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OLYMPIC ASPIRANTS READY FOR AN ALL-ROUND TEST IN PALMA

26 Feb 2024

The competitors and coaches around the boat park have been giving each other wry smiles after today’s pouring rain and shifty offshore conditions. It was practice race day before the competition proper begins on Tuesday for the 470 World Championship in Llucmajor, not from Mallorca’s capital city of Palma.

“We have had weeks of warm onshore breezes, and now we get to the regatta it is raining and offshore,” laughed Lovisa Karlsson, the 2022 European Champion from Sweden.

Ferrán Muniesa, general manager of the host venue, Club Nàutic S’Arenal (CNA), said: “This is the worst few days of weather we have had all winter. I have been telling my colleagues all through the warm weeks that once the regatta begins it will be different, the rain will come and we will need to switch on the heating, and that’s exactly what has happened.”

Experienced racer and coach Juan de la Fuente is working with the Spanish team Jordi Xammar and Nora Brugman who have already secured their place at the Paris 2024 Games. De la Fuente, who won a 470 Olympic bronze for his home country Argentina, said that if you’re going to have to put up with bad weather, this was the right way round to have it. “We would never have wanted to go training in this, but we had great weather for the past weeks, warm days on the water, cycling in the mornings, it’s been really nice. Now we are racing so we have to go out anyway, we don’t even question it. When you’re going for the Olympics you keep on working whatever the weather gives you.”

Lovisa Karlsson, working with Tokyo 2020 silver medallist Anton Dahlberg, knows that whatever happens this week she will again be representing Sweden at this summer’s Games. “It’s a nice position to be in because we can focus on our starting, our race strategy and we have a bit more space to breathe on the race course,” she said, in reference to many other sailors who have the challenge of qualifying themselves for a place at the Olympic Regatta in Marseille.

Many top nations are about to embark on a big selection battle, not least the Germans who have three world-class teams and a total entry of six boats in the regatta. One of the top German teams are the 2022 World Champions Luise Wanser and Philipp Autenrieth who suffered a setback a couple of weeks ago when Wanser fell off her road bike while out training in Mallorca and scraped her face and her leg badly. She’s been making a good recovery, however, and is sounding very positive about the German trials which begin this week at the Worlds.

It’s also the start of the Japanese trials, with three teams looking to show what they can do against the favourites, the defending World Champions Keiju Okada and Miho Yoshioka.

Two big sailing nations yet to qualify a place at the Games are Italy and Great Britain. With only European spot available this week, it will be interesting to see which of these two powerhouse nations grabs the place and who will be left to fight it out at the ‘Last Chance’ regatta at the end of April, the Semaine Olympique Française in Hyères in the south of France. Or could it be one of the smaller nations come in and steal their thunder, leaving Italy and Great Britain out of luck? There are so many permutations, and with the first couple of days looking to be offshore northerly breezes, it could be wacky races where it will be very hard to be consistent.

Today it was the Austrian team, Lara Vadlau and Lukas Maehr, who won the practice race. They’re coached by Gustavo Martínez Doreste from Spain who sees opportunity in the forecast. “I think this championship is going to be very open. It’s going to be difficult conditions, with all kinds of winds. There could be a group of six, seven, eight boats with a shot at the title, and consistency is going to be the key. There is no doubt that if you look at the last few years it is very likely that the Swedish team (Dahlberg and Karlsson) and the Spanish (Xammar and Brugman) are a little bit ahead of the rest, but I think this World Championship will be very specific because of the conditions we are going to have. We will see what happens.”

So this could be a good week for the underdog, although the favourites won’t be fretting. They train for the unexpected. They know that to be considered the best sailor you have to be able to perform in any condition on any given day. And looking at the mixed forecast for the coming week of action, that’s exactly what they’re going to get.

Written by Andy Rice

More information, at www.2024worlds.470.org