Lagos, the port on Portugal’s Algarve the GC32 Racing Tour, has been bringing its world class sailors to since 2018, laid on flat water, despite a 20 plus knot offshore north-westerly in the final race, demonstrating again why this is such an exceptional venue for foiling catamaran racing.
Wind and flat water are the perfect recipe for GC32s to hit top speeds and in the last race competitors got to sail their nimble flying catamarans at 35+ knots.
Today’s final race was a classic, with the Danes on Team Rockwool Racing and Christian Zuerrer’s Black Star Sailing Team pulling the trigger seconds before the gun, crossing the line at 30 knots, then accelerating towards the reaching mark.
Nicolai Sehested’s team led down the run ahead of Alinghi Red Bull Racing – SUI 15. Thanks to a big left shift, both rounded the right-hand gate and headed up the favoured right side as Team Tilt, .film AUS Racing and Black Star Racing split left before tacking.
The former group got headed severely, but were then in good shape when they tacked, but the separation to the left saw the latter group not headed, ultimately enabling Team Tilt to lead the Danes around the top gate.
After a brief period on port, both foiling gybed onto starboard and remained fully cranked for the remainder of the run. Team Rockwool Racing edged ahead of Team Tilt up the second beat, but the Swiss recovered, leading into the final top mark. Sadly, just after rounding they nearly capsized in a gust, enabling the Danes to take their second consecutive bullet.
“We were close at the last mark and then they got caught – there was a lot of trimming in that last race. You felt you were fighting your way into the lead,” recounted Team Rockwool Racing’s Rasmus Køstner, pleased with their 2-1-1.
“It is great racing and you really get punished when you make a mistake. It’s fantastic to be sailing in breeze, doing 35 knots on the reach.” Going into the final day, the Danes hold second, 14 points behind Alinghi Red Bull Racing – SUI 15.
“It was an amazing race,” agreed Team Tilt’s helmsman Sébastien Schneiter. “On the downwind we were sitting on 36 knots the whole way! Everyone did a good job, but on the last reach we lost control in a gust.”
While Arnaud Psarofaghis , helming Alinghi Red Bull Racing – with the America’s Cup challenger’s development crew for this event – had a modest time (lowest scoring boat for a third day; winning just one race), finally the crew on his regular ride, SUI 8, scored a bullet in today’s first race.
However, in the second they fell off their foils only for Black Star Sailing Team to run into them. SUI 8 sustained some damage but could continue racing.
“We started the day well, with Nico [Charbonnier] doing very good tactics and strategy,” recounted SUI 8’s helm Maxime Bachelin of their win. “We gained a lot on the last upwind and we caught up a lot…”
Looking generally at the day he continued: “It was tricky with my low experience on the GC32. It was hard to anticipate the pressure coming so on the last race we almost pitchpoled twice because I didn’t bear away fast enough.”
However, he is enjoying the 10-boat fleet: “The level on the GC32 Racing Tour is very good and we can now play with the best in the world.” In today’s breezy last race SUI 8 hit 36 knots which Bachelin admitted was the fastest he has ever sailed.
Continuing her ‘one race win per day’ tradition was Erik Maris’ Zoulou, outgunning many of the pro teams and clear leader among this event’s owner-drivers. She won today’s second race, but followed up with some deep results leaving her third, 14 points adrift of second. In the race Zoulou won, she started well, but it was a favourable shift that launched her into the lead.
“It was exciting and very challenging conditions,” explained Zoulou’s America’s Cup winning mainsheet trimmer Thierry Fouchier. “The wind was up and down, with big shifts and gusts hitting the boat hard, so you had just milli-seconds to react, which was challenging.”
In the final races, on two occasions, Zoulou nearly went over, but as Fouchier said, with a sign of relief “We survived. Fortunately, Thomas [Le Breton] is doing a great job on the tactics, calling the puffs and shifts.”
Had it not been for the collision, Black Star Sailing Team would have had her best day.
“It was Lagos at its best, a great day, maybe a bit windy for the last race,” observed Christian Zuerrer. “I like stronger winds rather than the shiftier conditions we had on the first two days. It is physically hard, but it is good racing.”
Black Star Sailing Team touched 39 knots on the first reach of the last race.
The GC32 Lagos Cup is supported by the City of Lagos and Tourism Portugal, plus Sopromar, Marina de Lagos and Clube de Vela de Lagos.
With the aim of getting another five races in, the first warning signal tomorrow will be an hour earlier at 1200.
Entries: GC32 Lagos Cup
Alinghi Red Bull Racing – SUI 8 (SUI) Skipper: Maxime Bachelin
Alinghi Red Bull Racing – SUI 15 (SUI) Skipper: Arnaud Psarofaghis
Black Star Sailing Team (SUI) Owner: Christian Zuerrer
.film AUS Racing (AUS) Owner-driver: Simon Delzoppo
HRM Racing Team (POL) Owner-driver: Piotr Harasimowicz
K-Challenge Team France (FRA) Skipper: Quentin Delapierre
Team Rockwool Racing (DEN) Skipper: Nicolai Sehested
Team Canada (CAN) Skipper: Graeme Sutherland
Team Tilt (SUI) Skipper: Sébastien Schneiter
Zoulou (FRA) Owner-driver: Erik Maris
Follow the tracking and the live blog at: http://www.gc32racingtour.com