Racing for the GC32 foiling catamarans will be taken to a new level in 2015, when at least seven boats will compete on a five event European circuit, managed by a new organisation with racing run by world class officials.
“Now that we have established the class and it is growing, it is time to bring on additional people with specific areas of expertise,” says Laurent Lenne, the Amsterdam-based French businessman, who conceived the GC32 foiling catamaran and its racing circuit.
“Take the race management: like the America’s Cup, this is a new way of racing, and you need to have continuity to provide good quality racing and to maintain safety. For example if we had different race management at each event, with 10-12 boats going 35 knots, then we would run into safety issues. So we are trying to tick all the boxes, to create stability, so that when new owners come in, they have a good feeling about what they are getting into.”
To run the newly rechristened GC32 Racing Tour, a Class Manager was appointed earlier this year in Christian Peer, who runs the sports marketing agency evcom GmbH in Austria. Prior to being employed by the GC32 Racing Tour, Peer was Event Content and Schedule Manager and Head of AC Event TV for the 34th America’s Cup and worked on all different fields for the 33rd AC and the Louis Vuitton Trophy in 2010. He has also been a project manager for the RC44 Austria Cup and RC44 Cup Miami and worked for big European sailing events such as Kiel Week and Traunsee Week. Besides sailing, his agency is involved in sport sponsoring in other sports including handball, ice hockey and basketball.
“The last year has shown the potential of the GC32 class, but now it is up to all of us to take it to the next level. Our class management team for next year consist of experts in every field, from race management, through event operations to media and video production, however we are sure that the biggest strength of this class will be the owners. There is no doubt about this class reaching a high level of racing, but on shore we want to build a new and different community for owners and foiling enthusiasts.”
The intention is for the GC32 Racing Tour to be distinctly different from other catamaran circuits such as the M32s and Extreme Sailing Series.
In particular, as racing will be for ultra-high performance foiling catamarans, very short stadium sailing courses are not appropriate. While efforts will be made to lay marks close to shore, courses will be longer with the emphasis placed upon maintaining a high standard of racing.
David Campbell-James, an experienced Principal Race Officer (PRO) and former Olympic Tornado sailor, will handle the race management. Campbell-James is currently Class Race Officer for the Olympic 49ers and runs major championships for leading dinghy classes as such as the Optimists, Cadets, Lasers and RS:Xes, plus match racing events, notably the Argo Group Gold Cup.
“I am delighted to be invited to be PRO for the new GC32 circuit and I am really looking forward to a great year of competition in these truly spectacular catamarans,” said Campbell-James. He will be supported by France’s Anne Mallédant-Vadré, who was PRO for the GC32s at the Marseille One Design in September.
Similarly Portugal’s Miguel Allen has been appointed Chief Umpire for the GC32 Racing Tour. Allen holds this role with the 52 Super Series and is part of the umpire team for the RC44s, Alpari World Match Racing Tour and Volvo Ocean Race. But crucially, he holds previous experience of foiling catamaran racing, having been one of the umpires for the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco.
While sponsored boats will and already have been competing in the class, the majority of GC32s are privately owned. In this respect Christian Peer sees the GC32s being in the middle ground between Melges 32/RC44 and fully commercial circuits like the Extreme Sailing Series: “We are trying to create a big family here, and members should have a great time doing what they love to do, offering a great platform for sponsors, media and friends and to showcase the new way of sailing. It will be the owners who define the road we are taking, but we will also keep an eye on the commercial side of it. The core goal however is to be a stand-alone operation that doesn’t necessarily need sponsors to finance all the events, so we can guarantee a long lifetime of the project.”
To this end a GC32 Class Association has been set-up to ensure that owner’s interests are best represented. President of this is Swiss former Olympic Star sailor Flavio Marazzi, skipper of Armin Strom Sailing Team. Marazzi explains: “If people invest in a boat, they want to be involved – maybe they will never change anything, but they want to be able to, whether it is event dates or venues, so that all the owners agree.”
Marazzi anticipates that local fleets of GC32s will grow around the world and foresees circuits developing in Europe, the USA and, over the northern hemisphere winter, in Australia. Laurent Lenne agrees: “Continental racing is something we want – it is very good for owners, because they don’t want to go to Asia if they don’t live there- it is too far away and takes too much time.
“Right now Europe is set up for next year and our idea is to have a circuit going in the USA, maybe by the end of 2015. After that I think it would be good to have a circuit in Australia/Asia because we are getting more and more requests from there.”
The 2015 Europe venues and new teams for the 2015 GC32 Racing Tour will be announced in due course. In the meantime three GC32s will be practicing, tuning up and racing in Miami and Key West from the beginning of November until mid-January.
– Great Cup Media