Armin Strom masterclass

By on 24 Apr. 2015

The Marseille Test Event for the 2015 Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour got off to a perfect start on Thursday. Despite the forecast indicating just five knots, in fact there was more, initially providing ‘marginal foiling conditions’ of 8-10 knots, before the wind piped up to 12-14 knots early afternoon, baking the sailors and spectators under a brilliant Mediterranean sun as they sped around the race track at speed, up on foils.

Six races were held with the stand-out performer of the day being Armin Strom Sailing Team with former Luna Rossa helmsman Chris Draper standing in for regular skipper Flavio Marazzi at this regatta. With four bullets on day one, Armin Strom leads the three ‘newbie’ teams after the opening day of this Test Event, with a seven point margin over second-placed Spindrift racing.

Draper hasn’t ‘raced’ since the Moth Worlds in January but has spent a considerable amount of time two boat testing and match racing in foiling AC45s against Luna Rossa skipper Francesco Bruni, before the team was shut down this month. Draper and a Luna Rossa team also took part in the GC32 event in Traunsee Austria in 2014.

Armin Strom Sailing Team was generally winning out of the starts preferring to ‘pull the trigger’ at the committee boat end of the line. In the two races which Armin Strom Sailing Team didn’t win, they were hampered by umpire calls, penalised for infringing in port-starboard incidents.

Compared to the other foiling catamarans Draper has sailed – including helming the Luna Rossa AC72 in the last Louis Vuitton Cup and an AC45 in the America’s Cup World Series, Draper says the GC32 “has very, very forgiving foils. Martin Fischer [designer of the GC32] has done a lovely job with this boat. For sure it is the easiest foiling boat I have ever sailed (without slowing it down), which I think is a great thing for the class. It would probably go a bit faster upwind if the foil was a bit more critical, but with the rake system being so simple, I think it is a good thing that the foil is so forgiving as it enables a wide range of people to drive the boat.”

Draper describes the helm of the GC32 as “super balanced”. Typically on the AC72 he would be operating the rake of the boards constantly while helming and focussing purely on making the boat go fast, whereas on the GC32 he has time to look out of the boat to pick a way around the race track as he wound on a regular yacht.

For Morgan Larson, helmsman on Alinghi and Yann Guichard skipper of Spindrift racing, the day was momentous with both making their competitive foiling catamaran debut – despite both sailors having giant CVs and being among the world’s most talented racing yacht helmsmen.

“It was a good day for me and for the crew,” said Guichard. “It was exciting to go racing – it is a crazy boat! It was not easy today – the 8-10 knots of wind was just at the limit to foil or not. But it felt fantastic when we were reaching. By the third race [when the wind had picked up to 12 knots] you could feel the potential of the boat. We reached 24 knots downwind with the kite and the boat is so stable, it is fantastic.”

Guichard noted that the GC32 felt much safer in the bear-aways around the weather gate marks compared to the non-foiling multihulls he typically sails. “It is much easier because the bow never wants to go down, but it was only 10 knots, so we have to wait until Saturday or Sunday when the forecast says it will be windy!”

Spindrift racing had to stand down from the first race today when they broke the uphaul for one of their daggerboard/foils, but were back for the remaining races of the day.
Tomorrow a further six races are scheduled, starting at 1100 CET.