It’s a new season and a new tack for the Red Bull Sailing Team, as the Austrian foiling powerhouse joins the GC32 Racing Tour. This year, the tour opens a new chapter, as a consolidation of circuits will pack the field with elite contenders. But with a tested crew and two-time Olympic gold medalists – skipper Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher – on board as helmsman and tactician, this team is aiming for the top. And even a speed record.
– The GC32 Racing Tour will be a playground for the best of the best in 2019, and Hagara and Steinacher’s experience makes Red Bull Sailing one of the favorites even before the five-stop season gets underway in Sardinia at the end of this month. Besides their Olympic success in Sydney and Athens, the pair have competed in the America´s Cup World Series and have won an intimidating number of world, European and national championships. So anticipation is high for Austria’s sailing stars to face off with the other big names announced for the tour so far.
“It will be an interesting season this year. We have two circuits combined now, the Extreme Sailing Series and the GC32 Racing Tour, so we will have really strong teams from both. There will be more boats on the start line in the first event,” says Hagara. “Alinghi, the winner of last year’s Extreme Sailing Series, will be competing, and then from the GC32 Tour, the French America’s Cup team NORAUTO will be in the lineup, plus Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup team INEOS is coming. A lot of teams are also going to be especially keen to race because there are no America’s Cup World Series races in 2019, so altogether we’re looking for great competition from the new circuit.”
Red Bull Sailing are confident they can take them on. The team has a strong crew in Australia’s Rhys Mara (trimmer), fellow Aussie Mark Spaermann (board trimmer), and Swedish sailor Julius Hallström (bowman). Plus, after spending much time off the boat in 2018 to coach the next generation, both Hagara and Steinacher will be on board, fully hands-on in the thick of it.
Hagara explains, “Hans Peter and I sailed the last two Extreme Sailing Series events in 2018 and were quite successful, including second place at the season finale in Mexico. We will try to continue that momentum this year, and together with our crew, who already know the boat, I think we can really perform well from the first events.”
Having 10 teams or more at each stop will guarantee fierce action. The season opens at Villasimius, Sardinia in Italy, followed by the World Championship at Lagos, Portugal, and stops at Palma de Mallorca, Spain – where King Felipe VI will present trophies – and Riva del Garda, Italy. Then, for the first time, the series will hold a finale outside Europe at a location still under wraps.
“I think my favorite is Riva del Garda,” Hagara confides. “It’s well known for its winds, and we anticipate probably sailing the GC32 speed record if we have really good conditions there.”
The meticulous task of setting up the Red Bull Sailing GC32 is complete. The team has had one training camp – a mid-April session at their base in Villasimius – where they were tested by strong rain and winds, but managed to successfully fine-tune the cutting-edge craft. Now the boat is stationed on shore, where it will be craned into the water for two critical training days prior to the season kickoff.
While they eagerly await getting started at Villasimius, Hagara and Steinacher are additionally looking forward to a visit from two-time America’s Cup winner Jimmy Spithill, who is also based in Italy as a member of the Luna Rossa team.
When Red Bull Sailing’s maiden campaign in the GC32 Racing Tour kicks off in Villasimius on 22-26 May, conditions are predicted to be intense, with significant waves and wind. But Red Bull Sailing tends to shine in tough conditions, and Hagara declares: “As I said, we’ll have really strong competition. We definitely want to beat them and finish on the podium.”
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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 the GC32 Racing Tour
The GC32 class sets sail into 2019 with a circuit that’s stronger than ever, thanks to its teams consolidating in the GC32 Racing Tour. Course configurations are similar to those used in the America’s Cup, and venues are chosen with the aim of providing the best chance of optimum conditions to get the catamarans flying on their foils. The 2019 tour visits four venues across southern Europe and concludes with a fifth race that, for the first time, will be outside Europe. Schedule 2019:
22 – 26 May: Villasimius, Sardinia, Italy
26 – 30 June: Lagos, Portugal (World Championship)
31 July – 03 August: Palma de Mallorca, Spain
11 – 15 September: Riva del Garda, Italy
06 – 10 November: TBA