In the last world championship of their careers, Austrian sailing legends Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher led Red Bull Sailing to victory at the GC32 World Championship in Villasimius, Sardinia, Italy. Along with the title, the team also move to second in the overall standings ahead of the season finale in November.
Act 3 of the GC32 Racing Tour saw the Austrian team waging a battle for the ages against two-time America’s Cup winners Alinghi of Switzerland. The final score was a tie, with a decider based on race placement ultimately putting Red Bull Sailing on top.
This World Championship was especially meaningful for Hagara, 55, and Steinacher, 53, because 2021 marks their final competitive season. With two Olympic golds and numerous other world, European and national titles, they're Austria’s most successful summer sport athletes.
When you know this is your last World Championship, you approach it with something special
The regatta in Villasimius served up challenges including tricky winds, but it was the first time since Act 1 that Red Bull Sailing had all the members of their seasoned original team – including Julius Hallström of Sweden and Australia's Mark Spearman and Rhys Mara – on board. With Hagara back at the helm they came out fighting in a field of eight powerful contenders, the biggest line-up of the season so far.
While other teams struggled with the fickle winds of the early races, Red Bull Sailing proved that they deserve their reputation as light-wind specialists. They boat took second in the only race of Day 1 and then won the opener on Day 2, an intense affair that saw only three points separating the top five boats as the afternoon’s three races concluded.
On Day 3, they proved that they have what it takes in windy conditions as well. With podiums in all five of the races, including two wins, they were the top-scoring boat of the day and headed into Sunday’s climactic action at the head of the leaderboard.
Sunday proved to be a nailbiting showdown against the defending champions, Alinghi. The Swiss team had shown uncharacteristic vulnerability in Villasimius, but came charging back for a slight lead. A race win by the Austrians kept it close and everything came down to the final race.
There, Red Bull Sailing were able to take advantage of technical problems on Alinghi’s boat, finishing fourth to the Swiss team’s seventh-place result – just enough for the tie in the World Championship points.
The decider was placement in the last race, giving Red Bull Sailing the crown, with Alinghi in second and another Swiss boat, Team Tilt, in third.
The result was the first world title for Hagara and Steinacher since 2004, and the first-ever GC32 World Championship for Red Bull Sailing.
Red Bull Sailing tactician Hans Peter Steinacher said: “When you know this is your last World Championship, you approach it with something special. You try everything you can find, and yet you’re more relaxed as well. In the end, I think the fact that it’s been quite a long time since our last world title is why we were able to do great, it felt completely different to our other efforts. And also the whole team has been together for three years, so we work very well together. The effort was high from everyone and now we can celebrate.”
The effort was high from everyone and now we can celebrate
With only November’s season finale remaining on the calendar, Red Bull Sailing – who finished third in the GC32 Racing Tour in their debut season of 2019 – have moved up to second place in the 2021 standings, three points behind leaders Alinghi and two points ahead of another Swiss contender, third-place Black Star Sailing.
The closing act of the GC32 Racing Tour 2021, and the competitive career finale for Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher, will set sail in Mar Menor, Spain on November 3-7, 2021.
GC32 Racing Tour Act 3 2021/GC32 World Championship, Villasimius, Sardinia, Italy:
- Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 43 points
- Alinghi (SUI) 43
- Team Tilt (SUI) 50
- Black Star Sailing Team (SUI) 51
- Team Rockwool Racing (DEN) 58
Overall GC32 Racing Tour standings after three of four acts:
- Alinghi (SUI) 4 points
- Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 7
- Black Star Sailing Team (SUI) 9
- Team Rockwool Racing (DEN) 12
- Zoulou (FRA) 13