Focal Point of 2008 Olympic Sailing Year

by : Roger Munns

The 39th Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia-MAPFRE regatta will be held from March 15th to the 21st this year just prior to the 2008 Olympics. All eyes of the sailing world are on this regatta heading up to the competitions of this Olympic year. For many, this event will determine who sails for their Olympic team at the coastal city of Qingdao, China; the first time this city has hosted an international sailing regatta.

Competitors in Majorca will participate in eleven classes of sailing established by Olympic standards, plus the Dragon class; consisting of the ninety best sailors invited to participate. Olympic medalists from the 2004 Olympics in Athens, as well as the established champions from last year's World and European competitions are expected to be in attendance.

The Princess Sofia Trophy is one of six Olympic-class events recognized by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) in their World Cup Series for sailing. The race was officially established in 2006 at the International Sailing Federation conference held in Helsinki, Finland.

Each year 1,300 to 1,700 sailors, including 1,000 vessels, participate in the 12 classes. As many as 52 nations have participated in the past and the exponential increase over the past few years could indicate even more international participation this year and in the future. The Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia-MAPFRE enjoys the highest international participation of any Olympic class event in Spain. It is the last chance for Spaniards to see their sailing team perform prior to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The Olympic sailing events at Qingdao are scheduled for September 6-17, 2008.

Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the island, is the central locale for this prominent sailing event.

Weather conditions for last year's regatta proved challenging at times with periods of rain and changeable, insufficient winds, resulting in false starts. This prevented some races scheduled for certain dates. However, the characteristically exceptional weather conditions typical of the Bay of Palma returned for the imperative final races.

Majorca is part of the Balearic archipelago located off the eastern coast of Spain near Valencia. Since the middle of the last century it's been a popular tourist destination for many, particularly Germans and Brits. The mild climate and islander state of mind still brings many visitors to Majorca, and more especially the Bay of Palma. Majorca, and sister islands Menorca and Ibiza, attract thousands of visitors each year and have become synonymous with holidays in Spain.

MAPFRE, the leading finance and insurance company in Spain based out of Madrid, will sponsor this event for the third year in a row. The event has a website for participants to sign up online and acquire important information on accommodations and vessel transport. This will be the first time that registering participants will be able to pay their fees online with a credit card, a novelty of the new site.

Actual racing begins with Olympic classes on Sunday, March 16th, with the Dragon class beginning on Monday, March 17th, 2008. The Medal Race, to be held on the final day of the regatta, March 21st, is unable to be discarded and counts for double in terms of scoring. The top ten classified sailors by this date participate in the Medal Race.

Event collaborators and organizers include Palma and Llucamajor City Councils, Consell de Mallorca, Port de Balears, Govern de les Illes Balears, Ultramar Express, Toyota, Club Nautic S
Arenal, Club Maritimo San Antonio de la Playa, Real Club Nautico de Palma and Escuela de Vela Calanova, among others.