GC32s return to Lagos race fit
2 ago 2021
The second event of the 2021 GC32 Racing Tour kicks off next week, once again in Lagos on Portugal’s Algarve. The first two events of the new season for the World Sailing-approved high performance foiling catamarans are being held in the same venue to limit travel and simplify logistics complicated by the pandemic.
Coming in race fit to the GC32 Lagos Cup 2 will be several skippers and crew who competed last weekend at the British stopover of SailGP in Plymouth.
Alinghi’s co-helmsman Arnaud Psarofaghis was standing in for Peter Burling on the helm of the New Zealand boat. Ernesto Bertarelli’s team remains the sure-fire favourite in Lagos: Their line-up is unchanged from when they dominated the GC32 Lagos Cup 1 – out of 16 races they sailed they only finished off the podium once. They also won the 2019 GC32 World Championship on these waters.
Time spent in the faster, wing masted F50 won’t have hurt Psarofaghis. With a wing and extensive hydraulics (compared to the GC32’s conventional rotating wing mast and soft sails, and rope controls), Psarofaghis acknowledges that the F50 is different to the GC32, but “it is not too difficult to make the change. The F50 is faster, so it is a good lesson in anticipation, seeing things coming quickly. Some of the tricky manoeuvres we can do easily on the F50 are a bit less easy on the GC32, but there are some improvements we can all do there with more time on the water.”
Psarofaghis is certain that as the GC32 Lagos Cup 1 was the first GC32 event raced since November 2019, the level across the fleet is rising rapidly. “I am sure everyone has learned a lot of lessons and will improve a lot on a few details. It will be harder for us to stay ahead.”
Also racing in Plymouth was Team Rockwool Racing. Finishing on the podium and winning two races at GC32 Lagos Cup 1 was an acceptable result for the Danish team’s first-ever GC32 competition. The greatest steps forward are likely to come from them. “Throughout the four days we improved - we were finishing second last or last on the first two days and making top twos in the last two days,” says skipper Nicolai Sehested of the first event. “For sure we made some big improvements.”
“The way of sailing these fast boats – the decision making, lay lines, starting, etc relate. In Plymouth we didn’t do so well in the starts, so that will be one of our focuses.” In Plymouth, the course laying was so accurate that they were called OCS when their weather hull was over by just 15-30cm. “And that was at 50km!”
Sehested’s objective is to claim the second step on the podium.
The other GC32 rookies in Lagos were the Swiss Foiling Academy. The team led by Julien Monnier and Loic Forestier will be looking to raise their game for their second-ever GC32 event. So too will the French Zoulou team led by Erik Maris, the GC32’s longest-standing competitor and currently the sole owner-driver (others will return later in the season as travel restrictions ease).
Roman Hagara will not helm Red Bull Sailing Team in Lagos due to his responsibilities as High Performance Coach for the Austrian Nacra 17 and 49er teams. Their aim is to secure Austria a gold medal in Tokyo as the last summer Olympics when Austrians brought home a gold (across all sports) was when Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher became Olympic champions in the Tornado catamaran at Athens in 2004.
As Hagara says: "I will miss the next GC32 Racing Tour event in Lagos due to my commitments to the Austrian Sailing Federation, so I will be at Enoshima for the Olympic Games. But I have a really good guy standing in for me in Nathan Outteridge, who is a 49er gold medallist and a SailGP skipper and who is highly decorated. So I hope he can set a mark and can beat Alinghi, which is our big goal for this season." Outteridge is skipper of Japan's SailGP team.
Meanwhile, Christian Zuerrer’s Black Star Sailing Team finished the GC32 Lagos Cup 1 one point shy of the podium. This would have been different had they not dismasted on day two (fortunately the GC32 family came to the rescue and Black Star was able to continue racing with a spare bottom mast section kindly provided by Zoulou and shrouds and forestay from Alinghi). “Apart from the mast break, we were playing with the other teams,” says Zuerrer. “It was a bit of a rollercoaster. After one and a half years away, it was not easy for anyone, but the level was quite high between the teams. We have improved a lot and are getting closer. Our comms are better.”
As to the venue, Lagos first-timer earlier this month, Nicolai Sehested is looking forward to it: “It is a fantastic place - 20-25 knots and flat water is perfect. It is one of the best venues you can have for GC32 sailing.”
The GC32 Lagos Cup is proudly sponsored by local event partners: the City of Lagos, Marina de Lagos and Sopromar with additional supporting partners; Marina Club Lagos Resort, Club de Vela de Lagos, Lagos Avenida Hotel, Aviworld, Multirental, Engel and Volkers and Ostra Select.
Swiss GC32s on top in Lagos on National Day
GC32 World Champions and winners of the first GC32 Lagos Cup a month ago, Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi continued its winning streak today...just. After dominating the first post-pandemic event here a month ago, today the Swiss team won the GC32 Lagos Cup 2 by just two points from Christian Zuerrer’s Black Star Sailing Team.
After struggling yesterday Frenchman Erik Maris’ Zoulou rocketed up the leaderboard today to complete the podium, as crews less familiar with the GC32, Team Rockwool Racing and Red Bull Sailing Team (with three crew, including helmsman Nathan Outteridge, new for this event) struggled in highly changeable conditions.
After Saturday’s extreme conditions, Sunday’s foiling catamaran racing on the Algarve completed the test with five races held in light and medium winds.
Anticipating 20+ knot winds, the decision was again made to start at 10:00, with upwind starts. In fact, the wind was up initially, but for the first races had dropped to ten and only after a lull in race four, did it finally bang back in, gusting to 20+.
Like yesterday Black Star Sailing Team dominated early, winning the first two races and the fourth when they were most successful in joining up the puffs and shifts on the course during the light race. They started the final race just three points from Alinghi, but were unable to overcome this deficit.
“We didn’t sail our best day, but we did just enough to win the regatta,” said Alinghi helmsman, Arnaud Psarofaghis. “Black Star sailed really well. In the last race, they gained a point, but we stayed right behind them, so they couldn’t get away from us. We made too many mistakes, but we were able to avoid any bigger dramas.”
As to Black Star Sailing Team’s performance, Christian Zuerrer commented: “I’m happy. It was a strange day for conditions, but we managed them the best of all the teams.” Much of this came down to correct moding in the rapidly changing conditions. Zuerrer, who trims main on board as Kiwi Chris Steele helms, said he preferred the closer and more tactical racing provided by upwind starts.
So should Alinghi be worried going into the World Championship in Villasimius, Sardinia mid-September? “Hopefully,” Zuerrer feels. “It is more interesting when not only one boat is winning.”
Zuerrer’s helmsman Chris Steele added: “It was good fun - a great day on the water. It was tricky with the shifts and the pressure, but we did a nice job getting in phase with the first shift in all of the races and the guys did a nice job of moding the boat and staying fast. It was a really dynamic day which is encouraging for us as those were conditions in which you’d expect Alinghi to be strong.”
While the Danish Team Rockwool Racing team had a storming Saturday when they hit 39.5 knots, neither they nor Red Bull Sailing Team had final days to remember. In contrast, one of the longest-serving GC32 campaigners, Frenchman Erik Maris and Zoulou, after struggling in yesterday’s intense conditions, basked in them today, winning the third race after a blistering start. With only one race off the podium today, they bounced up the leaderboard finishing third on equal points with Red Bull Sailing Team but prevailing on countback.
“It was wonderful conditions, great sailing - the guys did a great job on a great boat,” said a delighted Maris. “We had some good starts - you need those. The race committee did a fantastic job and everyone is happy. When I look at the guys behind us I am somewhat proud - Nathan Outteridge, the Danes, etc. It was great fun.”
The biggest cheer today went up but not for the top teams. Swiss Foiling Academy, co-skippered by mainsheet trimmer Julien Monnier and helmsman Loïc Forestier, had a difficult week capsizing on the opening day, although they missed no races as a result. In today’s final race, they started by the race committee boat, tacked and took the most extreme right option and by the top mark had nosed in front. With the powerhouse teams tied up in their own private battles, Swiss Foiling Academy went on to claim their first-ever bullet on the GC32 Racing Tour.
“The wind got stronger and we like that,” said Forestier. “We didn’t have a good race before and we wanted to finish the event in good spirits. We went right in good pressure and from there the most important thing was that we stayed in front. We have learned a lot.”
This, and the Swiss 1-2, was a worthy result for Swiss National Day, marking the 730th anniversary of the Swiss Confederacy’s formation.
The GC32 Lagos Cup is proudly sponsored by local event partners the City of Lagos, Marina de Lagos and Sopromar with additional supporting partners; Marina Club Lagos Resort, Club de Vela de Lagos, Lagos Avenida Hotel, Aviworld, Multirental, Engel and Volkers, Cheetah Marine, Highfield Boats and Ostra Select.