Editorial: An Amazing Sail Racing Year In Prospect
What an amazing year we have in prospect for the sport of sailboat racing. The international season got off to a flying start with lots of exciting racing going on all around the world.
None more so than the newly rebooted Match Racing World Tour which started in sensational style at the beginning of March in Australia. Like tens of thousands of others, I was glued to the live online coverage from Freemantle to see how the top match racers in the world would make the transition from one to two hulls. The WMRT organisers were rewarded for choosing a reliably windy venue with some truly breathtaking, high-speed match racing.
The shock of the event was the elimination of American skipper Taylor Canfield who last year had excelled in the M32 Scandinavian fleet racing series and finished second in the WMRT. Three out of four of the semi finalists in Freemantle turned out to be experienced catamaran exponents, but it was the monohull sailor – reigning WMRT champion Ian Williams – who took the win.
New WMRT owner, Håkan Svensson, has assembled a great team around him and I predict the Tour will go from strength to strength as the season progresses.
The America’s Cup World Series also got underway with a light airs opener in Muscat, Oman in February. Despite the absence of any fast foiling action over the two-day event, the racing was still compelling to watch. In fact, you could argue that the comparatively low speeds of the boats made it even more interesting, Fans of flat-out foiling will argue with me but I enjoyed the opportunity to see the tactical dilemmas unfold and hear more of what the sailors were saying to each other on board.
With this summer’s Olympic Games in Brazil looming large on the horizon, this year’s Olympic Classes world championships are a good indicator of who might be medal contenders in Rio de Janeiro this August. Among the firm favourites are Kiwi Pair Peter Burling & Blair Tuke in the 49er, Britain’s Giles Scott in the Finn and France’s Billy Besson & Marie Riou in the Nacra 17. However, the swirling winds of Rio’s Guanabara Bay are reportedly proving hard for even the best sailors in the world to get their heads around, so an upset to the form guide is not out of the question.
Elsewhere, the Extreme Sailing Series has morphed into a foiling event with a switch from the Extreme 40 catamarans to the high powered GC32 Class. The organisers are remaining loyal to their grandstand sailing philosophy, meaning the teams have their work cut out to manhandle their new flying machines around the notoriously tight ESS courses.
Although the 2016-17 edition of the legendary solo, non-stop Vendée Globe race around the world doesn’t start until November, there’s still plenty going on as the skippers and their backup teams work flat out to be ready in time. Top of the agenda for six of the top teams is how to master the new generation of ‘foiling’ daggerboards. These new upward pointing fins have been created with the sole purpose of winning the Vendée, but while the reaching and downwind performance boosts are significant, upwind sailing remains an issue. Concerns over structural reliability have meant major modifications to many – if not all six – of the yachts over the winter. Two transatlantic races in May this year – The Transat, from Plymouth to New York and the return New York to Les Sables D’Olonne Race, could give some important clues to who has made the most progress in the daggerboard department.
With all this activity and so much more besides going on in our sport, I believe there could not be a better time to reintroduce Sail Racing Magazine to the market. Our new App’s immersive design layout takes full advantage of the iPad’s capabilities and every issue will be crammed with exclusive in-depth articles and interviews as well as stunning action images from the world’s best yachting photographers.
Our first issue, April - May 2016, is out now and you can download a copy on your iOS device via our free App or read the stories in the Members Only section of our website. Either way I hope you enjoy the content as much as I have putting it together.
Here’s to a great season of racing for everyone!