Marseille challenges the GC32 crews

By on 24 Apr. 2015

The wind having done a 180° turn into the south overnight created a very tricky situation on the water for day two of racing at the Marseille Test Event for the 2015 Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour. As usual the thermal sea breeze attempted to overcome the gradient wind, but today this transition turned out to be a prolonged fight lasting the duration of the afternoon with massive shifts, frequently shutting down completely on sections of the race course.

In the end, of the six races scheduled, only three were completed leaving the Chris Draper-steered ARMIN STROM Sailing Team still leading, but with her margin reduced to four points over second placed Spindrift racing.

“We didn’t have a very good day today,” admitted Draper, the former Luna Rossa helmsman. “We had a case of everything going very well for us yesterday, but today, when we were in second, we’d go off and do something stupid and not pick a way. It was a good reminder about racing.”

ARMIN STROM managed to continue her form, winning the first race, but was a resounding last in both the second and third today. “In the second we were OCS [over the start line early] and had to go back, but in the other one we were second at the reach mark. We have been starting very well and we need to keep doing that and not get too greedy,” continued Draper. “But at the end of the day, we are racing Morgan [Larson] from Alinghi, Seb [Rogues] and those guys [on GDF SUEZ] and Yann [Guichard from Spindrift racing). They are all bloody good sailors and they are going to go the right way and if you go a different way from them, you’d better have a pretty good reason for it.”

GC32 newcomers Spindrift racing had the best day…but only just, posting a 3-1-2 to Alinghi’s ever improving 4-2-1, Morgan Larson, the reigning Extreme Sailing Series champion, who won the last race in commanding style.

GDF SUEZ skipper Sébastien Rogues, was satisfied with his performance: “We had not a good day, not a bad day, it was….a day!”

However compared to his rivals, Rogues is having to make the biggest leap into the GC32 foiling catamaran coming from a background racing offshore, in a monohull, and mostly doing this single or doublehanded. “It is a new experience for me to do tactical races inshore races like this,” he admits. The last time he regularly partook in inshore fleet racing was back in his teens when he campaigned a Laser.

Compared to his first GC32 regatta last year at Marseille One Design, this season Rogues has two new crew on board his GC32. “Last year we had Gurven Bontemps and Benjamin Amiot who have a lot of experience with foiling cats,” says Rogues. Unfortunately they have moved to pastures new for this season.

To make up for these shortcomings, Rogues and the GDF SUEZ team, that once again includes former America’s Cup skipper and match racer Sebastien Col as tactician, has been training with Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (the French multihull team that owns a GC32, but isn’t racing it on the Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour ) or on their own out of a training centre in Quiberon under the watchful eye of their coach – former Olympic Star sailor Pierre-Alexis Ponsot.

However for gaining experience there is nothing like racing in a fleet of GC32s, especially when they are driven by some of the world’s most experienced skippers and crews. “The GC32 is new to us, my crew is new but this year we would like to get the best place and ranking in the championship,” states Rogues.

Racing at the Marseille Test Event continues tomorrow at 1100 CET with six more races scheduled. The forecast indicates much more lively conditions with winds gusting into the high teens.

photos: Sander van der Borch / Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour