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2019 GC32 Riva Cup - Overall: Alinghi claims the title

by GC32 Racing Tour 15 Sep 14:10 PDT 11-15 September 2019

While Alinghi has led at the end of every day of racing at the 2019 GC32 Riva Cup, the Swiss team was on the ropes this afternoon when their arch-rivals Oman Air, in seemingly unbeatable form, scored three back-to-back wins levelling the scoreline with them.

As ever with the Dolomites forming the most spectacular of backdrops, racing today, hosted by the Fraglia Vela Riva, was held in a 14-16 knot Ora southerly.

In the fourth and penultimate race, the Omani team's winning streak came to end, but it was not Alinghi but Red Bull Sailing Team that claimed the bullet. However in this Oman Air's second to Alinghi's fourth, handed the Omanis a slender two point lead going into the final race.

With Oman Air having had the upper hand all day, a chink finally appeared in their armour in the deciding race, allowing both Alinghi and Red Bull Sailing Team through. After a nailbiting final few minutes, where Oman Air desperately tried to catch up, these positions held at the finish line causing the two frontrunners to end the GC32 Riva Cup tied on points. Sadly for Oman Air after such a strong final day, GC32 Racing Tour tie breaks are decided on final race position, handing the GC32 Riva Cup to Alinghi.

This was the second win of the season for Ernesto Bertarelli's team following their victory at the GC32 World Championship in Lagos, Portugal in June.

"Today we had really tight racing with Oman Air," commented Alinghi helmsman Arnaud Psarofaghis. "They sailed really well and they put us in a bad situation, but we knew it wasn't over until the last race when we got the better of them. They tried to be smarter, but they gybed too late and we could just overlap them on the downwind and pushed them back in the fleet. Then Red Bull did a good job to stay ahead of them."

Oman Air's skipper Adam Minoprio described the fateful moment: "Basically we lost the regatta at that first gybe - we just gave away ten lengths there. After that we needed another team to make a huge mistake and unfortunately for us Red Bull is a strong team and difficult to pass when you're on lay line to the top mark."

In that race Oman Air once again had made a masterful start to leeward, gently luffing Alinghi out of their way to lead at the reaching mark. Then coming into the leeward gate Psarofaghis had managed to give Minoprio a dose of his own match racing medicine when he managed to shovel Oman Air out to the left.

Alinghi's team manager Pierre-Yves Jorand observed: "Oman Air sailed very well especially today when they put a lot of pressure on us. On the reaching starts they have the edge, but our team sailed very well on the course, choosing the right gate marks, proper modes and managed to fight and to come back in several races. So congratulation to Oman but also to our team." Alinghi didn't start well in the first three races and on one occasion were even in last place but in all the races their recoveries were phenomenal.

Oman Air also showed formidable pace, foiling upwind into Riva del Garda's famous cliff face and then foiling out very lifted to the weather mark, frequently managing speeds several knots faster than their opponents.

Minoprio praised his rival: "Full credit to Alinghi. They sailed well the whole week. We had a shocker on day one whereas they sailed well the whole week, but it was good to make sure that they didn't sail away with too easily."

Roman Hagara and Red Bull Sailing Team had a strong final day putting extra points between them and Erik Maris' Zoulou, ensuring that they retained the final position on the podium. "We had some good racing, some tough fights with the others and we also got a race win and a couple of good places," said Hagara. Even the race they won today, the Austrian team dropped off the foils on the run causing them to lose the lead, which they subsequently regained on the upwind. Otherwise Hagara very much enjoyed racing on Lake Garda, close to his native Austria. "It is a great lake and a great facility here. It is really good for GC32s to race here."

Erik Maris' Zoulou won the owner-drivers trophy. "We are pretty pleased with what we achieved," said mainsheet trimmer Thierry Fouchier. "We got closer to Red Bull and managed to be in the middle of the pack with Red Bull, Oman Air and Alinghi. That was good for us. Red Bull did a good last day and sailed very well. Fortunately Erik is still happy."

Jason Carroll's Argo team from the USA scored two thirds place finishes but their consistency was inadequate to make an impression on Zoulou in the owner-driver ranking. Meanwhile ferocious fighting ahead of them ensured that Christian Zuerrer's Black Star Sailing Team and Argentinean Federico Ferioli's Codigo Rojo Racing had to make do with their own private competition.

Racing at the GC32 Riva Cup took place with the support of Garda Trentino, Riva del Garda Fierecongressi, Distilleria Marzadro and Omkafé.

The 2019 GC32 Racing Tour will conclude in Muscat, Oman over 5-9 November, where we can expect another sleeves-rolled-up fist fight between the circuit's two heavyweights to determine who will be this year's champion.

Overall Results: (19 races)

1 - Alinghi - 45pts
2 - Oman Air - 45pts
3 - Red Bull Sailing Team - 58pts
4 - Zoulou - 68pts
5 - Argo - 82pts
6 - Black Star Sailing Team - 107pts
7 - Código Rojo Racing - 127pts

Owner-driver ranking:

1 - Zoulou - 68pts
2 - Argo - 82pts
3 - Código Rojo Racing - 127pts

Full results available here.

GC32 title stays in Team Oman Air's sights after Lake Garda tie-break goes against them (from Oman Sail)

Team Oman Air showed determination and flair to dominate a thrilling final day of racing at the GC32 Riva Cup on Lake Garda, with overall victory only eluding them by the narrowest possible margin.

However the Oman Air team remain on track to claim the 2019 GC32 Racing Tour title as a win at the season's final event on home waters in Muscat would tip the finely balanced season in their favour.

After three days of intense racing in Italy the crew launched themselves into Sunday's last day decider intent on dismantling a four point advantage held by their Swiss rival Alinghi.

They proceeded to do so with a masterclass of focused sailing which saw the high-speed Oman Air foiling catamaran win the first three races to share the overall lead. A second place in the penultimate race - with Alinghi fourth - delivered a two point lead and set up a nail-biting finale.

The final race on a breezy Lake Garda saw the lead change hands several times with Oman Air and Alinghi at times match-racing around the course, with the Swiss team only edging ahead on the last leg to take the race win. Though level on points after 19 races, the Riva Cup went to Alinghi under the GC32 Racing Tour's tie-break rule.

"It was fantastic racing out there with a really good breeze and great foiling conditions - we sailed really well and unfortunately let the title slip away in the last race," said skipper Adam Minoprio, who leads the Oman Air crew of Pete Greenhalgh, Nasser Al Mashari, Stewart Dodson and Adam Piggott.

"We started off the event a bit shaky and didn't have the best first day giving Alinghi a good lead, but it was a good target for us to go out and chase them down. We made good changes and went out stronger, and we hauled them in to have a shot at beating them in the final race," said the New Zealand match-racing ace.

Greenhalgh, Oman Air's tactician and mainsail trimmer, added: "It was phenomenal out there today. We were desperate to get five races so we could reel in Alinghi who were a couple of points ahead of us, and we were able to do that and overtake them.

"Going into the last race they had to beat us and put a boat between us and unfortunately for us they managed that. They got just ahead of us and we looked for every opportunity to get past but we couldn't manage it - so we were level on points and they beat us on the tie-break."

Thoughts now turn to the season decider in Oman in November where Team Oman Air - which is also supported by EFG Private Bank Monaco and managed by Oman Sail - will be looking to clinch the GC32 Racing Tour title on home waters.

Long-standing Oman Air crew Al Mashari said: "It is still tight overall so we are looking forward to the next event in Oman where we will aim to do our best and maybe win the whole series - it would be great to just smash it there."

The final and deciding event of the 2019 GC32 Racing Tour - the GC32 Oman Cup - will be held in Muscat from November 5 - 9.

Red Bull Sailing sensational with second GC32 podium in a row at Lake Garda (from Red Bull Sailing)

Red Bull Sailing tightened its grasp on an overall podium spot in the 2019 GC32 Racing Tour with third place at Riva del Garda, Italy, and set the regatta speed record in the process. In Sunday's tie-breaker climax to four days of racing, Switzerland's Alinghi was awarded first place, with Oman Air second. Now only the season's finale - in Oman - awaits.

With typically strong winds that come from the north in the mornings and from the south in the afternoons, Lake Garda is a benchmark venue for foiling catamaran competition, and one of skipper Roman Hagara's favorites. The Riva Cup was also the closest thing to a home race for the Austria-based team, and with their fan club in attendance to cheer them on, Red Bull Sailing came into the fourth act of the 2019 campaign with the momentum of a podium at Palma del Mallorca, Spain that had launched them to third place overall.

The race in the shadow of Riva's cliffs was penultimate stop in the five-act series, and with the standings tight, teams were desperate to gain traction. Across the 19-race showdown, two major battles kept the crowds riveted, as Oman Air and two-time America's Cup winners Alinghi slugged it out for the lead at the top of the standings, while Red Bull Sailing fought to hold off a fierce charge from French foes Zoulou in the struggle for third.

Red Bull Sailing not only held off Zoulou, but delivered moments of sheer brilliance that took the fight right to the leaders. The team started strong with a race win on Day One, and after slipping behind their French rivals on Day Two, powered back on Saturday, then dominated the French team with a win and two second-place finishes on the final day. Even in the last race, when Alinghi took it to the next level to clinch the regatta triumph, Red Bull Sailing kept pace, finishing just 0.12s behind the two-time America's Cup winners and ahead of the team from Oman. In total, Red Bull Sailing earned a total 12 podiums for the regatta.

When it came to flying on their foils, Hagara and Steinacher made the most Lake Garda's perfect conditions, clocking the best speed of any team at 38 knots (70 kmh/44 mph).

Long one of the favourites in the Extreme Sailing Series, Red Bull Sailing is new to the GC32 Racing Tour this season, and has quickly gained footing among the likes of America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race contenders in the lineup. In addition to Hagara at the helm and Steinacher as tactician, the team includes Sweden's Julius Hallström (bowman) and two Australians, Mark Spaermann (board trimmer) and Rhys Mara (trimmer). The young international crew have gelled rapidly with the Austria's Olympic Tornado-class legends to form a formidable force.

Quote: "I'm extremely happy, not only with our result, but also because together we are showing strong consistency. Our teamwork and our boat setup are both working extremely well for us. Now, we are highly motivated and fully focused on the big season finale in Muscat in November, and our goal is to finish the season with the regatta victory there." Roman Hagara, Skipper/Helm, Red Bull Sailing Team

Next on the calendar for Red Bull Sailing: The the final and deciding event of the 2019 GC32 Rcing Tour, the GC32 Oman Cup in Muscat on 5-9 November 2019. On open waters in the heart of the city, Hagara's team will be racing to give Austria its first overall GC32 Racing Tour podium in only their first season on the circuit.

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