NORAUTO foils to victory in Sotogrande
NORAUTO dominated the final day of competition in Spain to win the GC32 La Reserva de Sotogrande Cup. Racing in a light westerly Levante wind, Adam Minoprio’s desire to win the leeward position on the start line put NORAUTO in front in all three races, and he went on to win two of them.
Minoprio was pleased to have pushed the starts hard and made it work: “If you win the starts you put yourself in a good place to win the race. Today we wanted the pin end of the line which is pretty high risk. It either works if you get it right or it can go badly wrong if you’re late because the other boats will roll you. But we defended that position pretty hard, especially in the last race against ARMIN STROM.”
Where NORAUTO really dominated was in the strong breeze at the start of the regatta, taking the first seven races and going on to score a total of ten bullets from 15 races. “We had 15 to 25 knots on the first day and our practice in the boat really paid off,” said Minoprio. “We could sail the boat flatter, more stable with less touchdowns, which all adds up to more speed. But the other teams are getting faster with every event, every race in fact, and the owner-drivers are improving quickly too. The level has really gone up since the start of the season.”
Team Tilt took a while to come good in this regatta, but it was his 21st birthday yesterday that seemed to push Sébastien Schneiter up a gear, as he won two races on Saturday and won another today, steering the Swiss boat comfortably to second overall. Team Tilt had their moments in the stronger breeze at the beginning of the regatta but looked very good in the lighter winds of the last two days.
Schneiter said: “I’m happy with how we are doing manoeuvres, the speed is improving, but starting is my weak point at the moment.” Only recently returned from the Olympics where he represented Switzerland in the 49er with team mate Lucien Cujean, the 21-year-old is bound to get better quickly. “I only had two days on the helm before this event, and the same for Lucien on the mainsheet, so we were not feeling as sharp as we could be. But we’re happy with this result.”
The battle for third was wide open going into the final day’s racing, and any of four boats were well within range of the podium. In the first race, Team ENGIE put down a strong claim, finishing second behind NORAUTO but with Realteam just behind in third. In the next race NORAUTO took an early lead but was overtaken on the first downwind by Team Tilt, and then ARMIN STROM moved past Minoprio too, Flavio Marazzi claiming a useful second place in his bid for the podium.
In the final race, with NORAUTO and Team Tilt fast off the line and into their customary positions at the front of the fleet, it was Realteam’s turn to shine, taking third place ahead of the Japanese team Mamma Aiuto!. ENGIE could only manage sixth place in this heat, but as it turned out it was still sufficient to claim third overall.
ENGIE skipper Sébastien Rogues said: “It’s great to get on the podium for the first time. Bertrand Dumortier has been coaching us here and helping us in a number of areas, including working on our starts. I come from the offshore scene where you race for many days, so it doesn’t really matter if you start 20 minutes late. Here you can’t afford to be a second late, and we were better at our time and distance in Sotogrande.”
Pierre Casiraghi was disappointed to have finished sixth in Sotogrande after being within striking distance of the podium this morning, but he leads overall in the Owner/Driver standings. His victory in Race 9 shows that Casiraghi can mix it with the best when he can get his timing accurate on the all-important start. But he was tougher on himself, kicking himself for some avoidable mistakes. “If we sail like we did today, we don’t deserve much success,” said Casiraghi. “I need to improve my starting, and cut out the silly errors like the black flag disqualification. It will be a battle to get fourth overall in the season but that’s what we’re aiming for. I need to listen to Seb Col and the guys more, focus more, and maybe it’s possible.”
Interest continues to grow in the GC32 Racing Tour, and Iker Martinez was in Sotogrande earlier this week, checking out the scene. "The GC32 is a great boat and I have good hopes of being on the Tour next year,” said the Olympic gold medallist and Volvo Ocean Race skipper.
It’s just a few weeks to go before the climax of the 2016 season, when nine GC32s will be competing at Marseille One Design from 13 to 16 October. There are many battles yet to be decided, with Argo returning to the competition to fight with Malizia for the owner-driver trophy.