Top conditions expected for this week’s GC32 Lagos Cup

The GC32 Racing Tour for the Martin Fischer-designed one design foiling catamaran teams resumes this week in one of the circuit’s favourite venues. Lagos, Portugal, situated 10km away from Cape St Vincent, the southwesternmost tip of Europe, hosted two GC32 Racing Tour events as the world emerged from the pandemic in 2021 and repeated this in 2022. This year it again hosts the GC32 Lagos Cup, which will be the only event for the flying catamarans this season.

Black Star Sailing Team en route to their World Championship victory last year in Lagos. Photo: Sailing Energy / GC32 Racing Tour
Black Star Sailing Team en route to their World Championship victory last year in Lagos. Photo: Sailing Energy / GC32 Racing Tour

Aside from a hiatus during pandemic the GC32 Racing Tour has visited the harbour on Portugal’s Algarve coast every year since 2018, when it attracted backing from the town and region and enjoyed support from the local Lagos Yacht Club and its enthusiastic volunteers, both young and old. The venue is also perfect for the GC32 flying catamaran as it offers the potential for moderate to strong breeze off the Atlantic while also being sheltered by the land. This means that in prevailing northwesterlies, it can offer stiff breeze and flat water – the ideal scenario for racing foiling catamarans at top speed.

This week, the line-up will feature an owner-driver contest between two teams and another high-end battle between a fully pro SailGP team and the defending GC32 World Champions.

From Switzerland, Christian Zuerrer comes into this event having won the GC32 World Championship in 2022 on these waters with his Black Star Sailing Team. While Zuerrer privately owns his team, he is unique in trimming main on board rather than steering. This arrangement he has down to a fine art. For Lagos he has recruited the talents of none other than French ace Franck Cammas to be his helmsman. Alongside his many sailing accolades, such as winning the Volvo Ocean Race and Route du Rhum, Cammas comfortably won the GC32 Racing Tour in both 2016 and 2018 helming Norauto.

“We spent a week together with Franck in May for training and we have been here since Sunday,” says Zuerrer. “It looks good. He is different [to former helm Chris Steele] but in a good way. The training is more demanding but it is good to help us improve our manoeuvres.”

America’s Cup veteran Pier Luigi de Felice will be trimming with Will Alloway on the bow and new recruit, Emirates Team New Zealand’s Guy Endean, in the ‘floater’ position.

“We have been out in 5-25 knots so we have covered it all,” Zuerrer continues. “On Sunday we hit 38.7 knots, with our average around 34-36 knots in about 24-25 knots [of wind].” GC32s have been known to exceed 40 knots but that has usually been on a lake.

Black Star’s principle competition is Team Rockwool Racing, the SailGP team led by Nicolai Sehested. The Danes have spent less time in the GC32, but arrive race fit from the weekend’s Rolex United States Sail Grand Prix in Chicago where they finished a creditable fourth. Unlike Black Star Sailing Team, they will be sailing with the same line-up they had for 2022, which took them to second place behind Alinghi-Red Bull Racing in the opening Lagos event held almost exactly a year ago.

“Our approach has been working,” maintains Sehested. “We are getting to the stage where we put good performances in all the races that we do.” He hasn’t raced his GC32 since last year, but hopes it will be like riding a bike. “We like Lagos – it is warm, it is fun and hopefully we will get good sea breeze – we like the breezy conditions…”

Sehested is looking forward to racing Black Star Sailing Team. “For sure, we would love to have 10 teams here, but at least we can measure ourselves with the World Champions and with Franck Cammas they will push us really hard.”

The owner-driver GC32 bout this week will be between GC32 Class Association President, Australian Simon Delzoppo and the Polish ‘newbies’ of HRM Racing Team, who joined the GC32 Racing Tour in 2022. The Poles are led by Piotr Harasimowicz, CEO and Founder of IT outsourcing company Vector Synergy. A lifelong sailor, Harasimowicz has similar objectives for his campaign as Swiss Foiling Academy had in 2021 – to select, train and introduce selected young Polish dinghy sailors for high-performance sailing competition. To help them with this they have two French aces in double French Laser champion Jean-Baptiste Ducamin and former F18 catamaran champion and Team Engie GC32 crew Benjamin Amiot.

Meanwhile Simon Delzoppo is back in Europe from down under with his .film AUS Racing team. With the exception of trimmer Rhys Mara and James Wierzbowski, his crew is new to him, but all experienced GC32 racers. They include Bruno Mourniac and Thomas le Breton, who both spent countless seasons racing on board Zoulou. “Everyone is super experienced. Zoulou was very similar in how they ran their boat on board. It should settle in pretty quickly,” said Delzoppo. “I am looking forward to a little bit of relaxing sailing!”

Wearing his President’s hat, Delzoppo added: “We are very pleased that the GC32 Racing Tour is back in Lagos. All the teams here are good and looking at the forecast we can expect some great, high speed sailing.”

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the practice day with racing proper, run by PRO Stuart Childerley with the support of the Lagos Yacht Club, taking place from Thursday to Sunday with up to five races per day.

The GC32 Lagic Cup takes place with the support of local venue partners – City of Lagos, Sopromar, Marina de Lagos, Clube Vela de Lagos, Engel & Völkers, Sonel Hotel, Multirental, Oyster Select, Luzalbashop, AwiWorld and Galp.

Report: James Boyd / Sailing Intelligence

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