Racing starts tomorrow at the inaugural GC32 Championship. 11 international teams, from the Extreme Sailing Series™ and the GC32 Racing Tour, plus a few competing in this summer’s Red Bull Youth America’s Cup will line up off Al Mouj (The Wave, Muscat), on the outskirts of Muscat, Oman from Tuesday 28th February until Sunday 5th March. Eleven GC32s represents the largest ever gathering of the one design foiling cats, which are built in nearby Dubai.
The final five teams for the GC32 Championship, run by the GC32 International Class Association in association with OC Sport, have been announced today.
Among the Extreme Sailing Series heavy-hitters, Red Bull Sailing Team is a favourite. The Austrian team led by two time Olympic Tornado gold medallists Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher, finished the Extreme Sailing Series third last year.
“It is nice to have so many boats on the race course with the two fleets joining here. We are looking forward to the racing,” said Hagara. “We always do quite well here– we like the venue and the conditions. The last years we have always been on the podium.”
Land Rover BAR Academy announced its squad for the 2017 season today. Like last year, the crew here is unusually being led by its bowman, in this case with former shorthanded offshore sailor, Rob Bunce, taking over from Neil Hunter, who has graduated up to the Land Rover BAR America’s Cup sailing team.
“It certainly takes some of the pressure off having the skipper in another place,” admits Bunce. On the helm this week is 49er sailor Chris Taylor. Overseen by Andrew Walsh, the Land Rover BAR Academy will be rotating eight sailors this week, including Taylor’s 49er crew Sam Batten. “I think the GC32 Championship is great,” says Bunce. “It’s amazing to get an opportunity to bring both circuits together and race with more than 10 boats.”
A new team joining the Extreme Sailing Series this year is Tawera Racing, which competed in the Sydney Act in December as RNZYS Performance Programme. This Kiwi crew is led by top match racer Chris Steele and Graeme Sutherland. “It’s been monumental from those two to get this thing to where it is now,” says Steele. “We’re pretty excited with the opportunity that’s in hand.”
This being only their second GC32 event, Steele is aware that they lack time in the boat. However they are not alone in this respect.
Finally there are two teams, both selected for this summer’s Red Bull Youth America’s Cup. Paul Kohlhoff, who represented Germany in the Nacra 17 catamaran at Rio 2016, is skippering SVB Team Germany with a crew including his two brothers. The team competed at the Hamburg Act of the Extreme Sailing Series in 2015.
Kohlhoff is enjoying Oman. “It is great. We do a lot of sailing in Europe and North America, but we have never been anywhere close to here. It is quite different – in north Europe it is freezing cold now. We’ll get around the course. There are lots of question marks still.”
Following SAP Extreme Sailing Team is a second Danish crew, Youth Vikings Denmark. Coaching the team is Olympic and America’s Cup veteran Michael Hestbæk, who for this event is carrying out this role from the helm. “This was a golden opportunity to improve and learn as much as we can about how to sail these boats,” said Hestbæk.
PRO John Craig is aiming to run up to six races day of around 25 minutes duration. With a relatively light forecast this will most likely be with a reaching start and finish sandwiching windward-leewards. There is also the opportunity to hold a ‘long distance race’.
Racing is scheduled to start daily at 1300 local time, but Craig reckons this may be brought forward: “The wind is supposed to happen early in the morning, whereas at 1300 it looks like it might die.” A layday is still scheduled for Thursday.
Practice racing today in which Alinghi, Oman Air and Red Bull Sailing Team dominated.
Photo ©: Jesús Renedo / GC32 Championship Oman 2017
The GC32 Championship is also the first being run under World Sailing’s new Racing Rules of Sailing ‘Fast Boat Edition 2017-2020’. Born of the America’s Cup, these are modified version of the RRSes to take into account the unique traits of ultra fast boats like the GC32s.
“We didn’t want people to have to read four documents to work out what they have to do,” explains Slater. “It is nice to end up with one rule book.”
Among the rules being modified have been those governing weather mark gate roundings, a dramatic simplification of the tacking rights (designed to prevent collision) and the elimination of the ‘proper course’ rule.
Racing is due to start tomorrow at 1300 local time (UTC +4)