Having won the Extreme Sailing Series overall for the first time in 2017, SAP Extreme Sailing Team heads for Riva del Garda as one of the favourites to claim the first ever GC32 World Championship title.
The team is today one of the longest serving on the 12-year history of the Extreme Sailing Series, 2018 being its seventh consecutive season on the circuit after it was first set up by Danish match racers and America’s Cup sailors, Jes Gram-Hansen and Rasmus Køstner, today Team Principal and coach and Skipper respectively.
After several seasons rising up through the ranks, SAP Extreme Sailing Team firmly got into its stride in 2017 with former Match Racing World Championship turned Volvo Ocean Race and America’s Cup Kiwi sailor Adam Minoprio taking the helm. With its new line-up the team got off to a strong start winning the first event in Muscat, Oman, and followed this with victories in Madeira, Cardiff and San Diego. Thanks to this, the Danish team was able to claim its first ever Extreme Sailing Series title, although the top of leaderboard was typically close, with Alinghi and Oman Air finishing respectively just two and three points behind.
For 2018, SAP Extreme Sailing Team is sticking with much the same line-up, comprising Minoprio, Italian America’s Cup veteran Pierluigi De Felice, British former Malizia crewman Richard Mason and Swedish Red Bull Youth America’s Cup sailor, Julius Hallström. To date they have started well, finishing second to Alinghi at the opening event of the Extreme Sailing Series in Muscat in March.“Oman was good for us,” says Gram-Hansen. “Alinghi sailed very well especially on the first two days in the light breeze, but in the more breezy conditions we were neck and neck with them and Oman Air, which was good.”
The GC32 World Championship takes place over 23-27 May from Riva del Garda at the top of Lake Garda, one of the world’s top sailing venues. “It will be a great event,” says Gram-Hansen. “Riva del Garda is a perfect location for foiling catamarans like the GC32, because there is usually good breeze and flat water which suits the boat perfectly. Hopefully that will suit our team too because normally we sail better in the stronger breeze. We are looking forward to it.”
Previously Gram-Hansen has competed on Lake Garda with the RC44 one design monohull circuit and was coaching Pierre Casiraghi’s Malizia-Yacht Club de Monaco GC32 campaign early on in 2016. “It was fantastic for the boat – good breeze and flat power – you can really turn the power on,” he continues.
Gram-Hansen very much enjoys the GC32. “It is a great boat, a joy to sail. It is super powerful and fast compared to what we have sailed in the past. We do a lot of corporate sailing and the GC32 works really well for that. When we have SAP business guests sailing with us, they are blown away when they experience how powerful a high performance the boat this is – they don’t expect sailing to be so physical and fast.”
The GC32 World Championship both opens the 2018 season for the GC32 Racing Tour and is the second event of the Extreme Sailing Series, and is a scoring event on both circuits. “It will be interesting to see how the two fleets match up,” says Gram-Hansen of the 15 boat line-up in Riva del Garda. “We know for sure that Alinghi and Oman Air will be strong and now also Red Bull Sailing Team with Chris Draper helming and the guys, once they have more hours in the boat. For us it is an unknown factor how we’ll get on against the GC32 Racing Tour boats which we haven’t seen since last year in Oman.”
While the priority for SAP Extreme Sailing Team this season is to defend their Extreme Sailing Series title, Gram-Hansen admits that claiming the first ever GC32 World Championship would be a distinct bonus. “The World Championship would be a good one to win for us.”
SAP helmsman Adam Minoprio is well aware of the prestige in winning a World Championship. He was Match Racing World Champion in 2009. For Minoprio, his 2018 is taking on an unusual complexion as he’ll be darting back to compete at the GC32 World Championship and other events on the Extreme Sailing Series while on an 18 month long adventure with his girlfriend, delivering his Oceanic 46 cruising yacht across the Pacific to New Zealand.
In addition to his impressive credentials, Minoprio has a strong background on the GC32. He won the first ever GC32 event on Lake Traunsee in 2013, defended his Austria title with Luna Rossa in 2014 and then in 2016 split helming duties with Franck Cammas for NORAUTO’s GC32 Racing Tour winning campaign.
In fact Minoprio may have spent more time campaigning a GC32 than anyone. “With Team France we used the GC32 as a training boat, so I was very fortunate to get a lot of time on the GC32, which has helped tremendously,” he says.
Minoprio thrives on close competition and on the circuit he faces several familiar faces from the World Match Racing Tour, notably fellow Kiwi Phil Robertson, skipper of Oman Air. “There is awesome competition and with that competition you see some tempers flaring and some good action out on the water.”
Aside from backing their Extreme Sailing Series team, global software giant SAP will also be at the GC32 World Championship to provide tracking and results. SAP sailing solutions offer fans and broadcasters insights to enable them to decipher exactly what is happening on the water through the use of live leaderboards, and 3D and 2D visualisations taking place in real-time. Post-race, SAP provides teams with tools to analyse their performance and optimise their strategy, helping them sail like never before.