The provisional entry list is very encouraging for a pre-Olympic year. So far there are 107 pre-entries from 32 countries, including many new names and even a few new nations.
Predictably, most sailors are expecting a light weather regatta, and certainly at last year's Masters event held at the same time of year, the wind was not very cooperative. With light winds predominating at last year's Olympic Test Event in Qingdao, some sailors could well be using the Europeans to trial new gear and/or techniques. Daniel BIRGMARK (SWE), #8 in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, said, 'They say it's likely to be light wind conditions, but the Europeans is always a important regatta, so it could also be a good opportunity to test light wind skills in the preparations for Qingdao.'
World #2 Dan SLATER (NZL) is more optimistic, 'I'm a Kiwi from the other side of the globe. I have never been to Hungary nor do I have any expectations of conditions. I have been told of some regattas at the same venue that have been really windy and really light so who knows we'll get.' Having just won the ISAF Grade 1 Breitling Regatta on the Medal Race, SLATER is among the top favourites for the title.
One of the most un-European sailors competing this year is top American Finn sailor Zach RAILEY (USA). He said, ''Tis the one event I am really looking forward to this year. The US trials are going to be in the same conditions so I am really looking forward to using this event to prepare and learn for my trials. My training has been focussing on light air sailing and learning the feel for the boat in light air. I have lost some weight and am looking forward to the event. Of course, the entire focus will be to try different things to see what works and what doesn't work. That way I can leave the event with a lot of knowledge to help me at my trials.'
Most sailors are listing the same group of sailors for possible victory at Balaton including current World Champion and world #1 Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN), reigning European Champion Ed WRIGHT (GBR), Princess Sofia winner Marin MISURA (CRO) and Hyères winner Emilos PAPATHANASIOU (GRE). However, some are also predicting a few upsets to the established order.
SLATER said, 'Jonas and Emilios have to be the favourites given their form in Hyères. However the return of the America's Cup sailors will strengthen the fleet. Ed WRIGHT has been improving since Palma but Peter-Jan POSTMA [(NED)] won the last three races in Hyères and is in really good form.' He also finished a very close second to SLATER at the Breitling Regatta.
The America's Cup sailors are of course the boys from +39, including Athens silver medallist Rafael TRUJILLO (ESP), Anthony NOSSITER (AUS), 2006 World Masters Champion Michael MAIER (CZE) and previous Junior World and European Champion Chris BRITTLE (GBR). These sailors had actually hoped not to be in Balaton but after being knocked out of the Louis Vuitton Cup after the round robin stages, could be a force to be reckoned with. NOSSITER said, '[Some - Ed] of us had entered the Holland Regatta before the LV, but after a few days of the fleet racing [Act 13], we were quietly hoping we would be loosing our deposits on the bungalows. The first race of the fleet racing we were leading around every mark until the wind did a 360. In the second race we were in the top group when we lost our rig. ITA 85 had wheels in a breeze I must say. However, we're all excited to be hiking again.'
He continued, 'We've done no Finn sailing for the last month, with the Louis Vuitton action being a little distracting. But up to race one of LV, we had sailed Finn 25 days out of the last 65...38% of our time in preparing for LV was in the Finn! It was a great event, we out performed teams with much larger budgets and did it with a bunch of Finn mates. Mixing up the AC class with the Finn Class was CLASS! My hot tips for the European Championships is Michael MAIER, who won the Finn World Masters at the same venue last year. The big CZE tells me more to expect more light than fresh airs on Lake Balaton and a fair sized shift or two.'
Current World Champion HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN has been putting in some consistent results of late including losing Hyères on the final race. He said, 'We are expecting light winds, but as Cascias [venue for the ISAF Sailing World Championships] is the main focus for everyone this year, I think no one has made special preparations for this event. With that in mind you might see sailors that are starting to work on their light wind set-up for the Games. Of course this event will favour some of the light and experienced sailors. Experience goes a long way in the light. Knowing how to get what becomes a very heavy boat sailing fast is much more important than the crew weight. I think the winds will be shifty as well, so maybe speed won't be of the essence, but you always look smarter if you are a little faster. would look out for Emilios, Dan SLATER, Ed WRIGHT and Daniel BIRGMARK as the typical favourites, but as outsiders I see some of the former eastern Europeans countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic because they sail on lakes on a regular basis.'
SLATER added, 'I think for most sailors this season Cascais will be the main focus. However for some nations the Europeans and some of the Grade 1 regattas will be Olympic selection events as well as funding for next year.' RAILEY added a further name into the mix, 'My dark horse for the event is Brendan CASEY [(AUS)].' CASEY is a recent addition to the Finn fleet, who is starting to make a name for himself on the water with a 15th in Hyères and a tenth in Medemblik. Other names to keep an eye on are Peer MOBERG (NOR), winner of this year's ISAF Grade 1 Rolex Miami OCR and Gasper VINCEC (SLO)
This year the senior event is also combined with the Juniors, a format that has been successfully incorporated for a number of years. Last year's Junior European Champion Mark ANDREWS (GBR) will be back, but he is now too old to defend his title. However there are a number of new and untested juniors entered for the championship, so the outcome is by no means certain.
Measurement and registration takes place from 1-3 June. The first race of what is planned to be a nine race series commences on Monday 4 June with the final race on Saturday 9 June.
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