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Skippers cannot wait to get started

Rain stops play: Practice day was cancelled with winds in excess of 25 knots (Photograph by Brian Carlin/M32)

Multihull racing will take centre stage in the Great Sound today with the opening races of the 2016 M32 Series North America, which is being held in Bermuda for the first time.

Five teams will put their skills to the test on the high performance M32 catamaran on the racecourse for the 35th America’s Cup.

With today’s weather forecast calling for a mix of sun and cloud, with 14 to 18 knots of wind, the hope is that the conditions that prevented yesterday’s practise session will have changed.

“Everyone is very keen on getting out pretty bright and early, and we’ll do as many races as we can,” David Doucett, the M32 North America spokesman, said. “The races are really short and we’ll do five to six races.”

Among those competing is Charlie Enright, the Volvo Ocean Race skipper.

“After the Volvo Ocean Race, we have been looking for ways to keep some members of our team together and the M32 Series Bermuda is a natural fit: exciting racing, close to our east coast base, and on the M32 which is really taking off as an exciting class in the sport,” he said. “We look forward to this new challenge and to pushing the other teams on the Great Sound.”

Also among the fleet is Sally Barkow, the former Olympic sailor and Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, who is competing with an all-female team in preparation for the upcoming 2016 World Match Racing Tour.

“Our team will be in Bermuda to gain as much experience as possible in the M32s as well as enjoying the America’s Cup excitement in Bermuda and racing on the Great Sound,” Barkow said.

Today’s moderate northwesterly breezes should prove ideal for the M32 catamaran, which sails faster than the true wind speed.

“The ideal conditions of these boats are 12-15 knots,” Doucett added.

Yesterday’s official practice races were cancelled due to strong gales, which did very little to dampen the spirits of the sailors who will be keen to get stuck in some serious racing when the starter’s gun fires today.

The M32 is a 32-foot open, one-design catamaran sailed by a crew of four or five. The multihull racing yacht doesn’t have a jib for sailing upwind which would create drag and reduce both speed and manoeuvrability.

The first M32 was launched in local waters last October and could potentially replace the International One Design racing sloop as the class for the WMRT sanctioned Argo Group Gold Cup.

The M32 Series was formed to create a professional sailing series on a regional level.

The 2016 M32 Series North America comprises of four stages that will run from January to April with one event per month.

Following this weekend’s racing, the second stage will be held February 19-21, the third March 11-13 and fourth and final stage April 15-17.

The series is being organised by M32 North America in conjunction with the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

n Leatrice Roman is the new commodore of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

The seasoned sailor is only the second woman to serve in the top post behind Jane Savage, who now heads up the Bermuda Red Bull Youth America’s Cup committee.

Roman succeeded Somers Kempe as the RBYC’s commodore on New Year’s Day, and will hold the position for the next two years.