Palma de Mallorca, Spain – At the 52 Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mallorca by Iberostar on the Bay of Palma, Great Britain’s Michael Beckett and Marit Bouwmeester of The Netherlands both secured gold on the penultimate day before the medal race would be sailed, due to their sizable leads. This event was the first of two World Cup Series regattas of the 2023 season, and for some, it was an important qualifier for Olympic selection of the 2024 Paris Games.
Beckett winning the regatta with a day to spare is a feat in itself, but he also came out ahead of all the Olympic medalists to retain his title from last year at this event. He closed out the regatta with 44 net points, a 28-point lead over the 184-boat fleet. New Zealand’s George Gautrey claimed silver with 72 points, and two-time Olympic silver medalist Tonči Stipanović of Croatia won bronze with 73 points – tied with Cyprus’s Olympic medalist Pavlos Kontides. Another New Zealander Thomas Saunders placed fifth with 74 points.
[Via World Sailing] “When you see a video of our first mark rounding yesterday, for example, it is absolute chaos. The only way to deal with it is to be top five. To be a couple of seconds later you are history, you are in the melée. You are in the mess and no matter how well you sail you really can’t get out of the mess. It is so, so unforgiving in this fleet.”
Beckett adds, “I am happy I have put in so much work in these last four months leading up to this regatta. We have done three weeks here but trained with the Aussies and Kiwis and this proves that my training and methods were vaguely on the money.”
Beckett missed out on selection for Tokyo 2020 in favour of Elliot Hanson but worked hard as a training partner, giving him a real insight into what he needs to achieve to make the Paris 2024 spot. “Four years ago I was not good enough but because of the one year delay for COVID I got so much valuable experience. In terms of selection other people will make what they want of this win. There was the pressure of expectation because I won before, but I dealt with it.”
Bouwmeester made an impact at this regatta for other reasons. She is a triple Olympic medalist and won the Senior Europeans just last month, so it is no surprise that she would be at the top of the fleet, however, the last year has been a recovery year for her from maternity leave. Winning back-to-back high-profile events not even a year after delivering a baby is a remarkable feat for Bouwmeester, and an inspiration for the ILCA 6 class.
Bouwmeester finished 17 points ahead of the 107-boat fleet with 60 net points. Australian Zoe Thomson sailed a stellar regatta, finishing with 87 points and claiming silver. Maxime Jonker, also of The Netherlands, is keeping Bouwmeester on her toes, as she rounded out the podium with 90 points. Italian 21-year-old Chiara Benini finished in fourth with 99 points, and France’s Louise Cervera finished with 103 points in fifth overall. All four women behind Bouwmeester are not Olympians (yet), but managed to finish ahead of all the Olympians in the fleet. This shows that, like the ILCA 7 fleet, this fleet is incredibly strong and tight in competition across ages and levels of experience.
[Via World Sailing] “I have managed to stay consistent this week. I often struggle early season coming out of the winter but this pre-season has been really good so far,” reflected Bouwmeester. “Coming here, I really just did not know what to expect other than training has gone really well. Coming back from pregnancy and not having put in the hours the others have, you just don’t know what to expect.
“You don’t know what you can pull together, you don’t even really know if you can hold it together through eight straight days on the water. It is still tough to through long days on the water and so I am as happy with that. But this is such a competitive fleet and the differences are so small, you can’t read too much into it.
“I am a long way short of full fitness, but it is always [better] to start ahead of the fleet than be catching up. Now I hope I can put some more hours in. Physically I can improve, I struggle – with a kid – to even keep my weight up and of course you need to do that.”