Some of the best sailors in the world have gathered for the start of the 34th Princess Sofia trophy in Palma today

Some of the best sailors in the world have gathered for the start of the 34th Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma today. The week long event has attracted 721 Olympic class boats from over 40 nations.

After the long break from top-flight competition over the winter period, this first event of the season is set to establish who will be the sailors and crews to watch in the forthcoming regattas.

It is the first time this year that all of Team GBR will be competing together, so there promises to be plenty of healthy in-fighting as the crews find out whose winter training has paid biggest dividends.

The 49er class promises a good tussle, with Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks winning silver at both the world and European championships and Paul Brotherton and Mark Asquith winning bronze at the world championships, these two teams have been vying for the top spots in every regatta they have sailed. With a forecast of up to 30 knots wind with big seas today, the battle of these powerful skiffs should prove to be an awesome sight.

Double Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie, who made a successful transition from the Laser to the Finn winning the European and world championships, will be looking to carry on this season where he left off, but will have to face the challenge not only from team mate and training partner Andrew Simpson but also tough international competition. Simpson finished just behind Ainslie at the 2002 Olympic Test Event, leaving Athens with a silver medal and he will be hoping to repeat this success if not better it in Palma.

The Laser class has received over 80 entries, although six times world champion Robert Scheidt won’t be present. With a second place at the recent Miami Olympic classes regatta, Team GBR sailor Paul Goodison, who finished 2002 with a bronze medal at both the European and world championships, will be hoping to better this result. The challenge will come from team mate Ed Wright who has spent much of the winter months training in Australia. International competition will come from European champion and world silver medallist Karl Suneson from Sweden, as well as his team mate, European silver medallist Fredrik Lassenius.

Daily results are available at the event’s website.