From Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th September, the 2016 GC32 Racing Tour moves on to its fourth stage, the GC32 La Reserva de Sotogrande Cup, at another new venue for the ultra-high speed one design flying catamarans.
Located 25km east of Gibraltar on Spain’s Andalucian coast, Sotogrande is one of the oldest and largest privately owned real estate and leisure destinations in southwest Spain. In the 1970s its magnificent setting and architecture provided a discreetly luxurious destination for the jetset, including Jackie and Aristotle Onassis, opera singer Maria Callas and the politician, Spiro Agnew. Today it continues to attract a loyal following of the quietly wealthy and celebrated.
Sotogrande is renowned for top sports events, particularly polo and golf: Its Santa Maria Polo Club typically hosts more than 25 tournaments per year and is an annual fixture on the World Polo Tour circuit; three of Spain’s top ten golf courses are located here, including La Reserva and the top ranked Real Club Valderrama.
Marc Topiol, CEO Sotogrande SA said: “The GC32 high-speed catamaran races coming to Sotogrande is the third major racing event of the season attracting world-recognised international teams. To bring sailing championships to Sotogrande on this scale and expertise adds yet another dimension to the wide range of activities already available here year-round. The GC32 is thrilling to watch and will be a fantastic spectacle for residents and visitors to the area.”
Today Sotogrande is also gaining a reputation as a grand prix yacht racing destination, having already this season hosted the RC44 Sotogrande World Cup and the J/80 World Championship.
Next week, seven GC32 teams will be competing in the GC32 La Reserva de Sotogrande Cup, including the two who have been jockeying for the lead throughout this season: Franck Cammas’ NORAUTO from France and Sébastien Schneiter’s Team Tilt from Switzerland. Team Tilt led after the GC32 Malcesine Cup, while NORAUTO recovered first place after last month’s 35 Copa del Rey MAPFRE.
For Sotogrande former Match Racing World Champion and Volvo Ocean Race sailor, New Zealander Adam Minoprio is again standing as helmsman on NORAUTO. He is looking forward to racing in a new venue: “I’ve been to Gibraltar and Tarifa sailing kites, but never to Sotogrande. I hear it is a great place.”
As to the expected conditions on the race course that features the Rock of Gibraltar as a backdrop, the wind is typically the light onshore easterly Levante or the stronger westerly Poniente.
Minoprio advises: “It is going to be interesting. Most people won’t have sailed there before, but that will be the same for everyone and it will be down to keeping the manoeuvres clean and the boat going fast.”
It will also be about bedding in new crew quickly, because three of the top teams have made personnel changes.
On NORAUTO, Thierry Douillard and burly Nicolas Heintz are returning from injury, while Matthieu Vandame is standing in for Hervé Cunningham.
On arch-rival, Team Tilt, skipper Sébastien Schneiter, having freshly returned from having campaigned a 49er at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, is taking over the helm from Alinghi’s Arnaud Psarofaghis. At just 20 years old, Schneiter will be the youngest skipper competing.
While Schneiter sailed on board at the first event of the season on Lake Garda as crew, this will be his first time helming. He will be joined by his 49er crew, Lucien Cujean, but the rest of the crew remains.
“It will be a nice challenge,” says Schneiter. “It will be hard, because I don’t have as much experience as Arnaud, but the guys on board are really good and they will help me a lot. So we are looking for a top five and it would be really good to get a podium finish.”
As to the GC32 Racing Tour, he is thrilled to be competing. “We have a lot of fun, but it is also good racing. It is not racing just for spectators, it is also fun for us and we enjoy it a lot.”
Also featuring a new line-up will be Team ENGIE, skippered by France’s Sébastien Rogues. The La Baule-based team has acquired a new coach in Bertrand Dumortier, who like Schneiter has recently returned from Rio where he coached the French 470 team. Joining the Team ENGIE crew is Benjamin Amiot, previously with Spindrift racing, who will have the key role of bowman and trimmer of the foils that make the GC32 fly.
“We have some changes for Sotogrande and I think it is a good thing,” says Rogues. “We have three days to train before the event and we hope to finish in the top half of the ranking.”
As to who will come out on top, it is anyone’s guess. Minoprio says that a team other than NORAUTO or Team Tilt could well win the GC32 La Reserva de Sotogrande Cup. “The other teams are fortunate enough to have the same crew all the time, so that they can work together and keep building on what they learn event to event, whereas we are rotating. And it’s the fourth event of the season so everyone is getting better and better as the season goes on.”
On Wednesday 21st September at 1900 CET, a press conference will be hold at the Hospitality Lounge at the Marina in Porto Sotogrande and will be followed by the official Opening Ceremony.
Teams competing at the GC32 La Reserva de Sotogrande Cup
ARMIN STROM Sailing Team (SUI) skipper Flavio Marazzi
Malizia – Yacht Club de Monaco (MON) skipper Pierre Casiraghi
Mamma Aiuto! (JPN) skipper Naofumi Kamei
NORAUTO (FRA) skipper Adam Minoprio (NZL)
Realteam (SUI) skipper Sébastien Schneiter
Team ENGIE (FRA) skipper Sébastien Rogues
Team Tilt (SUI) skipper Jérôme Clerc