Returning to GC32 racing for the class’ first World Championship later this month is the Schneiter family’s Team Tilt, from Switzerland. The bright red flying catamaran has been laid up for the last year as skipper-helmsman Sébastien Schneiter has focussed first on representing Switzerland in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in Bermuda last year, before returning to the 49er skiff for his second Olympic campaign, following his 13th place at the Rio 2016 games.
Currently Schneiter and his crew Lucien Cujean are training on Lake Garda on their 49er before the rest of the crew arrives next week to reacquaint themselves with the GC32. Aside from some record attempts on Team Tilt’s home waters of Lake Geneva in Switzerland last December, the World Championship will be their first race in the GC32 since they finished second at the GC32 Riva Cup, the opening event of the 2017 GC32 Racing Tour, held on the same waters of Lake Garda. To help them rectify their lack of time in the one design foiling catamaran in recent months, they plan to get in a week of training in the build-up to the Worlds.
While the Team Tilt crew is mostly young and Swiss, an exception is their main sheet trimmer, tactician, coach and guru Australian Glenn Ashby. One of the best catamaran sailors in the world, not only was Ashby skipper of Emirates Team New Zealand for their winning America’s Cup campaign in Bermuda last year, having been the Kiwi team’s AC72 wing trimmer in San Francisco four years earlier, but he has won the World Championship in the singlehanded A-Class catamaran (today also a flying, foil-assisted boat) and incredible nine times – on top of his Tornado and F18 catamaran World titles.
Team Tilt may be out of practice in their GC32, but having Ashby on board will certainly help compensate for this, plus, as Sébastien Schneiter puts it: “We know each other really well because we’ve sailed a lot on the Lake before. Having Glenn joining us is a great opportunity. We are really looking forward to that.” Ashby is no stranger to Team Tilt having previously raced with them on the GC32 Racing Tour in 2016 in at the circuit events in Riva, Malcesine and at Copa del Rey MAPFRE.
In addition the Team Tilt squad comprises Lucien Cujean, trimmer Bryan Mettraux (who sailed with GC32 Racing Tour winners Realteam in 2017), plus foil trimmer Jérémy Bachelin and bowman Nils Theuninck, who were both part of the Schneiter-skippered Red Bull Youth America’s Cup crew which finished third in Bermuda last year. Theuninck is also the current Under-23 Finn European Championship. As usual they are supported by coach and team manager Tanguy Cariou and team leader Alex Schneiter. “We know the boat quite well and we know the venue. We just need some training to get back into it,” says Sébastien Schneiter.
From having 11 boats on the start line at the GC32 Riva Cup last year, 15 are set to compete at the Worlds – not a massive leap, but still a significant number and in fact the largest ever gathering of the one design foiling catamarans. “It will be quite intense on the start line,” agrees Schneiter. “I think as it is the first World Championship everyone is out to win it and will be really motivated to do so.”
Aside from the event itself, Schneiter is already enjoying Lake Garda. “It is my favourite place. You get strong winds and then there’s the whole scenery with the mountains in the background. We’ll have high quality racing – it is the perfect venue for the GC32s.” Schneiter adds that he prefers the smaller, simpler GC32 to the AC45s they were sailing last year in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup. “It is much more fun, much lighter and that makes the manoeuvres easier. The AC45 was more like a big truck – fast, but heavy.”
The first GC32 World Championship will take place over 23-27 May out of the Fraglia Vela Riva, in Riva del Garda.
Photos: © Loris von Siebenthal