by John Friend
The EUROSAF High Performance Grand Prix will mark the start of an innovative new event for some of dinghy sailing’s most ground breaking classes. The event is set to take place next month in Mar Menor, in the Murcia region of Spain.
Region of Murcia Trophy - Audi MedCup Circuit 2011
Organised by the European Sailing Federation, generously sponsored by the Region de Murcia, and taking place over 12-16 October, the event is aimed at non-Olympic classes, but ones which some time in the future may feature in the Olympic Games. The most imminent of these is the selection of the Women’s Skiff for Rio 2016 and among the line-up of classes taking part at the EUROSAF High Performance Grand Prix is one of the candidates under review - the 29erXX.
Since the event was announced in March this year, the 29erXX, D-One, Formula 18 catamaran, kiteboards and International Moth classes, originally invited, are to be joined by the A-Class. These single-handed catamarans represent one of the most popular development classes in sailing, with 100 boats competing at their recent World Championship in Aarhus, Denmark.
For EUROSAF Vice-President Rafa González and organiser of the event, the EUROSAF High Performance Grand Prix for the Region of Murcia Trophy has been a long time in gestation. 'Finally after many years of trying to develop something interesting for the Region of Murcia, we have found the key. In order not to disturb the Olympic classes calendar, we thought it would be a good step to hold an event representing the future of sailing featuring the high performance classes, held under the EUROSAF umbrella.'
One of the key features of the event, to be held out of the High Performance Sailing Centre Infanta Cristina in Los Alcázares, Murcia, will be the inclusion of kiteboards among the sailing boats. Kiteboarding is another discipline that is under consideration for inclusion in the Olympic Games.
The International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) is holding its first ever ISAF-sanctioned Slalom World Champion at the Grand Prix, part of their Kite Cross discipline. Markus Schwendther, Executive Secretary of the International Kiteboarding Association, compares this with Snowboard Cross, now part of the Winter Olympics. 'It is more about speed and being spectacle, than tactics,' he admits with competitors having to round four to eight marks on a downwind course.
Region of Murcia Trophy - Audi MedCup Circuit 2011
The IKA is pleased to be taking part in the event backed by the Region of Murcia. 'It is excellent to showcase classes that aren’t so much in the spotlight, but can be attractive to the media and spectators,' says Schwendther.
Their World Championship will work in elimination rounds where the best 50% advance on to the next round, although the numbers on the race course can vary according to conditions. Typically 32 men are expected to be taking part and around 16 women. Among those competing are Caroline Adrien (FRA), top course racer and world ranking leader; Kristin Boese (GER) nine time World Champion in various disciplines; while among the men there will be Julien Kerneur (FRA), course racing world ranking leader and European Champion and Damien Leroy (USA), the Vice-World Champion.
As most of the classes taking part have their own style of race courses, Rafael Gonzalez says that they are likely to split the classes between four courses across the Mar Menor, Murcia’s giant landlocked lagoon where the event is to be held.
Finn Olympic silver medallist in 2000, Luca Devoti is bringing his fleet of D-One single-handers. 'It is a fantastic concept,' he says of the event. 'To have these new boats and to be able to try new things and to finally have the federations promoting sailing for fun, rather than just focussing on Olympic classes – that is nice and it will be great to sail alongside the other classes like the F18s and 29erXXes. Murcia is a beautiful place and it will be warm there at that time.'
The Moth, particularly photogenic through their ability to get airborne through the use of foils, is already very familiar with Mar Menor. This is the venue where Alan Hillman’s company holds the Pro-Vela Mar Menor Moth Fest each year. The Moth is also another class that has been gunning for inclusion in the line-up of Olympic sailing equipment.
Among the competitors at the EUROSAF High Performance Grand Prix, assuming he recovers from a hand injury, will be double Moth World Champion Simon Payne. 'It is very refreshing to see people putting together classes of boats that people are talking about,' says Payne, who adds that he is looking forward to the opportunity at some point over the course of the event to line up with some of the other classes, in particular the singlehanded A-Class catamarans.
'They are both performance single-handers. It will be an interesting test to see how these classes perform. I think it will be very exciting. This is our chance to fly.'
The EUROSAF High Performance Grand Prix takes place over 11-16th October with a practice racing scheduled for 12th October with racing beginning in earnest the following day. The entry lists remain open.