A few weeks before competing at what will be her first Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca, Spain’s Gisela Pulido participates under the flag of the Royal Spanish Sailing Federation when she lines up on the bay of Palma.
The multiple kitesurfing world champion tells us what she expects from the first big Olympic classes event of 2022 in and how she is adapting to the new Formula Kite format and what her experience is in a sport which is becoming a beacon for equal opportunities in sport. She is one of the more than 400 female sailors who will compete in the Sofia.
The 51 Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca will once again muster the world’s best specialists across the ten Olympic sailing disciplines which are set to compete in Paris 2024 from the 1st to the 9th of April. Six of these classes will have a female presence, and 416 girls have already confirmed their participation in this giant annual regatta which is organised by the Club Nàutic S’Arenal, the Club Marítimo San Antonio de la Playa and the Real Club Náutico de Palma. The FX, Formula Kite Women, ILCA 6 and iQFoil Women classes will compete across dedicated women’s classes, and the 470 and Nacra 17 classes compete in mixed gender format.
One hundred per cent inclusive
“Sailing is a one hundred per cent inclusive sport,” explains Spain’s Formula Kite Women sailor Gisela Pulido. “There are a lot of women who practice the sport, the competitions combine male and female categories. In general it is a very open sport. The Catalonian is making her debut in the new Olympic discipline with an impressive record of ten world kitesurfing championships, including the milestone of becoming the youngest ever female champion at the age of ten in 2004. Eighteen years after that youthful success she arrives in Mallorca to compete in a very different arena, one which she adapts with the same speed that she sails at. “I’m very comfortable in the discipline because I’ve been on a board all my life, since I was six years old, but what I find most challenging are the tactics, strategy, feeling pressure, which is something I’m not used to.”
She openly encourages other girls to try the kite experience. “It’s a super fun discipline, it generates a lot of adrenaline. If you’ve done board sports before, like surfing, windsurfing, snowboarding or wakeboarding, you’ll almost certainly be good at it because in the end you still have a board at your feet; if you come from a sailing background you will also start with an advantage, because you already have the basic ideas of controlling a sail. The important thing to get started is to separate things: first you have to learn to control the kite very well and then you can go to the water, forget about the kite so to speak and focus on the board. From there, the fun begins: “It allows you to enjoy yourself in very extreme wind conditions: with just three or four knots you can sail”.
Formula Kite Men and Formula Kite Women
Formula Kite is one of the new Olympic disciplines that was initially planned as a mixed discipline, but was then split into men’s and women’s categories. “There is quite a physical difference between boys and boys,” says Gisela. “In Formula Kite, the sailor who weighs the most is the one who can generate most power and generally the boys weigh more than the girls, but they also have more strength and can hold a bigger kite, so the bigger the kite, the faster they go”.
These differences justify the division into two categories. Along with Gisela Pulido, representing Spain at the Sofia are Zoe Fernández from Mallorca and Adelaida Marquenie from Andalusia in a list of participants that already has 37 registered participants of 16 nationalities. “For me it’s an honour to be here, to represent my country at the Sofia, and what better than to do it at home, because although I’m not from here, I feel at home,” Pulido acknowledges. “I love Mallorca: the nature, the landscapes, the cycling routes through the mountains, Cap Formentor, which is an area of brutal cliffs, ….. I had the chance to experience a bit of that northern part of Mallorca, diving in crystal clear waters, jumping off cliffs into the water… It’s incredible. I loved it”.
First big event of the year
As a member of the Spanish Olympic team, Gisela is training these days in the waters of the Bay of Palma as part of the RFEV’s training programme, especially valuable sessions to get the pulse of a regatta course she barely knows. “I have sailed here twice: the first time, one day during a challenge alongside Florian Trittel’s Spanish Impulse in 2017; and last year I was in the Formula Kite Spain Series, in Arenal, where I was able to compete and make contact with the race course, but I don’t know it too well. That’s why we’re here for the whole month to train, adapt, get to know all the different types of wind…”. All this experience is part of the preparation prior to the start of the season and will be key to compete for the Sofia, an event with special importance for the Olympic team. “It’s the first regatta of the year, where you measure yourself against your rivals, see how well you’ve prepared in the pre-season, if you’ve trained well, your mistakes, what you’re missing… It’s like a tune-up. I’m really looking forward to Sofia”.
The 51 Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca is the first qualifying regatta for the Hempel World Cup Series 2022, organised by World Sailing the International Sailing Federation.
The 51 Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca is jointly organised by the Club Nàutic S’Arenal, the Club Marítimo San Antonio de la Playa, the Real Club Náutico de Palma, the Real Federación Española de Vela and the Federación Balear de Vela, with the backing of the main Balearic public institutions.