Over a thousand sailors from dozens of nations have gathered in Palma de Mallorca, Spain for the 47th edition of one of the world’s most enduring Olympic classes regattas, the Trofeo Princesa Sofia Iberostar. Twenty-seven U.S. sailors will compete across eleven classes in Palma, but for US Sailing Team Sperry and other American athletes competing in the Men’s Laser, the Men’s RS:X and the Women’s RS:X, the regatta will serve as the final selection event for the Rio 2016 U.S. Olympic Sailing Team. Eight of the fifteen available roster spots have been filled so far, and three more are up for grabs in Palma this week.
In the Men’s Laser, North American Champion Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.) carved out an eight-point lead over closest rival and US Sailing Team Sperry teammate Erik Bowers (Excelsior, Minn.) at the first selection event, Sailing World Cup Miami, Presented by Sunbrella (Jan. 25-30, 2016), and will look to defend his position in Palma. Buckingham has been the top-ranked American Laser sailor since 2012, and represented the United States at two Rio de Janeiro Olympic Test Events (2014 and 2015) and the Pan American Games (2015). “I’m excited to get the second half of the Olympic selection series underway,” said Buckingham, a two-time College Sailor of the Year who is competing in his second Olympic selection series. “Although my first selection experience was four years ago, time has flown by and it pretty much feels like yesterday. For the London Trials I was right out of college, but now I have four years of proper preparation behind me and I can feel the difference.” Buckingham is looking to qualify for his first career Olympics.
Bowers noted that he feels fully prepared to sail up to his potential, and has extensive experience competing in Palma. “I can perform well here,” said the U.S. Pacific Coast Champion (2014). “Palma in spring brings a variety of conditions, sometimes within the same day. Adaptability is key here.” Bowers will have to beat Buckingham by eight places overall to win Rio selection.
In the Women’s RS:X, the race for the Olympic berth is very tight. In Miami, London 2012 Olympian Farrah Hall (Annapolis, Md.) edged out rising competitor Maron Lepert (Belmont, Calif.) by just two places. This is the third full-time Olympic campaign for Hall, and she has experienced steady improvement over the past four years. “I feel I’ve really grown as a sailor and athlete since London,” said Hall. “I’ve progressed a lot technically and tactically, and I’ve also diversified my sailing in other windsurfing disciplines. This has given me really valuable experience.” Lepert represented the United States at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games, and come away with a bronze medal despite splitting time between RS:X training and studying at Stanford University. In preparation for the selection series, Lepert took a leave of absence from Stanford and has been campaigning full speed since 2015. “Our Olympic selection is very close at the moment, and it’s pushed me to work that much harder. I love to race, and Palma will be an opportunity to compete beyond my limits,” said Lepert.
In the Men’s RS:X, the selection series is currently led by Pedro Pascual (West Palm Beach, Fla.), who has an eight-point lead over Carson Crain (Houston, Texas). Pascual won the RS: One European youth board sailing championship in 2015, and has shown great promise in the RS:X. “I am really excited to fight and try to make the U.S. Olympic Team for the first time,” said Pascual. “Being consistent throughout the regatta will be the key, as always. Every race is different, and performing well in every one is essential to success.” Crain has been training in the RS:X since before London 2012, and has been the top-ranked American for most of the past four years.
American athletes who have already qualified for Team USA in other classes will compete at this event, which brings together much of the world’s best competition. For these sailors, the Trofeo Princesa Sofia Iberostar will be another key training opportunity prior to the Games this summer.