The heart-pumping spectacle of GC32 Foiling Catamaran racing has ARMIN STROM Sailing Team skipper Flavio Marazzi hooked on flying boats. This year the four-time Swiss Star class Olympian partnered with kiwi Olympian Sharon Ferris-Choat to launch a campaign that would see eight young sailors experience the new and exciting era of ultra-modern catamaran racing. Starting in the northernmost corner of New Zealand just under a year ago the pair brought together a dynamic squad that finished the 2016 GC32 Racing Tour atop the podium in 3rd place against some of the worlds best sailors in a highly competitive fleet.
The remarkable journey began with GC32 ‘Marwin’ as it touched Southern Hemisphere waters with a New Zealand Maori blessing on 6 January. From there countless hours were spent on the water with young sailors from around the world keen to have a crack at the thrill-delivering sport.
After three months in New Zealand and competing in various local events, a team was chosen to continue on to Europe where the 2016 GC32 Racing Tour unfolded across Austria, Italy, Spain, and finished in France. They’ve enjoyed premium foiling conditions on Lake Garda, and faced big waves and tidal currents in Palma. They’ve spent hours pouring over video footage and days on the water training. Facing adversity and maintaining positive, they’ve been immersed in the high-intensity racing among a fleet of between 5 and 11 GC32 race crews, and gained insight into a sailing generation like no other.
Letting the dust settle on the Racing Tour, the team also welcomed some new faces on board to comprise a mixed crew for the Monaco Sportsboat Winter Series where they finished 3rd earlier this month. This further shows their determination to continue growing, learning, and spending time on the water.
But as Flavio says, “there’s still a long way to go.”
The time in New Zealand allowed both Flavio, Sharon, and budding team members to make the best use of the European winter while creating a wide base of sailors to form a ‘squad’ for the 2016 events.
“Training New Zealand was very valuable in preparing us for the European competitions. It was also one of our intentions to attract new kiwi sailors to the foiling catamarans which have now made their mark as the Youth America’s Cup class which will be sailed next June in Bermuda,” comments Flavio.
This year, some of the highlights have included witnessing the growth of the class in action with increased presence of America’s Cup Sailors, Olympic Sailors, and catamaran specialists. This was evident for Flavio during the first event on the tour in Riva on Lake Garda.
“We have worked very hard for two years to encourage boat owners to increase the fleet numbers in this exciting class. To see ten boats on the line for the first time in a full foiling one-design class in Garda back in May was incredible. To be hurtling for the start line at 30 knots just meters from nine other boats give you the feeling of a Formula One driver going in to it’s first corner,” he explains.
To continue the campaign, Flavio says the ability to gain sponsors and new partnerships is very important.
“The growth and development of this team is reliant on our sponsor family. The next big goal is to sign with a main sponsor, guaranteeing us a higher budget and therefore a higher level of professionalism. Our dynamic sport is built on speed and adrenalin, yet is coupled with a serious, clean attitude. We hope partners can align their values to this,” he explains.
As the re-elected GC32 Class Association chairman for the next two years, Flavio will be pushing towards further grown of both the GC32 Racing Tour and the Extreme Sailing Series. He says it’s critical for the fleet to remain as a one-design class, as this is one of the biggest attractions to new teams.
“Another important step in the class growth is to create a second series in the Southern Hemisphere to promote racing all year around. Next year we should have around 10 – 14 teams on the GC32 Racing Tour, and around eight to ten teams on the Extreme Sailing Series. It would be great to open up racing opportunities further,” he says.
The next few months will see Flavio push towards getting 12 teams lined up for the GC32 World Championship to be held in Oman in March, as well as training and further development of his race crew for this event.
There’s never been a more exciting time to be involved in the sport, and the growth of it’s class signals a new era of sailors focused on speed, agility, and pure adrenalin.
ARMIN STROM Sailing Team regattas and results during 2016:
• 1st at Bay of Islands Race Week – Bay of Islands, New Zealand: January 2016
• 1st at Auckland Jack Tar Regatta – Auckland, New Zealand: March 2016
• 2nd at Alps Challenge Traunsee – Traunsee, Austria, May 2016
• 3rd at GC32 Riva Cup - Lake Garda, Italy – May 2016
• 6th at GC32 Malcesine Cup/The Foiling Week – Malcesine, Italy, July 2016
• 2nd at 35 Copa del Rey Mapfre – Palma de Mallorca, Spain, August 2016
• 4th at La Reserva de Sotogrande Cup – Sotogrande, Spain, September 2016
• 7th at Marseille One Design – Marseille, France, October 2016
• 3rd at Monaco Sportboat Winter Series – GC32, Monaco, November 2016