Newest game in town
GC32 racing finally gets underway tomorrow with the start of the GC32 Austria Cup, part of Allianz Traunsee Week presented by BMW.
While there appeared to be no wind on Lake Traunsee today for the practice races and 'media day', the experienced race committee, led by former Star Olympic sailor Stefan Puxkandl, moved the three GC32 catamarans down to the southern end of the lake at Ebensee and the area known as ‘Little Garda’, where there always seems to be the most breeze on this picture postcard Austrian lake.
All the teams got a chance to race with different winners in each of these informal races: Marwin Team of Swiss Star sailor Flavio Marazzi taking the first, Laurent Lenne’s Spax Solution Sailing Team claiming the second and their Dutch team mates, Firefly, first home in the third.
The Great Cup’s Chief Operating Officer Andrew Macpherson says that the one design aspect of the Martin Fischer-designed 32ft catamarans and the equality of their performance is working: “Over the last few days of test racing, we’ve all been lining up and no one seems faster.”
For the first time today all the crews and their skippers assembled. Austria’s great hope is AEZ GC32 Racing skipper Andreas Hagara, who over his lengthy career in the Olympic Tornado catamaran has been World Champion and has won 15 medals at World and European championship level. Hagara has also competed in the Extreme Sailing Series and was skipper of the China Team AC45.
Hagara is enthusiastic about The Great Cup and the GC32 catamaran: “I think the concept is really good, the size is good, it is state of the art, the latest you can get, apart from the wing rig [which the GC32 doesn’t have, but is fitted to the AC45 and AC72 America’s Cup catamarans], but that is not in line with the idea of the boat - a wing wouldn’t work for private owners.”
The Austrian catamaran sailing legend describes the GC32 as a light boat that is “aggressive to sail - it has a lot of square metres on the rig.” However he adds that with the ability to rake the boat’s foils aft so that they lift the bows, make the GC32 one of the safest catamarans he has ever sailed.
The foils Hagara refers to are S-shaped, as seen on the AC72s catamarans. As well as preventing leeway, these provide vertical lift, but in the lighter conditions expected on the lake it is unlikely there will be enough wind to get the lightweight catamarans fully airborne. Hagara acknowledges it is early days. When competition gets underway tomorrow it will be the first time the brand new GC32s will have ever raced in anger. “We don’t know how to use them yet! We have had no time to find out.”
One of the surprise figures in the GC32 fleet is Mikael Lundh, best known for having competed in two Volvo Ocean Races aboard Swedish Match and on djuice dragons. Lundh is racing on Spax Solution Sailing Team with The Great Cup’s creator, Laurent Lenne. “I think the boats are fantastic. They are really powerful and I think they will be easy to handle for owners.”
While historically catamarans have had issues tacking, this is far from the case with the GC32, Lundh confirms: “Tacking isn’t an issue, even in light airs, although if you completely screw it up, it’ll be a problem. People are very surprised coming on board that it just takes off again. We had a few tacks yesterday in 8 knots of breeze when we went from lifting a hull and then coming out of a tack straight to lifting a hull again.”
Swiss skipper Flavio Marazzi is better known for sailing the stately Olympic Star keelboat. A lightweight catamaran capable of 30+ knots downwind and sailing at two to three times wind speed is a very different proposition. He has acquired his GC32 because it is versatile. “This is a boat designed to be sailed in all conditions including waves and 25 knots. I am looking forward to sailing in big breeze, but I’m looking forward to the Lake Geneva races as well,” Marazzi adds, referring to the Geneve-Rolle-Geneve and Bol d’Or Mirabaud, the events next up for the GC32s after this.
A man who is particularly looking forward to tomorrow’s debut of The Great Cup, is the series’ creator Amsterdam-based Frenchman Laurent Lenne. One year and four months on from starting this project, tomorrow his dream becomes reality.
“The Great Cup should be about great locations, great fun, great sailing and to create a good culture so that everyone has fun, from the venue point of view, sailors and sponsors,” Lenne (below) said.
While a race from Gmunden at the northern of the lake down to Ebensee at its southern end and back was scheduled for tomorrow, instead this is likely to be postponed until Thursday, or whenever conditions look best. Instead tomorrow will see the start of the first of the GC32 Austria Cup’s windward-leeward races.