Marseille – It was a gusty race course for day one of Marseille One Design, the concluding event of the Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour 2015. The 2012 Olympic Champion Nathan Outteridge was quick to get to grips with starting the GC32 on his first day as replacement helmsman for Sultanate of Oman. But while the Omani crew were quick out of the blocks, it was Alinghi who were fastest to cross the finish line, Morgan Larson steering the Swiss boat to victory in four of today’s six races. At times the boats touched over 30 knots on the fast downwind legs, the crews making the most of the windy conditions on La Rade de Marseille.
The American helmsman was pleased with the Swiss team’s day on the water. “It was a fantastic job by the guys on the boat,” said Larson. “We raced the boat today; in conditions like this before we were just managing the boat. Considering we had a couple of crew changes, we sailed well. Arnaud [Psarofaghis, the tactician] and I were communicating really well, we made some good choices downwind. Everyone got it right some of the time, but I think on average we did a slightly better job.”
One of the big questions for the day was how well the new temporary replacements for Sultanate of Oman would get on with the racing. Not bad at all, would be most people’s assessment of a crew that includes the 49er Olympic Champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, along with double Olympic Champion from Great Britain, Iain Percy. “We were getting a lot of the starts quite nicely,” said Outteridge who enjoyed steering the GC32 in competition for the first time. “The key to this is get the boat foiling as soon as you can and knowing what angle you need to sail to get it going. It’s pretty tricky, knowing what your numbers are to get it up and foiling.”
While the Omani team was fast to start they weren’t always able to hold on to their lead. “We were leaking positions with boathandling but that’s to be expected seeing as we’ve only been sailing it for a couple of days.” However, others were impressed by the Australian helmsman’s ability to get the boat flying upwind. Spindrift skipper Yann Guichard commented: “Alinghi has the overall lead but Oman was impressive today, seeing them foil upwind. It’s nice to have these guys on the circuit, interesting to compete with these guys who have so much experience from other foiling boats.”
Outteridge said you had to pick your moment for upwind foiling. “If you tried to do it when you were on a header, it really wasn’t good. But if you do it in a good bit of lifting pressure, it can work nicely.”
First race of the day went to Armin Strom Sailing Team, with Flavio Marazzi reproducing some of the strong-wind form that brought victory at the previous windy event of the season, the Bullitt GC32 Cowes Cup in England back in August. However in other races Armin Strom Sailing Team got some good starts but struggled to maintain the lead throughout the race. It was a common theme of today’s racing, with multiple lead changes. In the final race, Team Engie, surged into the lead on the downwind leg, finding a good seam of strong wind near the shore and clocking up one of the highest speeds of the day at 31 knots. Just when Seb Rogues looked set to secure his first bullet in Marseille, Sultanate of Oman came back strongly on the final windward leg to take the winner’s gun.
While Alinghi was the clear winner of the racing, in the speed challenge they were just eclipsed by the other Swiss team, Armin Strom Sailing Team. Marazzi and his crew covered the 600-metre course in a time of 58 seconds at an average speed of 26.81 knots and beat Alinghi by just 1 second. Larson was the only skipper to go for a reef in the mainsail, in the belief that when you’re high-speed foiling, sometimes less sail area equals less drag and more speed. It was a gamble that didn’t quite work out, although probably the biggest factor was how much wind you got during your five-minute window to sail down the 600-metre course.
Sitting behind Alinghi and Sultanate of Oman in the overall standings, the third-placed skipper of Spindrift Racing was not that happy with his day. “It was a tricky day, really shifty, gusty,” said Guichard. “The races were very short so the starts and manoeuvres were very important. Our result was not good but we nave never sailed in these conditions before, not as much wind as this. Tomorrow looks like it will be less windy, so it will be a different game.”
Racing continues at 12.00 on 1st October.