Popularity of Olympic Sailing Surging In Path to Paris
The frenzied lead-up to Paris 2024 is upon us as the 2023 Princess Sofia Trophy regatta begins in Palma de Majorca, Spain. Each of the 10 Olympic events is at capacity with full boat parks and eight race courses running simultaneously for the week.
The beach in Arenal hosts all the doublehanded boats, 470, 49er, FX, and Nacra 17 while on the far opposite end of the 8km long beach is where Can Pastilla is hosting the ILCA (laser) and the IQFoil (Windsurfer). In the middle, the Kites are launching directly from the beach.
When all fleets are on the water the entire bay is full of sails, and the speeds are very high. After Tokyo, the fleet said goodbye to the Finn Class, and the 470 consolidated to a single fleet making room for kitesurfing. Fears of there being no room for heavy sailors proved unfounded as the foiling windsurfers and kitesurfers have shown mass to be very helpful in multiplying forces with low drag, and many of the men are well over 100kg.
The 49er fleet is over the 105-boat limit, so there will be 3 fleets of 35 boats in qualifying. Over two days the fleets from two European locations, Lanzarote and Villamoura, will go up against the fleets from the USA, Canada, South America, New Zealand, Australia, China, and India for the first time since September of 2022 when the fleets split up and went back home. All contenders are here and with no returning Olympic medalists there is much to compete for.
The FX fleet is at its full capacity of 2 fleets, and the situation is similar to the 49er other than all but two medalists of all time are returning for another shot in Paris. Two-time defending World Champions Odile van Aanholt with Annette Duetz (NED) should be called the favorites but there are a dozen teams in contention for the win.
The Nacra 17 fleet is also full at 2 fleets and should be quite an interesting regatta. The fleet just spent 6 months training at full foiling, and there is a lot of confidence about how steep the learning curves have been and how much teams have progressed in their understanding of how to optimize the boats in more conditions and through all the maneuvers. We may start seeing some foiling tacks if conditions are optimal and the potential for a dry lap this season is real. More importantly, there are plenty of teams trying to catch up to reigning Olympic and World Champions, Ruggero Tita with Caterina Banti (ITA).
There is also a new, young contingent of Nacra 17 teams that have joined the veteran fleet. Since 2017 the platform has become very robust, meaning older boats are holding up very well to the rigors of sailing allowing younger teams to buy second-hand gear and get into the fleet. Young teams from all around the world are jumping into the fleet while many of the veterans who have been with the class since it became Olympic in 2013 may be on their last runs.
Many if not most countries are using this regatta as a selection for the Test Event in Marseilles this summer which only allows one team per nation. Also, with World Sailing limiting participation at this summer’s World Championship, many countries are also running selections for those spots as about 25% of the fleet will not gain entry. Expect qualifying to be very tight and the forecast is on the light end which should only increase the anxiety of teams trying to navigate a full bay and tight competition.
Follow the action from the home website: 52 Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofía Mallorca – 2023 (trofeoprincesasofia.org)