Final preparations for the Mallorca 470 World Championship. 470.ORG

With less than a week to go before the start of the 470 World Championship in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 63 international teams are making their final preparations for one of the most important regattas of their careers.

The momentous event, which will take place from 24 February to 3 March 2024 in the bay of Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the island of the same name and the Balearic Islands, will offer the chance to secure a place to represent their country at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, which begin at the end of July. 

Others, however, must first qualify for their nation. The World Championships will decide the Olympic qualifying places for Africa, South America, North America and one place for Europe. 

Where previously there were a variety of classes in the Olympic line-up, such as Finn, Tornado, Star, Soling, Flying Dutchman and many others, the 470 will be the only boat of its kind in the 2024 edition of the Olympic Regatta. Sailors can choose from a variety of hull builders, mast builders and sailmakers to find the best combination for their size, weight and sailing style.

The equipment on the 470 is very sophisticated and there isn't much difference in boat speed between one brand of equipment and another. This is partly due to market forces: you either evolve or you die, and partly because the 470 has long been one of the most demanding dinghy classes in the world for so long. The first World Championship was held in Bordeaux, France in 1970 and won by the French brothers Yves and Hervé Carré.

The 470 made its first Olympic appearance at the 1976 Games in Montreal, where the gold medal went to West Germans Frank Huebner and Harro Bode. Initially, the 470 was an 'open' Olympic class, with both men and women invited to compete against each other. In reality, however, the class was almost entirely male, with notable exceptions such as Britain's Cathy Foster, who with her crew Pete Newlands won the final race of the 1984 Olympic Regatta in Long Beach, California, and finished 7th overall.

A 470 race at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 470.ORG
A 470 race at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 470.ORG

However, since the Seoul Games in 1988, men and women have competed in separate 470 classes, with Allison Jolly and Lynne Jewell taking the first ever Olympic women's 470 gold medal on the vast waters of Pusan, Korea.ç

At the recent Tokyo 2020 Games, Great Britain's Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre took the women's gold, while Matt Belcher and Will Ryan won the men's gold for Australia. Since Tokyo, the men's and women's classes have been combined in the new 470 Mixed format, with men and women racing together in the same boat.

The big question on everyone's lips was which combination would prove to be more effective on the race course? Female helmsman/male crew, or male helmsman/female crew? These are questions that will be answered from 2024 onwards, as the results of the 2022 and 2023 Worlds were mixed.

As reported by World Sailing, Monday 26 February will be practice race day and the end of registration and measurement. The first race of the championship is scheduled for Tuesday 27 February at 12:00 local time. After three days of qualifying races and two days of Gold Fleet, the top 10 teams will compete in the final medal race on the sixth and final day of competition, Sunday 3 March.