Glamour teams join GC32 Racing Tour

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With the Extreme Sailing Series yet to announce any plans for 2019, competition among the foiling GC32 catamarans will focus on the GC32 Racing Tour which begins May 22-26 in Sardinia, Italy. The launch of the 5-stage circuit has some star attractions as America’s Cup challenge skipper Ben Ainslie (GBR) and reigning class world champion Phil Robertson (NZL) in the field.

Ainslie, well known for his 2013 America’s Cup win and four Olympic gold medals and one silver, will look toward the high performance circuit as an opportunity for crew development.

Joining the Ainslie’ INEOS Rebels UK line-up will be ‘interns’ Oli Gerber and Ben Cornish, who after an intense selection process became part of the senior Cup team back in January. Gerber will bring GC32 experience, having previously racing with the INEOS Rebels in the Extreme Sailing Series, Cornish is new to the class.

“Over the winter our main focus has been development of T5 [their AC75 test boat] but we can’t forget we’re a sail racing team and we are all looking forward to getting out racing again,” said Ainslie. “We have a real mix of youth and experience on board this time and we are excited to get Oli and Ben out racing with the team. I know a few teams have been doing a lot of training, but hopefully we won’t be too much on the back foot.”

Completing the INEOS Rebels UK line up in the first event will be two Australians – America’s Cup veteran Joey Newton and former Olympic 49er gold medallist Iain Jensen on jib and mainsail trim respectively. Finn sailor and Olympic gold medallist Giles Scott will again be calling tactics.

“Last season when we got back into the class we learned a lot, in terms of getting the set-up right, the boat handling and communication,” recalls Ainslie. “The GC32 Racing Tour was all we hoped it would be with the strong quality of the fleet, it was very worthwhile. Hopefully we can build on that this season.”

As to how competition has changed for 2019, the significant difference is several former Extreme Sailing Series teams joining the GC32 Racing Tour. “That will up the intensity,” says Ainslie. “Their boat handling will be pretty sharp from all the short course racing they’ve done, whereas the GC32 Racing Tour teams should be better at straight line boat speed. It will be interesting to see how those focuses compare.”

Topping the list of experience will be Robertson, and while his CHINAone NINGBO team is new to the GC32 Racing Tour, the team’s immaculate pedigree is hardly new to success. With this team Robertson won the World Match Racing Tour in 2016 and 2017 and with CHINAone NINGBO won the 2018 M32 World Championship.

Personally Robertson also has considerable GC32 experience having skippered Oman Air to second place behind Alinghi in the Extreme Sailing Series last season after a third place in 2017.

However, this will be the first outing aboard a GC32 for the team who are also representing China on the SailGP foiling catamaran circuit. Sailing with Ed Powys and three Chinese crew, Liu ‘Black’ Xue, Chen ‘Horace’ Jinhao, Liu ‘Leo’ Ming, Robertson admits they will be on a steep learning curve.

“For CHINAone NINGBO it will be the first time we have sailed with a majority of Chinese on board,” admits Robertson. “They are extremely inexperienced when it comes to high performance sailing, but giving them as much foiling experience as possible is part of the long term objective, so we’re jumping in the deep end with the GC32 Racing Tour.”

If names of the Chinese crew are familiar it is because they were all part of the Dongfeng Race Team that won the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race.

Having been part of the Extreme Sailing Series, Robertson is looking forward to racing against his old Omani team, this year skippered by Adam Minoprio, as well as the increased competition due to teams from the Extreme Sailing Series joining the GC32 Racing Tour.

“We just want more boats on the start line so it’ll be fantastic having owner and pro-driver teams racing together,” shared Robertson. “As competitors you really don’t want anything more than great competition.”

2019 GC32 Racing Tour schedule
22-26 May: GC32 Villasimius Cup / Villasimius, Sardinia, Italy
26-30 June: GC32 World Championship / Lagos, Portugal
31 July-4 August: 38 Copa del Rey MAPFRE / Palma de Mallorca, Spain
11-15 September: GC32 Riva Cup / Riva del Garda, Italy
6-10 Nov: TBA

Source: sailingscuttlebutt

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