The 37th Princess Sofia Trophy has beaten all records. The participation figures of 939 boats and 1,494 competitors prove the increasing importance of an event with a growing prestige since the first edition 37 years ago. Sailors have come to Palma from Africa, Asia, North and South America, Oceania and Europe to enjoy what has turned out to be a terrific week on the water.
With the next release of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings looming on Wednesday 19 April, the battles in Palma took on an extra significance, especially in the developing Ranking lists for the RS:X. In the last Rankings of 8 March, Britain's position as the most successful nation had begun to look vulnerable, but yesterday in Palma the Brits stormed back winning three gold and three silver medals to prove why they are Olympic Sailing's most success nation.
Seemingly no one has enjoyed the on the water action more than British windsurfing Olympic bronze medallist DEMPSEY. In an ominous sign to his rivals, DEMPSEY has not merely won, but completely dominated the two regattas he has now sailed on the new RS:X board. First he swept to a 27 point victory at the ISAF Grade 1 Rolex Miami OCR, and then yesterday in Palma he won the Medal Race to beat Ricardo SANTOS (BRA) by 25 points. SANTOS was under pressure in the Medal Race, as New Zealand's Tom ASHLEY crossed the line in fourth place, but the Brazilian kept his cool, finishing sixth to take the silver medal by three points.
DEMPSEY ended the twelve race series (including the double weighted Medal Race) with a points score of just 15. Only twice did his finish outside the top two, and his performance earnt him the HRH Princess Sofia Absolute Winner Trophy, for the best performance across the Olympic Classes.
|Nick DEMPSEY receives his awards
© Nico MARTINEZ/www.nicomartinez.com
In a nail biting final Medal Race in the Women's 470, Christina BASSADONE and Saskia CLARK continued the British success story, securing their first major international victory since forming their partnership after the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
With a sizeable points lead over the rest of the fleet heading into Friday's race, neither the British World silver medallists nor French rivals and World number one crew Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOROUX (FRA) needed to win the Medal Race to secure gold - they each just needed to finish ahead of the other.
Consequently, a fierce tacking battle ensued on the second beat between BASSADONE and CLARK and PETITJEAN and DOROUX, with both teams sacrificing their overall place amongst the final ten to shadow each other and after a close tussle, the Brits crossed the finish line just metres ahead of their opponents. They finished eighth to the French pair's ninth but it was enough to hand them their first gold, and erase the memory of the Miami regatta Medal Race in which they lost to the French.
'It's an awesome start to the season, and a great boost as it's our first win in a big international regatta,' explained a relieved BASSADONE. 'After the first downwind leg, we just told ourselves not to worry about everyone else - just to concentrate on the French - and it paid off!
|2006 saw a record breaking Princess Sofia Trophy
© Nico MARTINEZ/www.nicomartinez.com
'It was all a bit confusing at the end, though, as we didn't know whether we'd done it or not - it was literally a case of metres between us. We were looking around for a few moments waiting for someone to let us know!'
Victory in the Medal Race went to the Spanish pair of Natalia VIA-DUFRESNE and Laia TUTZÓ, and finishing in second place World Champions Marcelien DE KONING and Lobke BERKHOUT (NED) secured the bronze medal.
Gidi KLIGER and Ehud GAL (ISR) showed why they are the World number one crew in the Men's 470 Medal Race, with a bullet giving them a well deserved gold medal in Palma. Behind them Gabrio ZANDONÀ and Andrea TRANI (ITA) and Alvaro MARINHO and Miguel NUNES (POR) were in a battle for the silver medal, with fifth place for the Italians, to the Portuguese pair's fourth, good enough for them to hold on to second place overall.
Darren BUNDOCK and Glenn ASHBY (AUS) went into the Medal Race with just two points separating them from Iordanis PASCHALIDES and Kostas TRIGONIS (GRE), but by the end of the day were comprehensive winners in the Tornado. BUNDOCK and ASHBY guaranteed themselves victory with a bullet, whilst the Greek team slipped to ninth place. They had a big enough lead however to hold on to second place overall, with Roland GAEBLER and Gunnar STRUCKMANN (GER) taking the bronze medal.
Two points also separated World Champions Sally BARKOW, Carrie HOWE and Deborah CAPOZZI (USA) from Olympic Champions Sarah AYTON and Sarah WEBB, sailing with new crew Victoria RAWLINSON (GBR), going into the Yngling Medal Race. With these two crews too far ahead of the other competitors to be caught, their Medal Race effectively became a match race for gold. This situation suited BARKOW and her team perfectly, with the Americans having won the ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship title for the last two years running. They used their match racing skills to cover the British team, crossing the finish line two spots ahead of AYTON to take eighth place and the gold medal.
|The Yngling Medal Race was one of the
tightest battles in Palma
© Nico MARTINEZ/www.nicomartinez.com
'Sally and her team came out prepared to do some match racing today and their experience paid off,' said US Sailing Team Head Coach Gary BODIE, who was on the water watching the race yesterday. 'Sally's team was ahead of the British the entire race, it got tight in the end when the breeze started to build, but Sally, Carrie and Debbie did a fantastic job staying in front of them.'
Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN) was the one sailor in Palma who had already wrapped up victory before the Medal Race got underway, and cruised to tenth in yesterday's race. Olympic silver medallist Rafael TRUJILLO (ESP) sailed a great race to score the bullet and secure second place overall, whilst Canada's Chris COOK held off Ed WRIGHT (GBR) to take third place.
Pietro SIBELLO and Gianfranco SIBELLO (ITA) sailed a conservative and careful Medal Race, to wrap up victory in the 49er. World Champions Rodion LUKA and George LEONCHUK (UKR) came within a whisker of taking second place overall from World number one crew Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR), but the Brits just managed to hang on.
The Laser Radial saw one of the most exciting Medal Races, with nerves at the start accounting for three sailors OCS, one of which was World Champion Paige RAILEY (USA). Evi VAN ACKER (BEL) sailed a great race to win the Medal Race and take overall victory in Palma, whilst Virginia KRAVARIOTI (GRE) secured the silver medal and Sophie DE TURCKHEIM (FRA) took third place on the podium.
Maciej GRABOWSKI (POL) completed an impressive Laser display with second place yesterday giving him an emphatic winning margin. The battle for silver medal was much closer. Alexander SCHLONSKI (GER) won the Medal Race to heap the pressure on Britain's Paul GOODISON (GBR), but the European Champion and World number two lived up to his billing, just doing enough by finishing seventh to secure silver by a point.
Amongst the invited classes in Palma, Spain took all three podium places in the 420, led by José MEDINA and Antonio DEL CASTILLO. David KEARLEY (ESP) added another Spanish win in the Europe ahead of Sweden's Victor BERGSTROM and Marcus DACKHAMMAR, whilst the consistent German team of Markus WIESER, Robert STARK and Thomas AURACHER held off their Danish rivals to win in the Dragon.
A ground breaking and record breaking Princess Sofia Trophy came to an end with the prizegiving ceremony in the Palacio De Congresos last night. Across the ten Olympic events competing in Palma, winners came from eight different nations and three different continents. With three gold medals, three silvers and the Absolute Winner Trophy, the Brits were the star performers. Fittingly the final words go to RYA Olympic Manager Stephen PARK, who summed up the feeling in Palma when he concluded, 'It's been a great start to the European regatta season.'