Driving forceMartin Billoch, well-known Argentina-based designer, sailor and the GP 26 ORC Class manager, expects to see six new GP 26’s racing in his waters by March and another six when the first GP 26 National Championship kicks off in November.
Billoch is one of the main driving forces behind the GP 26 class in his region. Last year he sailed his first year in his own design and 2008 he opened with some good GP 26 sailing in the Suma de Puntos - Circuito Atlántico Sur Rolex Cup 2008. Billoch sailed his Basilisco II to a 1st and a 2nd during the regatta as their best scores, and ended in a very decent 10th place overall.
“We showed that the GP boats can race and win races also under the ORC International rule. We found it easier to defend on Windward/Leeward courses than on a downwind race, even though on the downwind races we always finished miles ahead the opposition,” he said
Taking a step back from the recent success we asked Billoch how it was to launch one of the first GP 26’s: “It was a nice experience. Designing, building and racing your own boat is a nice feeling, I designed and raced my own IOR quarter-tonner some time ago. But this time I also did the building part of the project, so it feels even better because you have the complete control of every bit of the project.
“From the beginning my plan was to have a boat very early in the water in order to learn more about this type of sailing. We learned that this type of boats is fast, very fast, and rates accordingly. So it is not easy to defend ratings under some conditions. We raced under IMS, IRC, and PHRF. We were most successful under PHRF, where we won overall in our National Championship against a strong 78 boats fleet.
“Under IRC and IMS we also won races, sometimes by big margins on downwind races, but we also won some windward-leeward races when the wind was higher than 20 knots or less than 6 knots,” said Billoch.
Right now there are at least 10 designs of the GP 26 class and there are boats from Brazil, Chile, Argentina, USA, Australia, Greece, Russia, and Italy already in the water or underway.
After his first season Billoch has changed a few details on his design and is in the process of building a new hull mould. A boat yard in Uruguay will start producing this design as soon as the mould is finished.
In March they will start racing under GP 26 rules with six boats, and in November the first national regatta will start with probably 12 boats on the starting line. In January 2009 the first Global Regatta will kick of and Billoch thinks this will be a huge leap forward for the class.
“This first Global Regatta will bring more boats in to the area for sure," commented Billoch. "Sailors in Europe should organize a European regatta tour in order to pull all the boats together. At the end of the European summer they can ship them collectively to us and we all can continue racing and sail the Global Regatta together.”
The GP 26 has just launched their brand new website and you can view it here: http://www.gp26.org.