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GC32: Chris Steele helms Black Star Sailing Team to World title win

by Michael Brown/Yachting NZ 29 Jul 15:11 NZST 29 July 2022
Black Star Sailing Team - GC32 Racing Tour . Lagos World Championships - Day 2 - July, 2022 © Sailing Energy / GC32 Racing Tour

Chris Steele had won a couple of world championships before but this one was different as he led his Black Star Sailing Team to the GC32 world title in Lagos recently.

Steele, who won the 2007 Optimist and 2010 Splash world titles, helmed the Swiss team to a come-from-behind victory.

They won six of the last 10 races in the foiling catamaran class - on top of three seconds and a third - to overtake early leaders K-Challenge Team France and claim the title by nine points. Alinghi Red Bull Racing were a further 14 points behind in third.

Steele was backed up by fellow Kiwi Stewart Dodson as well as Pier Luigi de Felice, who sometimes lives in New Zealand, and also on board was team boss and mainsheet trimmer Christian Zuerrer and Will Alloway.

It was a breakthrough win for the team who had finished fifth at a pre-worlds regatta at the same venue three weeks previously.

Black Star Sailing Team debuted on the GC32 Racing Tour in 2019 and finished third overall in 2021 but their win in Lagos was their first ever GC32 Racing Tour event victory.

“This is up there,” Steele said of how this victory ranks. “It is cool to be part of this project. There are some awesome guys in the teams.

“We have always been strong in the light, so that played into our hands. I have to give credit to K-Challenge - they came out of the blocks firing early on, which surprised people and were there right to the end. They were really quick upwind, but we were fast upwind, but really fast downwind.”

The first two days of the regatta proved to be the hardest for Black Star. They started well and showed good speed but one bad start on each day meant they needed to count a seventh and an eighth which, in a 10-boat fleet, would make life difficult. They were still second overall but 10 points behind the French going into the third day.

"I said to the guys on the morning of day three that it was moving day for us," Steele said. "We needed to be very accurate in everything we did to give ourselves a chance going into the last day and I knew momentum was going to play a huge part.

"We scored a one, two, three in the first three races, however, the French were able to match those."

That saw Steele start more aggressively on the final day to good effect, with the French scoring some deep results in a dying breeze.

Crucially, Black Star won the 17th and what proved to be the final race of the regatta, with K-Challenge ninth.

Black Star also compete in the RC44 Cup, with Steele, Dodson and fellow Kiwi Guy Endean on board and Cameron Dunn as coach, and switch their attention to October's RC44 world championships in Slovenia.

"We have a new boat to set up before the worlds in October," Steele said. "We're a new team to that class and have lot to learn but it’s an exciting new challenge and very unique racing."

Full results from GC32 world championships gc32racingtour.com/results

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