Bullitt GC32s head for confined Kiel

By on 23 Jul. 2015

They say variety is the spice of life and after a successful regatta in Cowes, UK last month, the Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour moves on to its third nation of the season with Sailing Cup Kiel in Germany, over 30th July until 2nd August.

Kiel shares many attributes with Cowes: It is a sailing mecca in the same way as the UK venue is and similarly there is a long, historic tie between local inhabitants and the sea. In particular both venues are famous for hosting two of the world’s largest annual sailing events in Kieler Woche and Cowes Week respectively.

But when it comes to the race track on which the foiling one design GC32 catamarans will be competing next week, the two venues could not be more different. At the Cowes Cup racing was on the heavily tidal Solent and culminated in the 50 mile JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race, around the Isle of Wight. In contrast Sailing Cup Kiel will be held on the confines of Kiel Fjord, within the heart of the city, which will be the most restricted waters of any venue during the 2015 Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour.

After breaking his hand during the Cowes Cup, Sultanate of Oman skipper Leigh McMillan hopes he will be race ready, for he holds an advantage over some of the other teams in having competed on this race course previously in the Extreme Sailing Series. In fact Sailing Cup Kiel should be a good test to see how appropriate high speed foiling catamarans are racing in such close confines.

“It will be a good test for this format,” says McMillan, who believes that it will change the emphasis of the racing. “Potentially it will be more about crew work and you’ll have to be more organised, so there will be a bit of work to be done there. Potentially you’ll be using the kite less because you won’t have much of a runway to get it fully sorted. It could change the tactical elements of the racing.”

For the Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour, Sailing Cup Kiel will also be a ground breaking event in being the first major regatta for fully foiling catamarans in Germany, a country with a strong multihull heritage, including two medals in the Olympic Tornado catamaran. Given this, plus the increasingly high profile of foiling catamarans thanks to the America’s Cup, a strong spectator turn-out is expected on this natural sailing amphitheatre.

“It is directly in the heart of the city, so you can see the boats all the time while they are racing,” Kiel-Marketing GmbH’s Axel Bauerdorf, Project Manager of the Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour’s Sailing Cup Kiel, describes the race area. “We are expecting 60-80,000 people, which is realistic based on the Extreme Sailing Series and on the MOD70s [Kiel was the start venue for the MOD70 European Tour in 2012]. If the weather is perfect we might break 100,000.”

On land, around the perimeter of Kiel Fjord will be tiered seating along with a public village where there will be stands for event partners plus food, drink, and a children’s playground that will include a sailing camp to encourage local youth to try their hand at water sports.

Leigh McMillan is confident of the local intrigue: “It is a big sailing city. They are very into it. It has always been good for spectators and there is a lot of interest – you get a lot of people down on the front there.”

Tackling the tricky operation of laying on racing for the high speed foiling catamarans on this confined stretch of water will be the GC32 Class’ Principal Race Officer, Anne Mallédant. In the interests of safety she says she has been asked by the local sailing club to set a bigger course than was previously imagined, however it will still only measure around 0.4 nautical miles by 0.9. “It will be amazing, but it will require a very high level of control and safety. Depending on the wind direction, it could be tough.”

While the Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour courses are typically the modern America’s Cup style with reaching starts and finishes and two windward-leeward laps in between, for Sailing Cup Kiel, Mallédant says, the boats will sail three laps, occasionally interspersed with courses containing longer reaching legs and perhaps even a slalom course.

Certainly racing foiling GC32s on such a confined stretch of water can only serve to further ramp up the excitement.