After over 18 months away from the start box, the elite sailing teams of the GC32 Racing Tour were back in action on 30 June-4 July, the first of two consecutive stops in Lagos, Portugal. Led by sailing legends Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher – both in their final competitive season – Austria’s Red Bull Sailing came back from a pitchpole capsize to finish second among rivals including two-time America’s Cup winner and defending tour champion Alinghi (SUI) and longtime adversary Zoulou (FRA). Regatta podium: Alinghi in first, Red Bull Sailing in second and formidable Danish SailGP newcomers Rockwool Racing in third. Here’s everything you need to know.
With shifty winds that push the ultra-fast GC32s to their limits, Lagos is a favorite challenge on the GC32 Racing Tour, and fans got an eyeful as six boats sailed head-to-head across 18 races. In the midst of Race 16, Red Bull Sailing was caught by a gust, launching their GC32 into a spectacular nose dive before it rolled onto its side. Dangling 6 meters in the air, some crew members had to work their way down the rigging to reach the water, but all were safely recovered, and when righted the boat was found to have no major damage.
The drama unfolded in the midst of a fierce battle for podium position. Alinghi had built a significant lead going into the final day, but only four points separated second-place Red Bull Sailing from Team Rockwool Racing, with Black Star (SUI) and Zoulou (FRA) in the podium hunt as well. After capsizing, Red Bull Sailing leapt back into the fray without a break, taking third and then second in the final two races to confirm their runner-up position for the regatta.
Hans Peter Steinacher said: “This was a tough and tricky opening to the season. There were extremely strong gusts where we capsized, and since we are all going to the limit, this kind of thing is going to happen. This time it was us, and another time it will be somebody else. We may have a few bruises in the morning, but we are happy that the crew is ok, that the boat has no major damage and that we made it onto the podium in second place to start our 2021 campaign in the GC32 Racing Tour. Many thanks to Alinghi, whose chase boat quickly helped to pick us up when we were in the water.”
Red Bull Sailing flew into the season with the same five-sailor team that had taken Austria to third place on the championship podium in the previous 2019 season: The Austrian icons Hagara (skipper/helm) and Steinacher (tactician), Australia’s Rhys Mara (trimmer), fellow Aussie Mark Spaermann (board trimmer) and Sweden’s Julius Hallström (bowman). Despite limited practice time on the water, the team’s experience – and all-out determination to make Hagara and Steinacher’s last season one to remember – was evident.
Roman Hagara said: “In Sunday’s last race, where we managed to save second place overall, the conditions felt a lot like the earlier race when we capsized. Everyone was pushing the boundaries in winds that made you feel like you were just a passenger on the boat, so we were glad that we made it back to shore in one piece. And now we can afford to take only the shortest bit of relaxation before we come back here to train and fight for victory in Act 2.”
The season kickoff also marked the start of a new partnership between Red Bull Sailing and global powerhouse Yanmar.
“We are proud to have Yanmar join us on board as the Official Marine Partner of Red Bull Sailing with this first stop of the GC32 Racing Tour 2021 in Lagos,” said Hagara. “This has been the perfect opportunity to get our relationship off to a great start.”
Steinacher added, “Yanmar was the Official Marine Partner for the 36th America’s Cup and is a major force in the marine world overall. We share their passion for sailing, we value their expertise.”
The GC32 Racing Tour calendar includes four regattas in 2021, with venues including the World Championship in Villasimius, Italy, and November’s Grand Finale in Mar Menor, Spain. The championship field of world-leading teams is set to get even more intense as anticipated easing of global travel restrictions enables boats from outside Europe to return to the roster. Meanwhile, because Act 2 is also scheduled for Lagos, the Act 1 teams will now enjoy a rare chance to stay in place to focus on training and improvements.
The GC32 is a 10m long (12m including bowsprit) foiling catamaran built in carbon fiber, and the tour’s course configurations are similar to those used in the America’s Cup, with an emphasis on allowing the boats to reach their maximum speeds.
Next, Red Bull Sailing will fly on the Portuguese coast again as the GC32 Racing Tour returns to Lagos for Act 2 on 28 July-1 August 2021.
Results, GC32 Racing Tour 2021 Act 1, Lagos, Portugal: 1. Alinghi (SUI) 33 points, 2. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 58 pts, 3. Team Rockwool Racing (DEN) 61 points, 4. Black Star Sailing Team (SUI) 62 pts, 5. Zoulou (FRA) 74 pts, 6. Swiss Foiling Academy (SUI) 91 pts.
About Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher are Austria’s most successful summer sport athletes, having won two Olympic gold medals (Sydney, Athens) and numerous world championships. They are the only Austrians to have competed on the America’s Cup World Series. Determined to see sailing progress to the next level, they groom the next generation of sailors by leading the Red Bull Sailing Team in the GC32 Racing Tour and by serving as sports directors for Red Bull Foiling Generation.
About Yanmar With beginnings in Osaka, Japan, in 1912, Yanmar was the first to succeed in making a compact diesel engine of a practical size in 1933. With industrial diesel engines as the cornerstone of its enterprise, Yanmar has continued to expand its product range, services, and expertise to deliver total solutions as an industrial equipment manufacturer. As a provider of small and large engines, agricultural machinery and facilities, construction equipment, energy systems, marine equipment, machine tools, and components, Yanmar’s global business operations span seven domains. On land, at sea, and in the city, Yanmar’s mission of “providing sustainable solutions focused on the challenges customers face, in food production and harnessing power, thereby enriching people’s lives for all our tomorrows” is a testament to Yanmar’s determination to provide us with “A Sustainable Future.”
About the GC32 Racing Tour GC32 course configurations are similar to those used in the America’s Cup. Venues are chosen with the aim of providing the best chance of optimum conditions to get the catamarans flying on their foils for the maximum amount of time. The 2021 tour consists of four regattas across three venues.
30 June – 4 July: Lagos 1, Portugal 28 July – 1 August: Lagos 2, Portugal 15–19 September: Villasimius, Sardinia, Italy (World Championship) 3–7 November: Mar Menor, Spain