High octane racing off the Lagos coastline. Photo: Sailing Energy / GC32 Racing Tour
International line-up for next week’s Lagos GC32 World Championship
Following on from mid-June's GC32 Lagos Cup, the GC32 World Championship, annual highlight of the GC32 Racing Tour and the only official World Sailing-endorsed championship for foiling catamaran 'yachts', will take place over 13-17 July in Lagos, Portugal.
The 10 teams, from afar away as Australia and the USA, comprise the most competitive GC32 fleet ever, including America's Cup winners, challengers and SailGP teams. Among these a favourite is Alinghi Red Bull Racing. Red Bull Sailing Team won the last GC32 World Championship when it was held in September 2021 in Villasimius, Sardinia, while Alinghi won the previous World Championship two years earlier, also in Lagos. However, although Red Bull has come on board with Alinghi to challenge for the 37th America's Cup, Alinghi Red Bull Racing's GC32 crew exclusively comprises members of its AC sailing squad.
"We love Lagos – we have sailed here four times and won four times," says Alinghi Red Bull Racing's Arnaud Psarofaghis, who steered the Swiss team both to GC32 Lagos Cup victory two weeks ago and to its 2019 GC32 World Championship title. "We couldn't be in a better spot for the World Championship. I am sure everyone will push hard."
Of the World Championship following the GC32 Lagos Cup, the effective pre-Worlds in the same venue, Psarofaghis acknowledges: "It always harder if you return to a place for second time: You understand the wind more and everyone will sail better. I think the fleet is improving every day. In fact right now it is the most competitive GC32 fleet we have ever had. For the Worlds it will be really interesting to see how it unfolds."
Team Rockwool Racing has finally proved capable of putting a series together when they finished second to Alinghi Red Bull Racing at the GC32 Lagos Cup, although Danish skipper Nicolai Sehested still maintains they are better when the breeze is up. "If it is light winds then they [Alinghi Red Bull Racing ] will be very hard to beat. If there is good breeze then we have a good shot." However, as was proved on the final days of the GC32 Lagos Cup, in big conditions with boats maintaining 35+ knots, they will also face stiff competition from the Swiss SailGP team, led by Sébastien Schneider, Team Tilt. In 2018 they went down in history by becoming the GC32's first official World Champions.
For three teams competing next week, the GC32 Lagos Cup was their first GC32 event. These included K-Challenge Team France, skippered by Nacra 17 Olympian Quentin Delapierre, which finished seventh, 10 points behind Team Tilt. The fourth SailGP team in addition to Team Rockwool Racing and Team Tilt is Team Canada. "At times we have had some good positioning, but we slowly fall back around the course," admitted Graeme Sutherland, who will once again fill in for Phil Robertson as skipper. "We have some work to do on our manoeuvres and our processes to make less mistakes. We'll keep chipping away."
The most enthusiastic teams are the five on the GC32 Racing Tour that are privately owned. For them the circuit provides a unique experience: Where else can they get to compete directly against America's Cup and SailGP teams? Leading the charge here is Erik Maris and his Zoulou crew, who aside from topping the 2022 Owner-Driver leaderboard, finished third overall at the GC32 Lagos Cup.
"I am looking forward to it," says Maris of the Worlds, although admitting that they still have some work to do when it comes to starting.
One of Zoulou's most direct threats comes from Black Star Sailing Team, which is a private team, but not an owner-driver one; its proprietor, Christian Zuerrer, prefers to trim main and leave Kiwi match racer Chris Steele to steer. Black Star has shown great potential this season but has yet to get in its stride, however Zuerrer and his crew are most keen to right last year's GC32 World Championship result when they missed the podium by just a point.
Among the other owner-drivers, GC32 Class President, Australian Simon Delzoppo and his .film AUS Racing, returned to the GC32 Racing Tour this season and is attempting to relearn the ropes assisted by his crack squad of antipodeans.
American Jason Carroll and his Argo team finished sixth at May's GC32 Riva Cup, 11 points from the podium. Of the Worlds Carroll says: "We're looking forward to returning to Lagos and feel really good after a successful event in Riva. The competition will be fierce as always and we relish the challenge of sailing against the other owner-driver teams as well as the immensely talented teams from the AC and SailGP. It's going to be a great event!"
New to the circuit last month was its first Polish entry: Piotr Harasimowicz's HRM Racing Team. While the Poles still have a long way to go, Harasimowicz and the two other Poles on board are highly experienced sailors and match racers. They are assisted by two former Realteam crew, Benjamin Amiot and Remi Aeschimann, with multihull legend Pete Greenhalgh coaching. "We hope to still keep closing the gap," says Harasimowicz of their performance.
Taking place off Lagos over 13-17 July, the GC32 World Championship is supported by the City of Lagos and Tourism Portugal, plus Sopromar, Marina de Lagos and Clube de Vela de Lagos.
Alinghi Red Bull Racing (SUI) Skipper: TBC
Argo (USA) Owner: Jason Carroll
Black Star Sailing Team (SUI) Owner: Christian Zuerrer
.film AUS Racing (AUS) Owner-driver: Simon Delzoppo
HRM Racing Team (POL) Owner-driver: Piotr Harasimowicz
K-Challenge Team France (FRA) Skipper: Quentin Delapierre
Team Rockwool Racing (DEN) Skipper: Nicolai Sehested
Team Canada (CAN) Skipper: Graeme Sutherland.
Team Tilt (SUI) Skipper: Sébastien Schneiter
Zoulou (FRA) Owner-driver: Erik Maris