Dark horse Zoulou is the early leader at Marseille One Design

By James on 12 Oct. 2017

Despite the onshore sea breeze filling in to provide more than enough wind to get foiling, conditions remained extremely tricky on the Rade Sud for the opening day of racing at Marseille One Design, the final event of the 2017 GC32 Racing Tour. The result was high scores throughout the seven boat fleet of one design flying catamarans.

At the GC32 Orezza Corsica Cup in Calvi last month, Erik Maris’ Zoulou had capsized and was put out of racing before it had even started. Making up for this in part, the French team got off to a strong start, winning the first two races. These were both held in light conditions, for which Principal Race Office Stuart Childerly set conventional upwind starts.

Standing in for Erik Maris is Swiss foiling and catamaran expert Arnaud Psarofaghis, usually stand-in helmsman for Ernesto Bertarelli on Alinghi. Fortunately most of the Zoulou crew know and sailed with Psarofaghis while they were with Franck Cammas’ Groupama Team France, winner of Marseille One Design last year on NORAUTO.

“But this is the first time we have sailed in this configuration with me helming, so we are trying to keep things simple,” admitted Psarofaghis. “Today Thomas [le Breton] did really good tactics to send us to the right side and getting us into clear air. From there was easy, plus our boat is really quick upwind. We struggling in the last two races where we made some wrong decisions. We should have just trusted our first call and gone for it.”

Erik Maris’ Zoulou is the early leader at Marseille One Design. Photo: Jesus Renedo / GC32 Racing Tour

Today, competitors enjoyed a full day out on the waters of the sailing venue for Paris 2024 and four races were completed plus one round of the ANONIMO Speed Challenge. This latter event was claimed today by Naofumi Kamei’s Mamma Aiuto! from Japan, who recorded an average speed for the two reaches and gybe between, of 14.33 knots.

Of this success, project manager and tactician on Mamma Aiuto!, Manu Weiller said: “Today the forecast was for the windiest day of the week – let’s hope it stays like that and we are the fastest boat this week and we win the watch!”

Unfortunately in the fleet racing the Japanese team had a mixed day and finished last in today’s fourth race. “It was a bit of everything. Our emotions were up and down, but it was a very nice day of sailing and we enjoyed it,” continued Weiller. “It was more of a tactician’s day but as the conditions increased and there were more waves, the manoeuvres and boat handling became more important.”

While the wind for the first race was in conditions that just enabled the GC32s to foil, by the last race, the wind was up to 16 knots. Unfortunately as the boats were approaching the gate in today’s fifth and final race, the wind closed down around the leeward gate and the race was abandoned.

“We were second but by the time we got to the gate we were almost last and the wind completely disappeared. We were at the
wrong mark. Everyone went around the other mark and started sailing away,” explained Psarofaghis, admitting relief that the race was swiftly cancelled.

As to returning to the GC32 Racing Tour, following a two year absence, Psarofaghis said: “It is good to be back. All the teams are
stronger and the race course is big which is good to get these boats up on the foils and to experience their speed.”

Today’s other two winners were 2017 GC32 Racing Tour leader Realteam, skippered by Jérôme Clerc, which claimed race three
and Pierre Casiraghi’s Malizia – Yacht Club de Monaco, winner of the final race. Apart from their bullet, the Monaco team which dominated most of last month’s GC32 Orezza Corsica Cup found the going tough.

“In the first race, we were a bit out of phase and a bit everywhere boat speed wise and shift-wise, but we got better,” admitted helmsman Sébastien Col. Today was a proper Marseille day with the sea breeze coming in, but not 100% in so there were big shifts and each side paid.”

Racing resumes tomorrow at 1300 CET.