Once again, more than ten GC32 flying catamarans are due to compete on the GC32 Racing Tour in 2017, making it one of the biggest fleets of one design foiling catamarans in the world. In the build-up to the first event in Riva del Garda we will be unveiling the complete line-up, including new teams from Spain and Argentina and some internationally-respected campaigners from across the globe.
Among the ‘pros’ returning to try to improve their position on the leaderboard, is the longest serving of the GC32 teams – ARMIN STROM Sailing Team of Flavio Marazzi, President of the GC32 International Class Association. Third overall in 2016, the Swiss four time Olympic Star sailor is gunning for the top step of the podium and believes the key is his crew: “We’ve been looking for sailors who have already been to the Olympics at least once and are at a high enough level.”
Marazzi has been recruiting from the high performance 49er class, whose sailors already feature prominently in America’s Cup teams such as double Olympic medallists Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling and Artemis Racing skipper Nathan Outteridge. Joining ARMIN STROM Sailing Team is German Erik Heil who claimed bronze at Rio 2016. Also on board are Alain Sign and Iago Lopez Marra, leading 49er sailors respectively from Britain and Spain.
Marazzi explains: “There’s a lot of pressure and you need people who are used to the speed and the tactics required to sail fast boats – how you look ahead, do the starts, etc.”
Also returning is another Swiss team in Esteban Garcia’s Realteam, skippered by Jérôme Clerc. Clerc said: “Competing at an international level with the best sailing teams has been a campaign objective from the outset. The GC32 Racing Tour is unique for its one design boats being at the cutting edge, but it also features spectacular venues, such as Lake Garda and Palma, and brings great excitement to crowds and sailors alike.”
Realteam finished ninth overall in 2016 which Clerc acknowledges was due to their lack of time in the GC32. This time they have trained more – one or two weeks every month since January. The team also competes in Switzerland on D35 and Flying Phantoms catamarans.
Among their crew, Loic Forestier, Cédric Schmidt and Rémi Aeschimann remain, but joining their squad are three from Team Tilt – Lucien Cujean, Bryan Mettraux and Arthur Cevey, plus Christophe Carbonnières, previously with Team ENGIE.
Heading into their third full season on the GC32 RacinG Tour, Sébastien Rogues and his Team ENGIE have also been putting in the hours on the water, the pay-off from which they demonstrated regularly podiuming in races at March’s GC32 Championship in Oman. “In Oman we reached a new level and I think it is possible to win the Tour. With ENGIE, our objective in year one was to discover the flying boats, in year two it was learning about them and year three, this year, it is to be competitive.”
Team ENGIE’s crew remains the same as it did for the end of the 2016, mostly comprising young talented sailors from the F18 and Flying Phantom catamaran classes, such as tactician Gurvan Bontemps and Benjamin Amiot, who joined Team ENGIE from Spindrift racing.
Three teams – a cosmopolitan mix from the USA, Japan and Monaco – will fight it out for the 2017 Owner-Driver Championship.
A unique aspect of the GC32 is that compared to other foiling catamarans, it is simpler to sail and logistically easier to run. For example, it features a conventional mast instead of a wing, rope control systems for the sails and foils instead of hydraulics and relatively big foils to promote stability when flying. These all make the GC32 suitable for owner-drivers to helm and amateur crews to get foiling. However – as with any boat – becoming proficient and winning races, still requires practice and time on the water.
The GC32 Racing Tour’s Owner-Driver Championship was introduced last season when it went to the wire. Pierre Casiraghi on Malizia – Yacht Club de Monaco led going into the final event, but ultimately Jason Carroll’s Team Argo finished second overall at Marseille One Design, pipping the Monaco crew at the post.
At year on Team ARGO is sailing with much the same crew as it had in 2016, including leading American Moth and big boat sailor Anthony Kotoun and British former Olympic and America’s Cup sailor Alister Richardson.
Malizia – Yacht Club de Monaco enjoyed its first season the GC32 Racing Tour in 2016, with skipper Pierre Casiraghi getting to grips with the high speed GC32 catamaran under the expert tutelage of German round the world sailor Boris Herrmann and French former America’s Cup helmsman and Moth sailor Sebastien Col.
“We have the same crew from last year, which is a good point for us,” says Casiraghi. “We are all getting used to sailing together. We have made some improvements from last year and we will try to get a better result.” He is gunning for a top five spot overall this season, assisted with team’s regular coach Pierre-Alexis Ponsot and French Olympic coach Franck Citeau.
This season these two favourites could well receive a surprise from Naofumi Kamei’s Japanese team Mamma Aiuto!, which also joined the GC32 Racing Tour in 2016.
Spain’s Manuel Weiller returns as Mamma Aiuto! mainsail trimmer/tactician along with Swedish powerhouse Jakob Gustafsson. New faces on board include Urugary’s Diego Stefani, previously with ARMIN STROM Sailing Team and Softbank Team Japan bowman Federico Sampei. Naofumi Kamei is close to his country’s America’s Cup challenger, Softbank Team Japan and over the winter they were training out of their base in Bermuda.