Despite conditions looking marginal this morning in Muscat’s Al Mouj, throwing up concerns about whether there would be any action at all today out on the water at the GC32 Championship, in the event four races were held in swift succession in good conditions and a fifth nearly completed too, before the wind finally faded.
This inaugural GC32 Championship, being run by the GC32 International Class Association in association with OC Sport, is once again turning into a battle of the Kiwi helmsmen. Overall leader Oman Air, on which Match Racing World Champion Phil Robertson has been appointed skipper this season, won two of today’s four races but this has increased her lead only by three points, to seven.
Gunning impressively hard for the local Omani team is Jes Gram-Hansen and Rasmus Køstner’s SAP Extreme Sailing Team, helmed by another Kiwi former Match Racing World Champion, Adam Minoprio. The Danish team won today’s opening race, which took place in 9-10 knots. When the wind dropped temporarily in the middle of the day, they showed particularly good pace downwind. As Minoprio explained: “As soon as we feel we can foil, we go for it – whereas everyone else stayed in displacement mode. We were sailing 30° hotter, but going 8 knots faster…”
Generally Minoprio feels that the cards haven’t fallen his way this week: On Wednesday, the Danish team was one of three to be disqualified during a black flag start. Then today they were leading the final race when the wind disappeared and it had to be abandoned having exceeded the permitted time limit for races of 35 minutes – as stated in the Sailing Instructions. “That was a crucial race as there were eight points there between us and Oman Air, and that would have made us equal,” observed Minoprio. “Beating them tomorrow is do-able. If we get some good breeze we might see the boats split up some more.”
SAP Extreme Sailing Team storms down the run. Photo ©: Jesús Renedo / GC32 Championship Oman 2017
If the starts in today’s windward-leeward races perhaps weren’t quite as high octane as the reaching starts of previous days, one crew was still trying to keep the adrenalin pumping. The newly-formed Tawera Racing of Kiwis Chris Steele & Graeme Sutherland, attempted port tack starts in two races today, managing to pull off this brave manoeuvre, normally reserved for more manageable dinghies, in the opening race, during which they came home third. Unfortunately they followed this up with two deep results,one the result of being called over early and being obliged to return and restart.
“In the other, we went the wrong way and made a couple of wrong decisions,” admitted Steele. “If you are out in front you have all the options in the world and it’s really nice. Once you’re at the back which gate you go to and which side of the course can be dictated to you.”
Regarding today’s windward-leeward courses, Steele felt that they made the racing tighter for longer and created more lead changes.
Chris Steele lives up to his name and steers Tawera Racing on her port tack start. Photo ©: Jesús Renedo / GC32 Championship Oman 2017
Roman Hagara’s Red Bull Sailing Team seemed to be going better today which the Austrian team’s skipper partly attributed to moving Will Tiller, one of two Kiwis in his crew, on to traveller and Hans-Peter Steinacher forward in the boat. Red Bull Sailing Team was second highest scoring team today after Oman Air. They also won today’s third race. “It was very close with four boats all the time,” recounted Hagara, the double Olympic Tornado gold medallist. “We made a good start and we were together with the other three around the top mark, but it was down to good positioning in the end and we had a good run into the finish with the boats behind. It felt better generally today.”
As to the Kiwi dominance at the GC32 Championship, Hagara observed: “We’ll have to take them skiing in Austria – then we’ll see!”
They have yet to win a race, but a team showing supreme consistency at this GC32 Championship is Ernesto Bertarelli’s two time America’s Cup winners, Alinghi. The Swiss crew came very close to winning a race today and continue to hold a solid third place overall. Bowman Yves Detrey felt they had missed some opportunities today: “We had two good races and in one we had a knot in the gennaker sheet and we missed a gybe and got passed by two or three boats.”
As to what was making the difference today Detrey observed: “Being able to change gears: Foiling or non-foiling and if we are not foiling, whether it is high mode or low mode and looking out for the wind. You were playing the shifts and pressure a lot more.”
Tomorrow is the final day of this inaugural GC32 Championship. At present the start is scheduled for 1300 local time (0900 UTC) while a final start can be given no later than 1530. The prizegiving for the GC32 Championship will take place at 1730.