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GC32s join sailing's elite in Palma at 37 Copa del Rey MAPFRE

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2017 GC32 Racing Tour winner Realteam practicing off downtown Palma
2017 GC32 Racing Tour winner Realteam practicing off downtown Palma

For the third event of the 2018 GC32 Racing Tour, the flying catamarans will return to the Mediterranean’s premier multi-class regatta, 37 Copa del Rey MAPFRE, run by Real Club Nautico de Palma. Racing for the eight GC32s begins in one week’s time on the Bay of Palma, where other premier racing yachts such as Maxi 72s, TP52s, Melges 40s and Club Swan 50s will also be competing.

Leading the charge on the water is likely to be French former Volvo Ocean Race winner and America’s Cup skipper Franck Cammas and his NORAUTO powered by Team France. This season Cammas holds a perfect scoreline - top GC32 Racing Tour boat at the World Championship at Riva del Garda in May and in June’s GC32 Lagos Cup.

Unusually for someone with so huge a sailing CV, Cammas hasn’t raced much in Palma. NORAUTO won here, en route to overall GC32 Racing Tour victory in 2016, but on that occasion was helmed by Adam Minoprio. Cammas did compete here when he was campaigning his Nacra 17 for Rio 2016. “It is a normal race course! We have to go left when there is a sea breeze! Sometimes there may be waves, so that could make it harder, but it is a good place.”

Personally Cammas has recently returned from competing in L’Étape du Tour. Aboard two wheels rather than two hulls on this occasion, he finished the 169km cycle race (including 4000+m of elevation) around France’s Haute Savoie in 297th place - not Cammas’ usual podium position, but impressive among 12200 finishers.

Although NORAUTO has been holding a dominant position on the GC32 Racing Tour, she is being challenged, especially by Erik Maris’ Zoulou, with a crew including many who sailed with Cammas in last year’s America’s Cup and the Jerome Clerc-skipper Realteam, winner of the 2017 GC32 Racing Tour.

Biggest riser at the GC32 Lagos Cup was INEOS Team UK, led by Ben Ainslie. As part of a crew rotation program, the British America’s Cup team at 37 Copa del Rey MAPFRE will be skippered by three time Extreme Sailing Series winner Leigh McMillan. Neil Hunter and Rio 2016 Finn Gold medallist Giles Scott return, but are joined this time by America’s Cup veteran Joey Newton and Luke Parkinson.

At the heart of the GC32 Racing Tour lie the owner-driver teams – an impressively international line-up that in addition to Erik Maris and Zoulou includes Simon Delzoppo’s .film Racing from Australia, Simon Hull’s Frank Racing from New Zealand, two time Melges 32 World Champion Jason Carroll from the USA and Federico Ferioli’s Codigo Rojo Racing from Argentina. At present Argo and Frank Racing are tied at the top of the 2018 Owner-Driver leaderboard.

Federico Ferioli is pleased to be returning to Palma: He first experienced the GC32 Racing Tour here in 2016 and competed with his South American team at Copa del Rey MAPFRE last year. “It feels to me like a second home because of the people, because of the same kind of culture and we have already been really well welcomed there. It is always nice to go back to Palma,” he says. “It is an extremely competitive fleet now. It is getting harder for us to get into the fight, but nevertheless we are very happy we are improving every day.”

Typically GC32 Racing Tour events are held on their own and both Cammas and Ferioli are looking forward to the GC32 competition being part of a bigger competition, providing the opportunity to show case the circuit and its flying boats to the cream of international yacht racing.

“It is a good to be part of bigger events and see all the classes,” says Cammas. “For sure the GC32s will be the fastest class on the Bay, but not the most expensive!”

Ferioli: “The Tour has a good balance of private events, like in Lagos and then being part of bigger events, like Copa del Rey is great.” And in one of the coolest, state of the art sailing classes. “We couldn’t ask for more,” he agrees.

GC32 Racing Tour competition at 37 Copa del Rey MAPFRE takes place over 1-4th August with practice racing on 31st July culminating in a prizegiving on the Saturday night, where winner’s trophies will be presented by King Felipe VI of Spain.