualified for Tokyo 2020, thanks to Fischer & Graf’s bronze medal at the 2018 World Sailing Championships, the focus is now firmly on Olympic selection. All four of these teams will be looking to use the Euros to claim the test event spot and be in pole position for the Olympic berth.

Among the teams capable of success at the 2019 Volvo Europeans are Spain’s Diego Botin & Iago Lopez Marra, who won the 2018 Europeans in Poland and have finished in the top ten in all three events in 2019. With their focus firmly on the 49er and qualifying their nation for the Olympics, they will be looking to once again finish the regatta at the top of the leaderboard.

Reigning World Champions Sime and Mihovel Fantela from Croatia are the one significant team not in attendance. Congrats to Sime who had his first child last week, and we wish them well as they bond as a family.

On their home waters, Poland's Dominik Buksak & Szymon Wierzbicki placed second in the 2018 Europeans, with team mates and training partners Lukasz Przybytek & Pawel Kolodzinski leading into the medal race only to finish a disappointing 4th place. These two teams have spent most of the European season training together and the 2019 Volvo Europeans will be their first Olympic selection event for the two competitive Polish teams.

Austrians - Bildstein Hussl (6th Miami - 4th Palma) are a contender. The duo won the 'Warm Up' event for the Europeans here last week, and are looking to take their first major title. It's the same story for Team Tilt, Seb Schneiter and Lucean Cujean from Switzerland. These GC32 World Champions are already qualified for the games, and recently hired Jim Maloney, one of the top coaches to get them into a medal contending position.

Argentina’s Yago and Klaus Lange are finding form at the right time, with their worst result so far this year being an 11th in Miami. Yago's racing has never been better, and he's been racing at the top of the game while becoming the spiritual leader of the #Sailors4theSea movement.

Perhaps the most improved squad of the quad is Team France. Frei and Delpesch were 2nd at the Worlds last year, and Rual with Amoros were eighth. Both teams have had very strong years, and could become the first French team to win a major championship since Frei and Rocherioux won the Europeans in 2012.

With a little over a year until the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are set to be contested on the waters of Enoshima Japan, the current 49er fleet is perhaps the most competitive 49er fleet in the class's history. Lacking a dominant team this Olympic cycle and with any number of up to twenty teams currently showing the form to win the regatta, picking a winner will be harder than ever before. Throw into the mix that multiple nations will be using this event as a major qualification event towards their Olympic team selection and it is clear that there is more than just a European title at stake.

49erFX Top 5 – Full entry
1            DEN      Ida Nielsen, Marie Olsen                           11
2            GBR       Charlotte Dobson, Saski Tidey                 13
3            DEN        Jena Hansen, Katja Iversen                     15
4            USA       Annemiek Bekkering, Annette Duetz         18
5            DEN       Martine Grael, Kahena Kunze                   19

49er Top 5 – Full entry
1            FRA       Lucas Rual, Emile Amoros                         9
2            NZL       Logan Dunning Beck, Oscar Gunn             13
3            NZL       Josh Porebski, Trent Rippey                       14
4            SUI        Sebastien Schnieter, Lucas Cujean            15
5            AUS       Will Phillps, Iain Jensen                              16

Published in Tokyo 2020
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As Afloat previously reported here, the Irish Sailing 49er and 49erFX teams will be sailing in next week’s European Championships, one of the highlights of the 2019 Olympic sailing calendar and an important benchmark for Irish teams still seeking Tokyo berths with a little over a year to go to the Olympic Regatta itself.

Next week’s regatta will see more than 400 of the best sailors from all over the world battle on Weymouth and Portland’s world-class waters, home of the London 2012 Olympic sailing competition, in pursuit of the European crown.

The Irish team attending the event is made up of eight sailors: 

  • Annalise Murphy (Olympic silver medallist) with Katie Tingle, competing in the 49erFX
  • Ryan Seaton (a medal race finalist at the Olympic Games in London 2012 and Rio 2016) and Seafra Guilfoyle
  • Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove (winners, U23 49er World Championships, September 2018, and 2018 Afloat Irish Sailors of the Year)
  • Tadgh and Sean Donnelly, training partners with the Irish Sailing Performance team

Speaking in advance of the event, Ross Killian, Irish Sailing 49er Coach said “All of the teams have put in massive amounts of preparation to get ready for this event, which simply underlines its importance to them, and how keen they are to succeed. It’s another significant step toward the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year.”

At the venue, Howth's Dickson and Waddilove have chalked up a 15th overall in the RYA Warm Up Regatta to set them up nicely for the main event.

Ian Barker 49erFX Irish Sailing coach said “Annalise and Katie are looking forward to the event and to getting out on the water. There’s a lot to sail for at Weymouth and they’re confident that their training and preparation regimes have them ready and prepared for the challenges ahead.”

The week-long regatta takes place at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy from May 13 to 19.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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All three Irish 49er teams ended up in the silver fleet at the World Cup in Genoa yesterday leaving some head scratching in the Irish camp as to how performances might be improved before the important European championships in Weymouth next month.

The fifth day of competition in Genoa saw a long-awaited 6-9 knot steady western breeze arrive, ensuring that 41 of 42 races were completed.  Conditions during the week were described as tricky with Rory Fitzpatrick, Irish Sailing’s Head Coach explaining “It’s been really tough conditions – one mistake and you’re at the back of the fleet".

Best of the Irish was 38th place Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove next was 48th place, Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle. Sean and Tadhg Donnelly were 58th in the 65-boat fleet.

Annalise's 49erFX Debut

Annalise Murphy and Katie Tingle's debut in the silver fleet of the Women’s 49erFX skiff ended with an overall 41st from 49th.

Medal Races

The scene has been set for the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 Medal Races at Hempel World Cup Series Genoa following the conclusion of fleet racing in the Italian city.

Italy’s Carlotta Omari and Matilda Distefano will lead the home nations hopes as they take a narrow advantage into the 49erFX Medal Race. Australian brothers David and Lachy Gilmour have New Zealand’s hottest sailing properties, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, hot on their heels in the 49er.

Full results are here. Check out all our Irish Olympic sailing coverage in the build-up to Tokyo 2020 here

All Medal Races will be live on World Sailing’s YouTube Channel here - https://youtu.be/kyGGiRqiUdw

Published in Tokyo 2020
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Belfast Lough and Cork Harbour duo Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle are 20th overall in quite possibly the largest 49er fleet ever assembled in Palma of 108 boats after the first day of racing at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia regatta.

Helmsman Ryan Seaton, tenth in Rio, and who won the class in Palma in 2016, is only now getting up to speed after a troublesome winter of injuries for new crew Guilfoyle. The pair counted a (17), 9 and an encouraging third in the final race yesterday.

But these early qualifying rounds in light winds have not been plain sailing for the other Irish skiffs. Afloat.ie's Irish Sailor of the Year Rob Dickson, who is without his regular crew Sean Waddilove and sailing with stand-in Robbie Gilmore, lies 106th after 'gear problems' yesterday. 

The National Yacht Club's Sean and Tadhg Donnelly are 105th. Not competing this year are West Cork duo, Mark Hassett and Oisin O'Driscoll. 

Also absent from the Irish set-up in Palma this year is longtime coach Tytus Konarzewski who is credited with bringing the Dickson–Waddilove duo to U23 World Championship success last season. Konarzewski departed the Irish camp after the 'merger' of the youth and senior Irish skiff programmes this winter that saw the skiff numbers reduced.

Full results are here. Read more about Irish hopes for Tokyo 2020 here.

Published in Tokyo 2020

Consistent sailing will be the key if the Irish Olympic sailing team is to make good on promises of a strong peformance on the Bay of Palma this week. While none have yet reached the qualification standard for Tokyo 2020, the group, a mix of male and female Laser and Skiff campaigns, are now launching into a challenging season where securing a berth on the Tokyo startline is the absolute priority and for most of them this starts here at the Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofía regatta.

As probably the most popular annual Olympic classes regatta in the world it is no surprise that the 50th anniversary Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofía Iberostar has drawn a record fleet to the Bay of Palma.

Nine of the ten Rio 2016 Olympic gold medal-winning sailors or pairs are racing at the Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofía Iberostar.

In action for Ireland are Laser men, Finn Lynch, Liam Glynn, Ewan McMahon as well as 49er skiff team Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle. Afloat.ie Sailor of the Year Rob Dickson was meant to sail but sailing partner Sean Waddilove is now out due to injury it has been confirmed tonight by the team. Also racing are National Yacht Club brothers Sean and Tadhg Donnelly. 

As Afloat.ie previously reported, although Ireland has still to qualify for Tokyo in any class, once the nation is qualified, Irish sailing's trials criteria means finishing in the top half of one of the 2019 qualifying regattas that include Palma. What's more, next week's Spanish regatta has added significance as it is the first of two trial events in the Laser to determine which Irish sailor will attend the Tokyo test event in August.

Dun Laoghaire's Finn Lynch, in particular, will be keen to continue his early season form. In Miami, in January, for example, he became the first ever Irish Laser sailor to qualify for a World Cup Medal Race, a sign perhaps that qualification is on the cards for the Rio veteran later this season?

Unfortunately, however, despite the opportunity for some excellent competition this week Annalise Murphy and Katie Tingle in the 49er FX will not be competing. The Irish Laser Radials are not in action either, due to exams, thus making a challenging qualification season now even tougher. 

Club Nàutic S’Arenal

The golden jubilee regatta has mustered 1,224 sailors, 869 boats in ten classes all from 67 different nations the huge Olympic classes competitions congregate over eight race areas administered from the sailing clubs the Club Nautico S’Arenal and the Club Marítimo San Antonio de la Playa,

As the Princesa Sofía Iberostar reaches its remarkable landmark the celebratory ambience around the boat parks and the clubs gives way Monday to the business of racing.

This annual gathering of the clans and the classes on the Balearic Island of Majorca is always a vital first check in with the rivals, the earliest big fleet opportunity to benchmark improvements after the winter period of training and racing. Or in some cases it is the idea arena to return to Olympic classes competition arena after a more protracted post-Olympic break.

A glittering 50th anniversary gala on Saturday evening was hosted at the Son Termes estate and was attended by Her Majesty Queen Sofïa. It was attended by Spain’s Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, the president of the Government of the Balearic Islands, Francina Armengol, and the president of the World Sailing (International Sailing Federation), Kim Andersen.

Queen Sofia offered a few words of thanks and congratulations "To all those who over these 50 years have made it possible for this regatta to be run in such a wonderful way on the unrivalled waters of the Bay of Palma, setting up this trophy as a national and international reference in the sport of sailing ".

HM Queen Sofía also offered special recognition for Rear Admiral Marcial Sánchez Barcaeiztegui and Jaime Enseñat who are considered the originators of the regatta.

Jaume Carbonell, who was the Trofeo Princesa Sofía event manager over two periods (1988-92 and 2004-11) praised Enseñat, who was president of Mallorca Tourism Promotion in 1968.

“He had the idea of the island benefitting from the promotional value of a major sports event to put Mallorca in the world map as an emerging tourism destination back then”.

Enseñat was, according to Carbonell, a pioneer of sports sponsorship.

“He ensured that for the first time that a private company gave its name to the Trofeo Princesa Sofía and invested some money that enabled thinking big and set the foundations of what today is the best Olympic classes’ regatta in the Mediterranean and probably in the whole world”.

“Thanks to this, the Princesa Sofía changed from being a Club regatta to become Mallorca’s showcase regatta, known all around the world”, said Carbonell.

Nine from Ten

Nine of the ten Rio 2016 Olympic gold medal winning sailors or pairs are racing at the Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofía Iberostar.

Since they won the 49er gold medal in Rio in 2016 New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have won the America’s Cup and competed in the Volvo Ocean Race round the world. As they set out to defend their Olympic title next year in Tokyo Burling and Tuke return to the 49er fleet for the first time since Rio, choosing the Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofía Iberostar and the Bay of Palma as their first major event after training at home during the New Zealand summer with a flourishing Kiwi 49er squad. Blair and Tuke will have a fleet of 107 49ers, a class record, to contend with on their return.

“We are here to get back into it. We have had really good training group at home, it has been fun there but it is good to be back into it in Europe. We have a good few blocks of time at home, we feel pretty comfortable in our handling, it is about making sure you get these little details back which will I am sure will come back. It is cool to see the fleet so big and probably reflects a bit what is going on what is happening in the rest of the sailing world. It is looking pretty secure for a while.” Burling, who won the title here with Tuke in 2015 when they were last here, says,

“It is fun sailing here and with the Cup stuff we have on it is good to do some sailing. Andy (Maloney) and Josh (Junior) from our Cup team are doing Olympic campaigns and are here too. It fits in well with our programme and it is quite similar to what we did last time, a good balance some design time, some big boat sailing and some little boats. It is all part of the plan.

Following a similar programme is Great Britain’s Giles Scott, with Ineos Team UK hoping to wrest the America’s Cup from the Kiwis, and looking to defend the Finn gold medal title which he won in Rio. Scott has done three Finn regattas since he won here last year, two lower level regattas in Australia this winter and the Enoshima Japan 2019 World Cup series opener last September where he finished runner up.

“At the end of last year we went to Australia and did a couple of trips there and then came up to Palma in February and have been in and out since then. So I have had some reasonable time in the boat since then which is nice after the last 18 months or so.” Says Scott, “At the moment I can manage the Cup programme and this alongside each other. It will not get any easier from that point of view. It is working fine. I don’t know where I am with regard to the fleet and so that is what we come here for. It is great to have this regatta. Everyone goes off through the winter and it is nice to come back and see what everyone has done. For me the best thing is being properly back into it and feeling good.” Says Scott,

“I do love it here. It is amazing. Formats change, World Cups come and go, and this is the constant. Everyone always comes. Everyone always loves it. They always put on a good regatta here. And so the sailors always respond to that and turn up in their masses.”

Argentina’s Olympic Nacra 17 champion Santi Lange has lost count of the times he has been to the Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofía Iberostar.

“It is a lot more than twenty.” Smiles Lange who with crew Cecilia Carranza Saroli finished third in Miami in January and third at last year’s World Championships, “Everyone is so passionate and supportive here it is always great to be here. In the ‘good old days’ everything was brought here by the military and a lot of things were provided free. I once did this regatta when I was working in Southampton and came by train. I remember being at Victoria Station in London at 5am in the morning, travelling with mast, boom, daggerboard, rudder and everything. We were crazy to be here.”

Lange adds: “It has changed a lot but this I am always happy to be here. It is all so much more professional now than it was but this is such a cool place. There are cheap places to stay and it is a great place for training camps. And this is such a good regatta for younger sailors to come and race with the best in the world. That used to be the case in Hyeres, Spa, Medemblik and now it is not and this is what there is. I do think we should keep pushing to have big regattas where newcomers can come and race against the good guys and girls.”

“For us we have come here a little late and so our first thing is to check in with the fleet and see where we are, and then we fix our objectives. We had some good training in Uruguay with a good group. This is a technical class where everyone is learning and improving all the time.

Who’s who?

The 470 Men’s class has 73 entries. Winners here in 2018 were Australia’s Olympic silver medallists Mat Belcher and Will Ryan who return to open their season on the Bay of Palma. The world champions Kevin Pepponet and Jérémie Mion (FRA) finished seventh in Miami in January and are among a 13 strong French 470 mens squad. In Miami it was Spain’s Jordi Xammar and Nicolas Rodriguez who prevailed.

In the 470 Women’s fleet there are 45 entries. Japan’s Ai Kondo Yoshida and Miho Yoshioka are World Champions and won here last year. Olympic champion is GBR’s Hannah Mills who sails with Eilidh McIntyre. Germany’s top two 470 crews finished first and second in Miami, Loewe and Markfort winning from Oster and Winkel. Mills and McIntyre were fourth at the Miami World Cup.

In the 45 boat Finn class Giles Scott is the defending Sofia champion and the Olympic champion. Sweden’s Max Salminen won in Miami, was World Championship runner up in Aarhus. World Champion Zsombor Berecz is not entered here.

The 108 strong 49ers see the return of Burling and Tuke, the Olympic champions. World champions 2018 are Croatia’s Sime and Mihovil Fantela. The winners here in 2018 were Yago and Klaus Lange (ARG).

Over 180 Laser standards are entered. Cypriot Pavlos Kontides stands out as world champion in 2017 and 2018 and Olympic runner-up in London 2012 and winner in January in Miami. Olympic champion is Australia’s Tom Burton while Miami’s dominant winner was Norway’s Tomasgaard.

In the Laser Radial there are 120 sailors and favorites Marit Bouwmeester the Olympic gold winner from Rio 2016 and the Belgian Emma Plasschaert, current world champion.

In the 49er FX, Annemiek Bekkering and Annete Duetz (Holland) are looking to defend the title of Sofía Iberostar champions. They are also the current world champions. Winners in Miami were Brazil’s Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, Olympic champions.

Italy’s Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti are world champions who start as favourites in the Nacra 17 class which has 59 entries. France’s four times World Champions Billy Besson and Marie Riou return to race in Palma after Riou raced on the Volvo Ocean Race last year. Olympic champions are Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli. Australia’s Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin won in Miami.

The RS: X male and female classes see this regatta as a prelude to the the European Championship that will take place at the Club Nàutic S'Arenal immediately after this event, from 8 to 13 April. The current female windsurf world champion, the Dutch sailor Liliana De Geus, who also won the 2018 edition of the Sofía Iberostar, will be the rival to beat the Japanese Peina Chen and the Andalusian Blanca Manchón as main competitors.

On the male windsurfing side, the Spanish sailors such as Canarian Ángel Granda and the Balearic Sergi Escandell at the head, is emerging as one of the main powers in the Majorcan regatta.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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