While its effect was not as huge as many expected, the America’s Cup gave lots of mainstream credibility to ultra-high performance cat racing, and the speed with which everyone from monohull match racers to AC72 skippers have jumped into the various cat classes slowly clawing their way to success. The excitement of foilers and innovative video coverage have brought in millions of eyeballs on a part of our sport that is a intense, exciting, fascinating, and just a little foreign to sailors and non-sailors alike. And this weekend, there are three major cat races going on at the same time – all with some level of live video coverage, and all with a unique and beautiful backdrop.
Mark Turner’s Extreme Sailing Series continues to provide reliable if not inspiring entertainment, solid return on investment, and a great platform to keep your AC team sharp. They also serve as a bit of a AAA league for America’s Cup recruits, though with the 10 year-old Extreme 40 looking positively dinosaurish against newer boats and foiling skill becoming more important than the short-course mayhem management that is most EXSS races, the fleet’s relevance may fade. In any event, US 49er/skiff/kite sailor Morgan Larson at the helm of Alinghi has been battling multiple series champ and Olympic Tornado skipper Leigh Macmillan from the start of the series with both pulling away from the Swiss Realteam and Emirates Team NZ, with Ben Ainslie back still further, and it’s setting up a nice battle through the final three events of the year; this weekend is in Istanbul, and as you can see from the screenshot above from a much nicer Mark Lloyd photo, it’s gorgeous.
Anyway, you can find everything you need to know about this weekend’s webcast right over here.
After a painfully long development, re-engineer, and foilifying process, the never launched but very new and improved GC32 came on the scene earlier this summer with great fanfare and a hell of a product at the Austria Cup, the full flying boats attracting the Luna Rossa boys as well as Oracle cat racer Tom Slingsby, Luna Rossa and EX40 helm Paul Campbell-James, french match racer Seb Col and a fleet of pros and amateur owner/drivers to mountainous Lake Traunsee. Their circuit is called the “Great Cup” (hence, the name GC32) – and the concept has received massive interest from the full spectrum of racers and teams, though a longer-than-expected repair/re-engineer of the foil junction meant the abandonment of the planned event near Rome in August and a slow start to the series. The organization of a proper Class Association has taken some time as well, and the fleet is back in action this weekend in Southern France this weekend, with French pros like Seb Rogues and Seb Col (on different boats) up against perennial small-cat champ Mischa Heemskerk as well as many of the same players from Austria. Meanwhile, one boat is headed to the US for a speed-addicted US owner, two more are going to high level sportboat teams, we’ll have more news about the Class very soon.
Check out schedules for three days of racing on the site.
M is for Media
The sub-1000 lb. jib-less M32 has also had a slow growth curve; plagued by rig issues and what we understood as a management disagreement amongst two Marstrom affiliates. We know of only two solid fleets: One that summers at Sail Newport and winters in Miami, and one that summers in Scandinavia and winters also in Miami, Both fleets are solid, providing great racing in beautiful locales. This weekend, the M32 takes another step forward, this time with the media package; they’ve got WMRT and longtime sports video producer Sam Usher to show off what the European fleet has accomplished with a seven-boat starting line and the stunning backdrop of the Stockholm coast.
We’ll have more news from the M-32 fleet right here; check out the M32Cup website for more details.