Olympic Spring Opener Underway

The Olympic season is underway with a slow start at the Princesa Sofía Mallorca.

IQFoil foiling windsurfers competing in Spain
Competition at the 52 Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofía Mallorca got underway with light and variable winds, allowing the Men’s IQFoil and ILCA7 fleets to get qualification racing underway. Sailing Energy / Princesa Sofía Mallorca

After Mallorca had delivered more than two weeks of great winds and weather, which were perfect for pre-regatta training, the 1,259 athletes from 66 nations at the 52 Trofeo Princesa Sofia Olympic classes regatta had to endure an ultimately frustrating opening day of unsettled, changeable winds which badly affected the scheduled program.

Racing was scheduled for the ILCA 6 and 7 fleets, the 470 Mixed and the Men’s and Women’s iQFoil fleets. But only one part of the Men’s iQFOiL fleet managed to complete two races and the Men’s ILCA 7 Yellow fleet finished one qualifying heat. The second race for the iQFoilers was badly affected as the wind dropped away. Other races for the dinghy fleets had to be abandoned as the breeze faltered and shifted in direction when a big rain cloud drifted over the arena.

After an initial delay in the morning waiting until the offshore gradient breeze dissipated, the southerly winds did come in, puffing up to more than 12kts at times. It all looked very promising. But the thermal breeze could not sustain itself and the foiling windsurfers suffered a long, slow, semi-sunken drift back to Can Pastilla.

The French are present with impressive strength and depth in the Men’s iQFOiL fleet, vying for the coveted selection spot at July’s Olympic test event. Double European champion and 2021 World Champion Nico Goyard, who finished third at Lanzarote’s iQFOiL International Games is said to be favorite to take that spot, but all of the French riders know that a top result here would give their national selectors something of a headache, especially when the expected mix Bay of Palma conditions are considered to be very similar to what might be expected on Marseille’s 2024 Olympic arena.

RS:X youth champion Yun Pouliquen won his first heat and finished seventh in the second. “The second race was quite shifty but we got it finished. The first race was a win, I had a good start and was fast on the downwind and there was another French guy Clement Bourgeois behind. It was really good. We trained a lot in Lanzarote through the winter and now have been training here for one month. I think the selection is between Nico Goyard, Clement Bourgeois and Pierre Le Coq they are all quite equal. I am still young at 21 but I try my best to be in the match.”

Germany’s reigning iQFOiL World Champion Sebastian Koerdel also made a solid opening with a first and a second from his two heats today. “Before the rain came in it was quite fun. You really have to be fast on the reach. Doing these six slalom heats at a time the points are always super close to start with” he said. “I was seventh here last year but, like everyone, I am here to win. it is good fun to get the regatta going. A bullet in the first race was good, the second start was not what I expected but I came back on the downwinds.”

Koerdel was a PWA professional windsurfer before the iQFOiL opened the door to Olympic representation. He has trained out of Arenal for the best part of a month.

“Once it was clear that foiling would be an Olympic discipline I decided to give it a go and here I am, it seems to be going OK,” said 32-year-old Koerdel. “I won the Worlds last year. At some levels we all go the same speed and so with the format we race to it is more and more a mental game. We have a medal race where the first to the line wins. You have to mentally tough to take all that pressure. A world championship is decided in one race, over what…six minutes? In the Federation we work with a psychologist now and it helps a bit, but this is new to me. This is the first time I have had a coach in my career really. It is good to be aware and to think about things and get better all the time.”

ILCA Olympic boats on the starting line in Palma, Spain
ILCA 7s start at the S.A.R. Princesa Sofía Mallorca Regatta, the first major regatta of the European Olympic sailing season. Sailing Energy / Princesa Sofía Mallorca

The ILCA 7 Yellow fleet completed one race while the Blue group had theirs abandoned. The breeze was backing in fits and starts through the afternoon and the Yellow group had the best of the shifty conditions. Finland’s Kaarle Tapper took first gun ahead of last year’s Sofia class winner Micky Beckett of Great Britain whilst Australia’s 2020’s Olympic champion Matt Wearn was third.

Nonetheless this critical, highly competitive Olympic classes pointer is now under way. Tuesday should see the other fleets join the fray when the full magnitude of this record-breaking entry should be evident with competition over all eight course areas.

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