The GC32 Racing Tour wants to take off again


Repost from Tip & Shaft Magazine

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28 June 2021 – GC32 

After a year off due to Covid, the GC32 Racing Tour resumes next week with the first of four events of the season in Lagos, Portugal. Six teams are on the starting line, a lower participation than in previous years, but which should increase during the season. Tip & Shaft takes a look at this circuit where owners and professionals meet.

The pioneering GC32 Racing Tour, launched in 2015, is entering its sixth season in Lagos after a blank year in 2020, despite attempts by its director, Christian Scherrer, to salvage what could be salvaged. “We tried to organise two events, in Lagos and on Lake Garda, but with the limitation of international travel, we weren’t going to do a three-boat event, so we cancelled.  It was a complicated year, we spent our time making plans B and C, it was a lot of work to finally not race. “

Announced last December, the programme for the 2021 season also had to be revised: “We should have started earlier, in April in Port-Camargue, and then done a second event in Riva del Garda, but we were again forced to readjust the schedule. We tried to be pragmatic and to do something simpler and more concentrated, with the objective also of not spending too much money because last year was complicated”, continues the Swiss.

The season will therefore comprise four events (as opposed to the usual five), the first two in Lagos, Portugal (30 June-4 July and 28 July-1 August), the third, the world championship, in September in Villasimius (Sardinia), and the fourth in November on the salt lake of Mar Menor, south of Murcia (Spain).

Between 300,000 and 500,000 euros in budget for the season

The overall budget of the GC32 Racing Tour, which according to Christian Scherrer is in the region of 500,000 euros (without the contributions in kind and in services from the cities), is financed by the entry fees: 10,000 euros per event, so 40,000 this year for the teams doing the whole circuit. But also by the cities, even if this contribution will probably be readjusted a little this year: “Normally, there is a 60,000 euro venue fee and services, but in the current context, it is difficult to ask something from the cities, which necessarily have other priorities”, explains the organiser. For the participating teams, a mix of owners and professionals, Christian Scherrer evokes an annual operating budget of “300,000 to 500,000 euros”, knowing that a second-hand GC32 is negotiated between 150,000 and 200,000 euros, no construction being in the works. A range more or less confirmed by the teams we interviewed: at Alinghi, it amounts to 320,000 euros “excluding salaries”; for the youngsters of the Swiss Foiling Academy, it is more modest, “300,000 Swiss francs” (275,000 euros) according to co-skipper Julien Monnier; for the Black Star Sailing Team, a Swiss team launched in 2019, its boss Christian Zuerrer (11 participations in the Tour Voile) estimates expenses at around 400,000 euros for the year.

Teams which, for the opening of the season, are six in number (there are 27 boats in the world), as in 2019. This is however less than in 2018 (7 over the whole season), 2017 (9) and 2016 (11). It’s a small fleet, but it’s a good base,” says Christian Scherrer. Because of travel restrictions, it’s only European teams, but in the second part of the season, especially for the Worlds, we should have the Americans (Argo), some Australians, the Swiss from Team Tilt, and probably two or three others – I think we should get to ten boats at the Worlds. “

Sébastien Rogues: “I’ve largely found what I want here”

Absent this season, Sébastien Schneiter, 2018 world champion on Team Tilt (Alinghi was crowned in 2019), confirms his probable arrival in Villasimius: “This year, as we are participating in the 49er Games (with Lucien Cujean), it was not possible to take part in the circuit, but we hope to show up at the world championship. The GC32 remains a good medium with simple boats, excellent teams, good visibility for sponsors and the possibility of bringing guests on each day of competition. “Indeed, despite its age (it was launched in 2014), the GC32 remains an attractive boat in the eyes of all those who remain loyal to the circuit. “Compared to the new boats, it still has a great card to play, we call it our moped!” says Thierry Fouchier, who is in charge of the mainsail trimming for the Zoulou crew, led by an owner-driver, Erik Maris. It’s a really nice boat and quite complete, we’re all abseiling in the straps, it’s quite physical and it requires a lot of coordination in the manoeuvres. When you come back in the evening, everyone has a good feeling. “

Ex of the circuit on which he spent three years under the colours of Engie, Sébastien Rogues, today at the helm of Ocean Fifty Primonial, is full of praise for the boat and the tour: “In terms of adrenaline, technique and above all learning to fly, which was the main objective for us when we entered the GC32, I have largely found my satisfaction. The boats are amazing, sometimes we were downwind at 35 knots trying to do our lay-line. You might think from the outside that it’s an owner’s circuit, but the level is huge. “

“What I like about GC32 is the strict one design, it’s direct sport, it’s the team that makes the difference, not the size or the technology of the boat,” adds Christian Zuerrer from Switzerland. His compatriot Nils Frei, now a coach at Alinghi after having been part of the crew since the team’s GC32 debut in 2015, agrees: “It’s a boat we really like, the one we learned to sail together as a team. It’s healthy, fast, fun and easy to set up, you don’t spend a lot of time setting up and taking down. And above all, it allows you to do good level racing, there aren’t that many events on the foiling circuit today. “

Three out of six teams are Swiss

Like Zulu, Alinghi is combining the GC32 Racing Tour and the TF35 Trophy this year, two circuits that are trying not to step on each other’s toes to allow for bridges: “There are discussions between the two classes that are agreeing on the calendar,” confirms Nils Frei. He also believes that the two are complementary: “They are two rather different flying concepts, but we can learn things on one that we can apply to the other and vice versa. It’s still two foiling boats that go fast and where communication is extremely important. “Thierry Fouchier adds: “The two supports are complementary in terms of the cohesion they require, on the other hand, the TF is a new concept with a boat that flies upwind very early on and an automatic flight system; in the GC32, the flight and trim part is adjusted manually, there is more of a human touch and feeling.” Of the six teams competing this season, three are in fact Swiss (Alinghi, Swiss Foiling Academy, Black Star), a coincidence? Foiling has really developed a lot in Switzerland,” answers Nils Frei. Our waters, with not too many waves on the lakes and thermal conditions that allow the boats to fly early on, are well adapted. People have seen the GC32s evolve, they have been impressed and have taken a liking to it, like Realteam, Tilt, Black Star now. “

And Swiss Foiling Academy, the little thumb of the 2021 season, which arrives with a project focused on young people and diversity: “We have set up a flying boat school to pass on our knowledge to young people who do not necessarily have the means to access this type of boat and to help new talent emerge, explains Julien Monnier. The idea, at the beginning, was to provide a pool of crew for the TF35s, but as the budgets are quite high, we thought that before bringing them on such machines, we had to teach them to sail on 100% manual boats, which led us to the GC32, the model above the Flying Phantom, on which we started the school. We want to stay on the circuit as long as possible, it’s a great opportunity to compete with professional teams like Alinghi or Red Bull.

A boat to develop?

Newcomers to the SailGP circuit this season, Team Rockwool Racing from Denmark, are also using the GC32 Racing Tour to increase their flying hours, as skipper Nicolai Sehested tells Tip & Shaft: “For us, the GC32 Racing Tour is a great opportunity to hone our foiling skills on a fast boat and, more importantly, to compete against other top teams and sailors in race conditions. As one of the newer teams in SailGP, we know that we can’t close the gap on the top teams without doing more than the others. For a new team like ours with a long-term vision, the GC32 Racing Tour is a perfect opportunity. “Some are doing it, like Rockwool, maybe the Spanish because there’s going to be an event there, but I think it’s quite different from the F50 and a lot of guys would rather go and do the Moth World Championship on Lake Garda. “

For Thierry Fouchier, the solution to attracting F50 teams could be through an evolution of the boat: “The only thing this boat lacks is to fly upwind, it’s the fashion now, it could be a natural evolution to allow the boat to stay in the game. “

Photo : Sailing Energy / GC32 Racing Tour