A challenging third day for competitors and race management alike at the GC32 Championship saw France’s Team ENGIE claim the only race to be completed successfully. After a disappointing seventh place, Oman Air still leads overall, but is now just three points clear of Jes Gram-Hansen and Rasmus Køstner’s SAP Extreme Sailing Team in second.
The GC32 Championship is being run in Oman off Muscat’s Al Mouj by the GC32 International Class Association in association with OC Sport. Today race 10 of the Championship got underway on time at 1300 local (UTC +4) in an 8-9 knot northerly, that at times reached double figures, enabling the 11 one design catamarans to get fully up on their foils.
Given the proliferation of general recalls and black flags during the previous race day, the first start was surprisingly not general recalled, although there were three boats over early: Team Tilt, Argo and Red Bull Sailing Team, who all had to drop back behind the last of the boats that had started legally, before they could sheet on again. Most found it hard to recover from this although Team Tilt, skippered by Sébastien Schneiter, came out best, managing a fifth.
After a slow beginning to this inaugural GC32 Championship, Chris Steele and Graeme Sutherland’s newbie GC32 crew on Tawera Racing have been getting in their stride and managed the best start in today’s race. However the Kiwi crew got rolled at the second leeward gate by the old hands on SAP Extreme Sailing Team. As the breeze turned patchy on the second upwind, Sébastien Rogues’ Team ENGIE found more consistent breeze on the opposite side of the course and went on to take its second bullet of this Championship.
“Yesterday we went out training in these conditions because on the second day we saw that when it was lighter, it was difficult for us,” admitted Rogues. “So we learned a few things with our coach and we practised our manoeuvres. It worked, because today was very good for us: We had good speed and Gurvan [Bontemps] was good on our strategy. We are very happy.”
Team ENGIE on fire in the light. Photo ©: Jesús Renedo / GC32 Championship Oman 2017
Several attempts were made to complete a second race. One got most of the way round the course despite the wind dropping to 5 knots, before the 35 minute maximum race time limit was exceeded and it was abandoned.
This race had been started under a black flag, warning of instant disqualification for any boat over early. Despite this Team ENGIE nailed the start perfectly and Rogues was pleased that, for a second time, they had been leading when the whistle was finally blown on this race. Today’s result moved Team ENGIE up to fifth place overall.
Peter Greenhalgh, Oman Air’s mainsail trimmer, who has been sailing regularly in the waters off Muscat for almost a decade, said that today’s conditions were not unusual and hoped that tomorrow would provide more opportunity to hold racing. Of their race today, he added “our start wasn’t so good and while you always have a chance to get back on the first run, the first run didn’t go that well either for us, while it did for SAP Extreme Sailing Team. Then up the last beat and we let two boats go past.”
SVB Team Germany and the other new youth team, Youth Vikings Denmark, have been occupying the bottom of the leaderboard so far this week as they learn the ropes on the powerful GC32 foiling catamaran. However today the Germans had a promising second race when they were lying third at the leeward gate, before the race was subsequently abandoned.
Tawera Racing leads into the reaching mark. Photo ©: Jesús Renedo / GC32 Championship Oman 2017
Tactician Max Kohlhoff, one of three Kohlhoff brothers sailing on the German GC32, said: “We were really looking forward to this light day, because we knew it would be a bit easier to finish closer to the front of the fleet. Also it is good practice for us. Unfortunately the wind completely died.”
Conditions are looking similar tomorrow, the penultimate day of the GC32 Championship, with the wind peaking at around 1400 local time, so PRO John Craig has made the call to start racing an hour earlier – at 1200 local.