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Defending champions return for next week's GC32 World Championship

by GC32 Racing Tour 23 Jun 03:44 PDT 26-30 June 2019
The full GC32 Racing Tour fleet. © Sailing Energy / GC32 Racing Tour

The 2019 World Championship for the GC32 flying catamaran class sets sail from the historic port of Lagos close to the southwesternmost tip of Europe on Portugal's Algarve coast next week over 26-30th June.

Taking place with the support of the City of Lagos, Marina de Lagos and Sopromar, this year's GC32 World Championship is the second event of the 2019 GC32 Racing Tour, following on from last month's GC32 Villasimius Cup.

Ten teams are set to contest this second official GC32 World Championship. Returning to defend their World Championship title is Switzerland's Team Tilt, skippered by Olympic 49er sailor Sébastien Schneiter.

Due to his Olympic commitments, Schneiter admits they are under-practiced. To rectify this they are already in Lagos, aiming to get in 10 days training: "This is crucial for us. If we can put some good hours in the boat then we will have a good chance to win again. In fact it is exactly the same as we did last year and that worked pretty well!"

Schneiter adds: "We definitely know the boat and how to sail it. We know each other super well. It is just about getting back into it to see what we can do." Significantly, returning to the team will be Emirates Team New Zealand skipper and multiple A-Class Catamaran World Champion, Glenn Ashby.

As to the line-up Team Tilt will face, Schneiter says: "Generally the level is higher with some new teams like INEOS and the Chinese, more and more professional with some America's Cup sailors, etc. It is motivating to race against them."

With the demise of the Extreme Sailing Series, so the GC32 Racing Tour has inherited its teams and it was one, Oman Air, that claimed last month's GC32 Villasimius Cup. The Omani team's new skipper, Adam Minoprio is looking forward to Lagos: "Oman Air has a new crew this year, so we were very pleased to win the first event. We definitely have a lot of areas where we can improve and we have to keep improving if we want to beat the fleet again in Lagos."

Last year Minoprio helmed SAP Extreme Sailing Team at the GC32 Worlds in Riva del Garda. At one point they were leading, but finished second. "Being runner-up last year was very disappointing for me, but this year I have a very good team, so if we can take the title, we'd be very happy."

Also certain to be strong is Switzerland's most famous sailing team - Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi. In Villasimius the two time America's Cup winners finished second and were strongly on the ascent on the final day.

Then there are the leading teams from last year's GC32 Racing Tour, overall winner NORAUTO helmed by Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper Franck Cammas and INEOS Rebels UK of the world's most successful Olympic sailor Sir Ben Ainslie, now leading his second America's Cup challenge, INEOS Team UK.

NORAUTO returns to the Algarve as winner last year in Lagos, while for INEOS it will enable then to gauge how they have improved - they made their GC32 Racing Tour debut here a year ago. "Lagos will be a great venue. We had very tight racing here last year and it being a World Championship, the racing can only be more competitive," says INEOS Rebels UK tactician Giles Scott. In addition to their haul of Olympic medals, Ainslie and Scott also understand the importance of World Championships: Between them they have won ten World titles in the Finn class alone.

Hoping to improve on their performance from Villasimius will be Red Bull Sailing Team, run by Austrian two time Olympic Tornado gold medallist Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher and CHINAone NINGBO, skippered by Phil Robertson with three Chinese crew on board.

Jockeying for the owner-driver prize will be Erik Maris' Zoulou and American Jason Carroll's Argo, plus another new team to the GC32 Racing Tour this season, Christian Zuerrer's Black Star Sailing Team.

With racing over four days starting on 27th June, the GC32 World Championship will follow a similar format to other GC32 Racing Tour events, with up to five races per day and a mix of reaching and upwind starts. However the Worlds will also include a new feature: The Cascade Sopromar Speed Challenge will be sailed over a course comprising two reaches with a gybe in between. The team recording the highest average speed for this will win the prize, generously donated by Cascade and Sopromar, of five double rooms for three nights at the 5 Star Cascade Wellness & Lifestyle Resort in Lagos.

Martinho Fortunato, Commodore of the Club de Vela de Lagos welcomed the eleven GC32 teams: "It is with great enthusiasm that we in Lagos are preparing ourselves for the biggest sailing event happening in Portugal this year. We will have with us some of the world's best sailors, many of them involved with America's Cup, the biggest sailing event in the world. It is, with no doubt, an event that elevates Lagos and our region in the world of sailing."

Teams competing at 2019 GC32 World Championship

Alinghi (SUI) Arnaud Psarofaghis
Argo (USA) Jason Carroll
Black Star Sailing Team (SUI) Christian Zuerrer
CHINAone NINGBO (CHN) Phil Robertson
INEOS Rebels UK (GBR) Ben Ainslie
NORAUTO (FRA) Franck Cammas
Team Oman Air (OMA) Adam Minoprio
Team Tilt (SUI) Sebastien Schneiter
Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara
Zoulou (FRA) Erik Maris

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