Watch out for the black horse – Live Sail Die
With great anticipation, in just a week, competition on the GC32 Racing Tour resumes for the first time since the GC32 Oman Cup in November 2019. Unfortunately, the entire 2020 season of the World Sailing approved one-design flying catamaran circuit has had to be canceled and the first events of this year also had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is only with further relaxation of international travel restrictions later this summer that the GC32 Racing Tour will return to its full roster of teams, including those from outside of Europe.
For next week’s GC32 Lagos Cup 1, the first of two GC32 Racing Tour events that the historic Algarve port will host this summer, six teams will compete. The favorite is certainly the Alinghi team of Ernesto Bertarelli, winner of the GC32 Racing Tour 2019, the former Swiss champions of the America’s Cup having also won the title of world champion on these waters. However, they will receive a tall order from the Red Bull Sailing Team, with double Austrian Olympic champions Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher keen to make a strong impression in what will be their final season of GC32 racing.
The French owner-driver Erik Maris will continue to raise his level on Zoulou, after finishing second in the last event of 2019. The Swiss Foiling Academy will be a novelty for GC32 Racing with Julien Monnier and co-skipper Loïc Forestier as co-skippers , while on the steepest climb will probably be Christian Zuerrer’s Black Star Sailing team. Zuerrer’s team managed to train the most during the pandemic. They added Pierluigi de Felice to their crew, who recently contested the 36th America’s Cup with Luna Rossa. The Italian trimmer also has past GC32 experience with SAP Extreme Sailing Team.
The dark horse of this year’s GC32 Racing Tour will likely be Team Rockwool Racing; the Danish team skippered by former match racer and Volvo Ocean Race competitor Nicolai Sehested. As the skipper and the team compete for the first time on the GC32 Racing Tour, the boat knows the way around the track (previously it was SAP Extreme Sailing Team).
Rasmus Køstner, who co-skipped this boat with Jes Gram-Hansen, is also back on board and will be Team Rockwool Racing flight controller / bowman this season. The last time he competed in the GC32 Racing Tour was in 2018, so after a three-year hiatus, albeit with some corporate sailing in 2020 and an occasional day of crew training, Køstner s’ expect them to be rusty. However, they will be ‘race fit’ as they are the same as the new Danish rockwool crew who finished fifth at the recent SailGP event in Italy.
Aside from the size, speed and sophistication of the much more expensive F50 they run with SailGP, Køstner says one of the most notable differences between the two boats is that the GC32 has a conventional sail plan with a mast and flexible sails. In particular, it does not use hydraulics. This means that there are times when the GC32 may be slightly underpowered (eg it won’t tack tack like the F50), but on board there is a level of “feel” that you don’t get from the bigger boat, where almost everything on board is hydraulically controlled. “On the GC32, you get feedback on whatever you’re moving, which you don’t quite get with the F50. You get used to it, but miss the feedback you get from the GC32 which is good in most scenarios but can be a bit tricky at high speeds.
Køstner also points out how confident the teams are that they will be riding the GC32 to the fullest today compared to when they first got on board – in his case at the end of 2015. “I remember when we put on the boat in the water for the first time in dubai we thought it was really a handful – we were stressed out we thought it was a fast and out of control boat and there were some things we had a hard time dealing with , but eventually you learn it and you know that there are things you can do when you outsmart that you can’t do if you ‘no and there are other things you can’t do when you don’t. foil which you could perhaps do in the Extreme 40 or other catamarans.
“Now, many years later, we really think we can push it and are confident in sailing it – when you push yourself a lot in the GC32 in a lot of wind, you feel more comfortable with the limits. We can run the GC32 and we can also easily get on the water for a few hours and come back with good intensity and good learning. It’s nice to know that if you put in hours you will be very comfortable with it. the boat and you can push it very hard.
Køstner adds that there are techniques they learned on the F50 that may be applicable to the GC32 as well. However, they won’t be the only ones who can implement them for Alinghi, favorite of the race, coxswain Arnaud Psarofaghis recently got behind the wheel of the SailGP engagement in New Zealand.
Next week in Portugal, the GC32 Lagos Cup will follow its normal training race schedule on Wednesday followed by four actual racing days (July 1-4).