The International Offshore Team Association (IOTA) has announced four new teams for this season's nine-race Class 1 World Offshore Championship (WOC) beginning in Lisbon, Portugal, on Sunday, 23 May.

The International Offshore Team Association (IOTA) has announced four new teams for this season’s nine-race Class 1 World Offshore Championship (WOC) beginning in Lisbon, Portugal, on Sunday, 23 May.

Heading the 13-strong fleet, that includes teams from Austria, Great Britain, Italy, and Norway, is the defending World, European, Middle East and Pole Position Champions, Bjorn Rune Gjelsten and Yachtsman of the Year, Steve Curtis, driving Spirit of Norway.

“It’s an impressive line-up,” says Steve Curtis. “I expect the level of competition to be very high. Last year we had the edge but we will have to be on the top of our game this season if we are to defend our titles successfully.”

The strength in depth of this year’s line-up is such that any one of six boats is capable of challenging for top honours with the leading protagonists, Victory, Qatar 96, and Jotun all fielding the same drivers and power units as last season.

There is however a question mark over who will partner Italian Edoardo Polli, last year’s championship runner-up, in Highlander.

The unknown quantities are the new entries; the Austrian-based Power Pilots Team have registered two boats, opting for Platinum racing hulls but as yet undecided on the engine package. Erwin Zimmermann and Kurt Prufert are confirmed as throttleman and driver in Austria 1 with Paul Gaiser and Norbert Blecha aboard Brasil 1.

British interest is heightened with the entry of Plymouth race sponsor Chris Parsonage making his Class 1 debut alongside the very experienced Peter ‘muddy’ McGrath from New Zealand driving a Lamborghini-Skema powered Victory built outfit.

From Norway, Bjorge Jacobsen and Bard Eker will also be making their debut in the ex-Ugland Offshore Racing Tencara fitted with Lamborghinis.

The fourth new team is Veneta Marina out of Italy fronted by Giampoalo Montavoci and also opting for a Victory boat and Lamborghini power.

Completing this year’s line-up are Giorgi Offshore with Nicola Giorgi teaming up with Mauro Esperto. They are staying with Lamborghinis but switching from the old Molinari hull to a Cougar while Overwave Racing with Maurizio Czeschin and Alberto Brombin aboard is the same rig as last year.