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GC32 Racing Tour blown out on opening day of the Marseille One Design

by Icarus Sailing Media on 14 Oct 2016
Storm-driven waves crash on to Marseille's Frioul Islands - GC32 Racing Tour – Marseille One Design Sander van der Borch / Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour
A solid 40 knot easterly with gusts of more than 50, put paid to any thoughts of racing on the opening day of Marseille One Design, the final event on the 2016 GC32 Racing Tour.

The GC32 Racing Tour organisers, along with Sirius Events, organiser of Marseille One Design, made the call to cancel racing last night when it became obvious that gale would be battering France’s second largest city and the Rade Sud course area for the entire day.

“Right now we can see that it was a good decision, because we have 40 knots and gusts of 45 knots, so it is safer not to go racing,” explained GC32 Racing Tour's principal race officer, Anne Mallédant, as powerful gusts rocked the race committee’s office at Marseille’s Roucas Blanc Marina. According to the forecasts, the easterly gale is set in until tomorrow midday, after which, Mallédant says, there might be a window to get some racing in. “It depends on the position of the centre of the depression – at the moment the weather models disagree about that.”

Typically the GC32s don’t race in winds above 25 knots, although in reality it is more sea state dependent. However, unlike many inshore race boats, the GC32s are more flexible in the conditions in which they can race because their mainsails are fitted with a reef.

Sebastien Rogues, skipper of Team ENGIE, agreed with the decision: “Outside it is 40 knots, sometimes more, and with a GC32 it is much better to stay in port in that! Tomorrow the wind will drop during the day. After lunch it may be perfect.” With racing cancelled, Team ENGIE has spent today training ashore in the gym or with their coaches. “And later, we’re going karting…” says Rogues.

The GC32 Class Association has been using the opportunity of this last event of the season to make plans for the future.

Following Sharon Ferris-Choat’s participation with Flavio Marazzi’s ARMIN STROM Sailing Team on the GC32 Racing Tour and of the all-female crew on Team Thalassa Magenta at last week’s Extreme Sailing Series in Lisbon, so the class has revised its rules governing the make-up of crews.

From next season on GC32 crews will comprise either five male crew or six crew if at least two are female.

Christian Scherrer, Class Manager of the GC32 International Class Association, explains: “We are keen to open up the sport and enable women to compete on equal terms with male crews. It will also allow mixed crews to race the GC32s.”

Sharon Ferris-Choat welcomed the change, especially as maximum combined crew weight will remain at 437.5kg. “It has opened up the GC32 fleet to all sailors, not just the big guys, that is to say: Women, youth and smaller men. On a six person crew, average weight will be 72kg, whereas at the moment it is 85kg. I am proud to be part of the driving force behind this change and provide this opportunity to other sailors.”

Ferris-Choat says that the optimum for 2017 will probably be four men and two women. She hopes the team she runs with Flavio Marazzi may be able to field teams on both the Extreme Sailing Series and the GC32 Racing Tour in 2017.

At the Annual General Meeting for the GC32 Class Association, former Olympic Star sailor Flavio Marazzi was re-elected for another two years as President. Marazzi is being joined on the GC32 Class Association board by Pierre Casiraghi, skipper of Malizia-Yacht Club de Monaco and Harry Spedding, Technical Team Leader of the Extreme Sailing Series.
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.

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