In a fortnight’s time the first ever GC32 Championship for the combined fleets from the GC32 Racing Tour and Extreme Sailing Series™ will begin in Muscat, Oman.
The ultra high-speed foiling one design GC32 catamarans will be competing at the GC32 Championship from Tuesday 28th February until Sunday 5th March. Racing will take place off Al Mouj Marina (The Wave, Muscat), on the outskirts of Muscat where the event’s host, Oman Sail, has its headquarters.
Run by the GC32 International Class Association in association with OC Sport, the 2017 GC32 Championship is the first of what, henceforth, will be an annual event.
A team greatly anticipating this first joint venture between the two GC32 circuits is Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi, which has previous experience of both: The former America’s Cup defender won the 2016 Extreme Sailing Series and competed on the GC32 Racing Tour in 2015. Bertarelli, who has been campaigning racing multihulls since the early 1990s, has confirmed that he will helm for the GC32 Championship.
Alinghi’s coach Pierre-Yves Jorand said: “We have been very much in favour of having a common championship with as many boats as possible involved. We are very excited and looking forward to competing with a lot of boats – it will be great fun and good competition. Having that many boats on the start line will be tough.”
The Alinghi team has competed in Muscat on many occasions and Jorand says the venue is perfect for racing during the northern hemisphere winter. “There’s usually a good sea breeze – 10-12 knots, sometimes building to 15 with a little chop and pleasant conditions in terms of water and air temperatures.”
While Alinghi will sail with its usual line-up, co-skippers Jes Gram-Hansen and Rasmus Køstner have some new crew joining them on board SAP Extreme Sailing Team this season. Both competed on the GC32 Racing Tour last year: British sailor Richard Mason sailed on Malizia-Yacht Club de Monaco while former Match Racing World Champion and Volvo Ocean Race sailor, Adam Minoprio from New Zealand, was instrumental to NORAUTO’s overall victory.
Jes Gram-Hansen commented: “SAP Extreme Sailing Team is looking forward to participate in the first GC32 Championship. It will be interesting to see how the teams from the two GC32 circuits will compare. We will use the Championship as a final preparation for Adam and Richard to gel with the rest of the team before heading into Act 1 of the Extreme Sailing Series, also in Muscat.”
Travelling furthest to compete at the GC32 Championship will be Team Argo of American Jason Carroll. Argo is a two time World Champion in the Melges 32 class and first joined the GC32 Racing Tour in 2015. Last season they concluded the GC32 Racing Tour on a high, finishing second at the final event, Marseille One Design.
With Ernesto Bertarelli helming Alinghi, Carroll will face some stiff competition to win the GC32 Championship’s Owner-Driver trophy. He commented: “Team Argo is looking forward to new competition from the Extreme Sailing Series as well as the chance to square off with our old friends from the GC32 Racing Tour. The upcoming championship will be out first trip to Oman, which certainly adds to the excitement. We expect this will be the toughest event to date. We can’t wait for racing to begin!”
Two other GC32 Racing Tour teams making their Oman racing debuts will be 2016 runner-up Team Tilt and Team ENGIE.
Led by Sébastien Schneiter, Team Tilt is gearing up to represent Switzerland in this summer’s Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in Bermuda and for the GC32 Championship will be rotating through a squad of seven under 24-year-olds.
Schneiter said: “We are looking forward to going to Oman and to sail for the first time with the two circuits together. It will be interesting! We are excited finally to do our first regatta on foiling boats with our Red Bull Youth America’s Cup crew after so much training at the end of last year. We hope to have good conditions there to learn as much as we can as we enter our final phase of training.”
French former Class40 champion, Sébastien Rogues, will be sailing with his same crew as he had on Team ENGIE at the end of 2016. “We have a very good spirit and we want to capitalise on that and progress with this team,” said Rogues who is looking forward to lining up against the Extreme Sailing Series boats for the first time. Rogues says they are expecting the conditions at the GC32 Championship to be relatively light, although they expect anything. “We are ready for the battle. The large fleet will make it a difficult race, but we have prepared for that.”
Another skipper with previous experience of both GC32 circuits is Oman Air’s newly announced man on the helm, Phil Robertson. Last year, the New Zealander skippered Gazprom Team Russia at the Extreme Sailing Series St Petersburg Act and subsequently steered Flavio Marazzi’s ARMIN STROM Sailing Team to second place on the GC32 Racing Tour at Copa del Rey MAPFRE in Palma. However Robertson’s most notable achievement was claiming the US$ 1 million first prize for winning the World Match Racing Championship title last summer.
Oman Air comes with one of the most successful GC32 crews. Pete Greenhalgh, Nasser Al Mashari and Ed Smyth all sailed on Sultanate of Oman, which won the GC32 Racing Tour in 2015.
Phil Robertson commented: “I have always thought it is a very, very cool concept to have all the boats racing on one start line, the two different fleets and anyone else that wants to from around the world who’s got a boat. So I am excited to hit the start line with so many foiling catamarans.”
The remaining teams in the GC32 Championship will be announced next week.