The 2002 European Olympic Classes Regatta circuit kicked off in the bay of Palma yesterday (26 March) with the Princess Sofia Regatta.

Racing got underway in a light and shifty south-westerly breeze of 11 knots. The Princess Sofia regatta has seen a record number of entries that is unlikely to be topped at any other Olympic Class event this year, with entries well into the hundreds in both the Europe Women and Laser class.

Fresh from a week of training in Palma, RYA team GBR were out on the water to test whether the hard training over the winter months had paid off. Three races were sailed in the Europe Women class, and early signs were showing that it had. After day one in the 128 boat fleet, Debbie Winstanley is the highest placed British girl lying in seventh place overall, with team mates Kirsty Bonar in eighth and Bryony Percy in 14th.

In the 138 boat Laser class, RYA team GBR sailor Paul Goodison, had a great day, finishing with three first places, to put him at the top of the scoreboard, five points in front of Maxim Semerkhanov of Russia. The next highest placed British sailor is team mate Tim Hulse who is lying in 11th place after scoring an eighth, tenth and a fifth.

Goodison commented: “Today was tricky, but I started well and sailed smart, I didn’t take too many risks and got the results that were needed.”

A good start to the regatta for RYA team GBR sailors Helena Lucas and Jenny Heeley in the 470 Women’s fleet, they finished the day with a first place, followed by a 13th and 35th to put them in 14th place overall. The Greek pairing of Sofia Bekatorou and Emilia Tsoulfa are lying in poll position after the first day with seven points ahead of Greek team mates Dimitra Milona and Aliki Korkoulou.

Gustavo Martinez Doreste and Tunte Cantero of Spain lead the Men’s 470 fleet on tied points with Alvaro Marhinho and Miguel Nunes of Portugal. RYA team GBR sailors Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield are lying in 12th place overall after finishing with a seventh, 12th and 11th in this 85-boat fleet.

Fresh from a fourth place at the Bacardi Cup in Miami earlier this month, Olympic Gold Medallist Iain Percy and crew Steve Mitchell return to Europe to line up against the best of the European Star sailors and carry on their intensive training programme. A good start to the regatta saw them finish with two second places and a ninth, putting them in third place overall behind Nicklas Holm/Martin Leifelt of Denmark and Alexander Hagen/Carsten Witt of Germany.

Close racing was encountered in the 68-boat Tornado class, the Spanish pairing of Fernando Echavarri and Anton Paz seemed to have the edge on the fleet, finishing with a first, second and a fourth to put them at the top of the leader board. RYA team GBR sailors Rob Wilson and Will Howden, were the top placed British boat in 11th place, with Steven Lovegrove and Martin Sellars in eleventh place and Sydney Olympians, Hugh Styles and Adam May in 22nd place.

In the highly competitive 65-boat Finn class, there was a surprise in store. Laser Gold Medallist Ben Ainslie who has recently made the transition from Laser sailing to America’s Cup and finally to settle in the Finn class, was showing good form, finishing ninth in the first race and then third and first in the last race of the day to put him in first place overall after day one. Team mate Andrew Simpson also had a good day finishing two points behind Ainslie to finish day one in second place overall.

The Spanish pairing of Iker Martinez/Xabier Fernandez sailed consistently in the 49er, to place three results inside the top five, which put them at the top of the leader board. The highest placed British boat after day one is Paul Brotherton who is sailing with Sydney Olympic Silver Medallist, Simon Hiscocks, who are lying in eighth place overall. A good day for team mates Chris Draper and crew Mark Asquith who finished the day in eleventh place overall.

After three races, Sandrine Nuvolo