The expected ‘baptism of fire’ for Irish sailors ILCA 7/Laser at Trofeo Sofia Mallorca this morning

It looks like the three Irish ILCA 7/Laser competitors at the giant 51 Trofeo Sofia Mallorca are in for a ‘baptism of fire’ this morning, according to local reports, with strong winds forecast and Tokyo’s three Olympic medalists competing in the first of the World Cup regattas.

When the race begins this morning in the famous bay of Palma de Mallorca, the regatta will usher in a whole new era for Olympic class sailing. Of the ten classes scheduled to race this week, five are new to the list of classes that will race at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

As Afloat previously reported, National Yacht Club brothers Finn Lynch and Howth, Ewan and Jamie McMahon, are competing in the week-long regatta (Monday April 4-Saturday April 9) in the ILCA 7 (Laser).

Lynch finished fourth in the 2019 regatta, but as regular Afloat readers know, Dun Laoghaire’s ace since taking second place at the World Championships in Barcelona last November, he is therefore highly regarded as Ireland’s best hope for a podium place in Mallorca.

Club Nautic S’Arenal

It’s a fitting big step, an exciting return as the first major Olympic class regatta since 2019 hosts the debut of the high-speed, high-octane iQFOiL, men’s and women’s foil windsurfing fleets. , Formula Kite fleets with foils for men and women and, for the first time, the 470 mixed dinghy for two people.

The expectation is shared equally between the 1,000 sailors and the local organizers who have worked tirelessly to ensure that this huge undertaking, which requires an unprecedented number of eight course areas and 250 officials on the water, goes smoothly. encumbers.

And with northeast winds forecast off 20 knots, Monday’s newbies, iQFoil fleets and mixed 470s will be offered a baptism of fire, as will the two ILCA fleets, the strongest of which is the class men’s ILCA 7. which sees the three medalists from Tokyo resume their rivalry for the first time since the Games.

High quality land

The men’s iQFOiL attracted a high quality field that is a mix of former Olympic RS:X activists transitioning to windsurfing and foil windsurfers from the Professional Windsurfing Tour.

Kiran Badloe (NED) is the two-time RS:X World Champion and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Champion.

Righting moment – weight and power – are among the primary requirements for maximum straight-line speed. Badloe went from a supple 73 kilo RS:X to “somewhere around 90 kilo”.

The effervescent Dutch windsurfer was enthusiastic: “It’s a new start and it’s like a new sport. I’ve put on a lot of weight since riding the RS:X in Tokyo. I am 1.95m tall so staying 73kg for Tokyo was very difficult, I had to go on a diet. For me it’s good to be somewhere above 90 kg, it’s good, I feel healthier. We need extra weight because when the foil lifts us out of the water, we have no water resistance and we reach high speeds. So it’s a little faster to have more weight to swing.

“iQFOiL is great because it brings together the whole windsurfing community. We have PWA guys, slalom and freestyle guys, and then we have former Olympians like me. And it’s great to see that everyone has their own strengths. The guys at PWA are incredibly fast and they know the hardware, how to set it up and how to set it up really well. They’re just very fast sailors. So if they get a bit of trail, they can go pretty fast. The guys who come from the Olympic fleet, they are a little more strategic. I think we are reading the wind changes a bit better and we would like to think we have a bit more fitness and an ability to keep pumping the sail for longer. Eventually, the guy who’s going to win is going to be somewhere in the middle. You have to be pretty quick. You have to match the guys that come from the PWA, but you also have to navigate the race course smartly,” Badloe said.

470: the best of the men’s and women’s fleets

And the 470 mixed fleet is ready and ready to show the virtues of what here amounts to the fusion of the best male and female fleets. GBR 470 Women’s Olympic Gold Medalist Eilidh McIntyre races with Martin Wrigley and thinks there won’t be much to choose from between the different male or female bar and crew combinations.

“It’s so exciting. What’s most exciting is to merge the top of the men’s fleet and the top of the women’s fleet, which means a lot more boats. I think there will actually be more depth in the class and that it’s going to be harder to make the top 12, let’s say, or the top 15 and I think here we’ll see some high points, especially among the newer teams. we are all in the beginning phase. There is so much to learn and improve. The most important thing is to reduce teamwork and roles and responsibilities.

With a maximum fleet size of 180 boats in the race, as the new ‘quadrennial’ kicks off, the ILCA 7 men’s fleet has lost absolutely nothing in quality and intensity. Australia’s reigning Olympic champion Matt Wearn this week embarks on his quest to become the first sailor to win back-to-back ILCA 6/Laser Olympic titles. Pressed by an Australian team who, he warns, ‘could finish four or five of us in the top ten’, he is only too aware that he will have a battle to fight to be selected for the Olympic spot in 2024.

Wearn observes: “There are only two years left before Paris, so it feels like a fresh start and I really want to start on the right foot. There are 20 or 30 guys who can win an ILCA 7 regatta. I’m sure we’ll see other guys who have had results at the Worlds who will be keen to do well.

“We have new and younger blood and they are hungry and pushing me hard. One of them, Zac Littlewood, finished fifth at the world championships. He’s hungry and eager to push me off my perch for Paris so I have to be on my toes. We are stronger than ever, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were four or five of us in the top 10 this week.

local hero

Local hero Joan Cardona, Finnish bronze medalist from Spain’s Bay of Palma in 2020, has gone from a maximum Finn of over 100kg to ‘somewhere around 80’ as he returns to the Laser during the home regatta he first sailed as an inexperienced teenager.

“I’ve been sailing in this regatta since I was 14 in the Laser,” smiles Cardona who is the first Olympic sailing medalist from the Balearic Islands since Jordi Calafat from Palma won 470 gold medals in Barcelona, ​​”The first, I think it was in 2013 and I was at the Optimist age but I was already with the greats, like Nick Thompson, Robert Scheidt,… I was so young that I didn’t even know them.

Cardona concludes: “It’s great to be back in Palma after so long. It’s my first international regatta in ILCA 7, and also at home since the Games, so I want to do well. My preparation is going very well, with the feeling that I am improving day by day. But I think it will be difficult to get a good result, because it’s a very competitive class, and I would be happy with a top 30. I’m not so much focused on the result as on the competition at my most high level with the training I did, and we’ll see.

The regatta’s technical director, Ferrán Muniesa, promises a week of typically varied winds: “Majorca is always known for its different conditions and I think we will have a good mix throughout the week. Looks like we’re going to start with a northeasterly breeze offshore around 20 knots, then it’ll turn northwesterly towards the Mistral mid-week, then the last two days and for the medal race we let’s consider S and southwest winds, one or two days of sea breeze. I never like to talk about the weather, but we should be sailing every day.

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