Norauto firing on five cylinders
Adam Minoprio steered NORAUTO to five straight victories on a breezy first day at the GC32 La Reserva de Sotogrande Cup in the south of Spain.
The warm Poniente westerly breeze was blowing around 14 knots at the start of the afternoon but later picked up to gusting 20 knots, with the fleet putting a reef in their mainsails after two of the five races. It didn’t matter what configuration the GC32s were racing in, however, NORAUTO was the master of all situations.
Even when Minoprio pulled the trigger slightly too soon at the start of Race 3, the French team completed its penalty efficiently and was already vying for the lead at the bottom of the first downwind leg. “The other boats rounded the first turning mark a bit wide and we managed a tighter turn which put us on the inside track before the first gybe,” said Minoprio, whose two years of solid training with Luna Rossa, the now disbanded America’s Cup team, has stood him in good stead for mastering the new science of high-speed hydrofoiling.
NORAUTO winning on day one in Sotogrande. Photo: Jesus Renedo / GC32 Racing Tour
Team Tilt, with helmsman Sébastien Schneiter recently returned from competing at the Olympic Games in Rio 2016, was looking sharp, coming second in three of the five races. However gear failure led to a retirement from Race 4 which has added expensive points to their score. However the Swiss still hold second place overall on the leaderboard, on equal points with third-placed Team ENGIE who sailed a great day, completing all races and finishing second in race four.
Malizia – Yacht Club de Monaco also sailed a very solid day, coming second in the first race and finishing all races, refusing to allow a problem with their mast track defeat them as they limped across the finish line of one race a long way behind the rest of the fleet. Realteam got better as the day went on, Jérôme Clerc steering the Swiss boat to third place in the final two heats, and sitting in fifth overall. Flavio Marazzi was less happy with his outing on ARMIN STROM after the boat succumbed to equipment failure that put him out of the second and third races before getting back on the race course to complete the day. Normally Marazzi and his crew – which includes World Match Racing Champion Phil Robertson – love the big breeze so today will be seen as a missed opportunity for the Swiss crew.
For Naofumi Kamei, it’s early days at the helm of his GC32 called Mamma Aiuto!, and today’s strong winds were a big challenge for the team which is still short on training time. The crew is not inexperienced; it includes two 49er stars, former World Champion Javier de la Plaza and 2008 Olympic Champion Martin Kirketerp, but things happen quickly in the GC32 and there is no margin for error as De la Plaza explained: “We had just got on to the downwind leg in the second race and the boat was riding too high on the foil. We should have been running it lower so that the boat was riding lower to the water.”
The boat leapt out of the water before crashing back down at great speed, the boat rapidly decelerating from 32 knots to a dead stop. Kamei and crewman Manuel Weiller were thrown up in the air, over the top of the crew and past the front beam before they landed in the water. While Kamei escaped without injury, Weiller was taken ashore and to hospital to have an injury to his knee checked over. No major damage, although it looks unlikely Weiller will be part of the race crew for the next three days of the event.
On Friday the breeze looks lighter in Sotogrande which will come as a relief to some, although probably not NORAUTO who – at a top speed of 37 knots today – looked majestic and very much in command of the challenging conditions of day one. Friday's racing begins at 1300 CET.