GC32 Racing Tour owner-driver contest heats up in 2017

Of the 10+ teams set to take part in this year’s GC32 Racing Tour, three teams – a cosmopolitan mix from the USA, Japan and Monaco – will fight it out for the 2017 Owner-Driver Championship.
A unique aspect of the GC32 is that compared to other foiling catamarans, it is simpler to sail and logistically easier to run. For example, it features a conventional mast instead of a wing, rope control systems for the sails and foils instead of hydraulics and relatively big foils to promote stability when flying. These all make the GC32 suitable for owner-drivers to helm and amateur crews to get foiling. However – as with any boat – becoming proficient and winning races, still requires practice and time on the water.
The GC32 Racing Tour’s Owner-Driver Championship was introduced last season when it went to the wire. Pierre Casiraghi on Malizia – Yacht Club de Monaco led going into the final event, but ultimately Jason Carroll’s Team Argo finished second overall at Marseille One Design, pipping the Monaco crew at the post.  

Jason Carroll and Team Argo claimed the 2016 GC32 Racing Tour Owner-Driver Championship. Photo ©: Sander van der Borch / www.sandervanderborch.com
With the GC32 Riva Cup, the first event on the GC32 Racing Tour, now just two weeks away, competition on the 2017 Owner-Driver Championship looks set to be more intense, all the teams one year more experienced. 

Team Argo is sailing with the same crew as it had for February’s GC32 Championship in Oman, including leading American Moth and big boat sailor Anthony Kotoun and British former Olympic and America’s Cup sailor Alister Richardson.
“Riva is one of our favourite venues and we're looking forward to returning next month,” says Carroll. “We are eager to take on the new teams as well as renewing our friendly rivalry with Pierre and the Malizia team.  Hopefully we can build on our strong finish to the 2016 season and achieve a good result in Riva.”

Best moments GC32 Racing Tour 2016
2016 GC32 Racing Tour highlights

Malizia – Yacht Club de Monaco enjoyed its first season the GC32 Racing Tour in 2016, with skipper Pierre Casiraghi, younger son of Princess Caroline of Monaco, getting to grips with the high speed GC32 catamaran under the expert tutelage of German round the world sailor Boris Herrmann and French former America’s Cup helmsman and Moth sailor Sebastien Col.

“We have the same crew from last year, which is a good point for us,” says Casiraghi. “We are all getting used to sailing together and we are really looking forward to starting in Garda. It is definitely the most exciting venue of the Tour. We have made some improvements from last year and we will try to get a better result.” He is gunning for a top five spot overall this season.

As to the 2017 Tour generally Casiraghi continues: “I am very happy we are going to Corsica. Calvi is very close to Monaco, it is like a second home for us – I have been going there since I was a kid. And Sardinia looks beautiful.”

Malizia has been busy training on the Bay of Palma and Casiraghi says they have been attempting to improve their starting and light wind performance with their regular coach Pierre-Alexis Ponsot and French Olympic coach Franck Citeau.

Above: Pierre Casiraghi at the helm of Malizia – Yacht Club de Monaco. Below: On board with Mamma Aiuto!. Photos: Jesus Renedo / GC32 Racing Tour. 

But this season the two favourites could well receive a surprise from the Land of the Rising Sun. For Naofumi Kamei’s Japanese team Mamma Aiuto!, 2016 was their first GC32 season and they too intend to build on the foiling catamaran knowledge they have gleaned.

Spain’s Manuel Weiller returns as Mamma Aiuto! mainsail trimmer/tactician along with Swedish powerhouse Jakob Gustafsson. New faces on board include Uruguay’s Diego Stefani, previously with ARMIN STROM Sailing Team and Softbank Team Japan bowman Federico Sampei. According to Weiller: “One of the goals for the owner is to include Japanese sailors, so we have Federico who will be sailing with us this year. Our boat captain is Japanese as well.” They have also employed experienced French multihull sailor Hervé Cunningham as coach.

Ties with the Japanese America’s Cup team remain close. Over the winter, Mamma Aiuto! has been training on their GC32 out of the Softbank Team Japan base in Bermuda. With this practice time and the owner helming the majority of the events this season, Mamma Aiuto! will be making a strong challenge.

“The owner was very happy last year – he likes the idea of fighting for something like the Owner-Driver championship,” concludes Weiller. “We want try to do better than last year, but mainly we just want to have fun and do our best.”

The GC32 Riva Cup will take place in Riva del Garda, Italy over 11-14th May. The remaining teams competing will be announced over the next two weeks including new additions from Spain and Argentina. 

2017 GC32 Racing Tour
1) 11-14 May – GC32 Riva Cup / Riva del Garda, Italy
2) 28 June-1 July – GC32 Villasimius Cup / Villasimius, Sardinia, Italy
3) 2-5 August – 36 Copa del Rey / Palma de Mallorca, Spain
4) 13-16 September – GC32 Orezza Corsica Cup, Calvi, Corsica
5) 12-15 October – Marseille One Design / Marseille, France

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