GC32 Racing Tour 2016 – Million dollar man, Phil Robertson, the Kiwi skipper who recently won the largest ever prize purse in professional sailing, applied his magic to the GC32 Racing Tour on the opening day of foiling catamaran racing at 35 Copa del Rey Mapfre.
Taking over the helm of Flavio Marazzi’s Armin Strom Sailing Team, and with a crew including Sharon Ferris-Choat, currently the GC32 Racing Tour’s sole female competitor, Robertson coolly steered the Swiss catamaran to podium finishes in all but one of today’s five races. This was despite this being his first GC32 Racing Tour regatta as helmsman.
“It was fantastic today,” commented Robertson. “A little bit tricky with the waves, as the breeze built and the day wore on – it got harder and harder to keep the boat stable downwind, but it was a lot of fun.”
Racing started at 1300, with a couple of false starts, both due to third party craft erring on to the race course before they were ushered away by course marshalls who police the perimeter of the race course. Crews got the chance to ease themselves in slowly with eight – nine knots of wind, building to around 14-15 and backing as the sea breeze developed through the afternoon.
While Robertson made it look easy, in fact it was anything but. “The boats are beasts to keep up with and the crew is always scrambling to stay one step ahead of the game. We have put quite a bit of time into making sure our manoeuvres get better, and we seem to be getting a handle on it. Our speed was really good today – we felt really quick, which was a massive positive.”
However it is tight at the top: Armin Strom Sailing Team ends the day just one point ahead of the French Norauto, on which another Kiwi, Adam Minoprio, has temporarily taken over the helm from Volvo Ocean Race winner Franck Cammas.
Unlike the Swiss leader, Norauto’s day was one of dramatic improvement, scoring two bullets in the final two races. A fifth in race one occurred when a gennaker halyard slipped on the second run. The French team is hampered by a couple of last minute crew changes – the final one, Franck Cammas’ C-Class World Championship winning crew, Louis Viat, only arriving in Majorca this morning.
If the short chop continues this week, it could favour Minoprio who spent much time match racing GC32s in Brittany over last winter in similar waves to today’s.
“It’s challenging, but I find it awesome when there’s a good sea state,” said the former Match Racing World Champion and Volvo Ocean Race sailor. ‘You really have to work the boat hard downwind to keep it stable and fast. We felt very fast downwind, which was good, but if you weren’t fast around the reaching mark, you’d have to get around the guy(s) in front of you and do extra gybes.”
Team Tilt, winner of the last event on the GC32 Racing Tour, got off to a good start today winning the second race, but finished last in race four after a technical issue and followed this up with a disqualification for being over early under a black flag start in the last race. This leaves Team Tilt sixth overall, level on points with Mamma Aiuto!
The GC32 Racing Tour’s only Japanese entry, this is Mamma Aiuto!’s second tour event, but first with Japanese owner, Naofumi Kamei, driving. Tactician on board is local sailor, Manu Weiller, who won here in Palma last year under IRC on the Mamma Aiuto! team’s TP52. Today they started with a promising two races but are now seventh overall, tied on points with Team Tilt.
Naofumi Kamei helmed for the whole day, and Weiller observed: “In the last two races it was on the limit of windy and wavy conditions for him. In the first two races, he did an awesome job, with very good starts, etc. So, it was much better than expected for the first day. We are very happy.”
The GC32s were today sailing their traditional windward-leeward course, but with a reaching start and finish. This was on the Copa del Rey Mapfre course closest to the shore where the bottom shelves steeply, a feature which contributed to today short chop. As Phil Robertson observed: “The waves are steep as well so it is hard to stay stable and a lot of people were crashing down. That is going to be a big key – there will be some opportunities to pass and be stable rather than just follow the leader. It will be a good week – the leaderboard will be up and down.”
by GC32 Racing Tour