Fresh look for NZ squads

This year's Princess Sofia Regatta is the biggest Olympic classes event in two years. Supplied Photo.

It's not just the cool winds that can often blow through Palma at this time of year, but there's a distinct freshness to this year's Princess Sofia Regatta.

Not only is it the biggest Olympic classes event in two years, with more than 1000 sailors from 62 countries lining up, but within the New Zealand contingent there are also new faces, new combinations and new equipment.

As many as 19 New Zealand sailors from seven of the 10 Olympic classes will compete this week in Palma, which has also been added to the Hempel World Cup Series circuit.

The most notable inclusion is a five-strong windfoiling squad of three men and two women who will be competing in their first international event since the iQFoil replaced the RS:X as the equipment to be used at the next Olympics.

The squad, who are coached by former Olympian JP Tobin, have been training and racing together in New Zealand but this is the first time for them to evaluate their progress against the international fleet.

Palma also represents the first international event for the new 49erFX pairing of Alex Maloney and Olivia Hobbs and both the 49erFX and 49er classes will be using the new sails and new masts that will be used throughout the Olympic cycle.

"There's an element of excitement with the Princess Sofia Regatta because we have some new sailors, new combinations and new classes," Yachting New Zealand high performance director Ian Stewart said. "It's not hard for the sailors to be motivated when there's less than two-and-a-half years until the next Olympics Games.

"It's really exciting for the windfoiling group who are racing against the international fleet for the first time. It's a young group with good potential for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles but there's also an opportunity there for Paris 2024."

The Princess Sofia Regatta typically represents the start of the European season as sailors build towards their class world championships. Most of those are scheduled for the second half of the year, with the exception of the ILCA 7 (Laser) whose world championships are next month in Mexico.

Tom Saunders will be competing in Palma in his first international event since winning last year's world title and will be joined in the fleet by fellow Kiwis George Gautrey and Luke Cashmore.

"For the ILCA sailors, Palma is a really purposeful countdown to the world championships in Mexico," Stewart said. "They've got the Princess Sofia Regatta and then another regatta in Hyeres at the end of the month to sharpen their skills before the world champs."

Racing in Palma gets under way for the ILCA, 470 and iQFoil sailors on Monday night (NZ time) and for the 49er, 49erFX, Nacra 17 and kitefoilers the following day.

New Zealand sailors competing at the Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma:

49er: Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn; Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie; Sam Bacon and Henry Gautrey
49erFX: Alex Maloney and Olivia Hobbs
ILCA 7: Tom Saunders, George Gautrey, Luke Cashmore
ILCA 6: Olivia Christie
Nacra 17: Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson
Men's iQFoil: Josh Armit, Thomas Crook, Eli Liefting
Women's iQFoil: Veerle ten Have, Brianna Orams

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