Hero to Zero in 13 miles. East Coast Piers- Colne Point Race 2019.
Let’s face it, no one gets on an ‘A’ Class Cat because it is a absolute bandit on the handicap. And if you’d a bit of a pot-hunter, you’d better sail like Glenn Ashby, or basically look somewhere else. This is the tale of one such race as an example.
The famed East Coast Piers Race, and it’s shorter variations, have been long established on the UK endurance race circuit for many years. Organised and sailed from the Marconi SC on the South side of the Blackwater river. Now forming part of the Allen Endurance Race Series, it is some 47 miles for the full race, 27 for the Colne Point leg. This is the one usually recommended for the slower boats and the single handers. Sailing the full 47 mile race on a single-handed boat, particularly if the wind got up, could possibly kill you. Over the weekend, the Saturday has a couple of around the cans races up and down the Blackwater river to get you warmed up and finalise your settings after rigging up. The wind this time was from the Northwest, and thus came over the wooded Osea Island and as a result, was rather shifty and gusty. It gave a few of us the feeling of sailing around Rutland Water only with a tide.
Leading the ‘A’ Cat fleet challenge, (all on Classic non foilers BTW) was the British Association President Struan Wallace from TBYC., BACCA Sec Gordon Upton from Rutland SC., Dan Brzezinski from Clacton SC, Vincey Talfourd from Marconi SC , but were a man down as another Clacton sailor, Pete Boxer, was unfortunately forced to be absent after already booking in. A pity as it would have been his race given the conditions. All were looking for a good sail in their warm-up for the GBR Nationals and the ‘A’ Cat World Championships starting Mid August at Weymouth.
After a leisurely morning bimbling about the boat, getting your stuff sorted, racing started at 1pm. Vincey wasn’t sailing the Saturday races, so the three remaining launched down the appropriately named slip-way and launched off. All good until T minus 6 minutes, when Gordon pulled on the mainsheet and the shackle fixing the mainsheet block to the tramp gave out. Not as much bimbling as he thought eh? After a few moments of industrial language, he sailed back in again. The race started and the others all shot off up river. Gordon meanwhile was then lying on his back under the trampoline on the slimy seaweed encrusted shore fixing the block and being glad it had happened then and not in the middle of the next days race.
Race two was then joined by the newly seaweed bedecked sailor. And all was well. Other than about half of the fleet forgetting the go around a way-mark on the course, all was good. Back ashore, where we were delighted to be told at the briefing for the next days epic by Andrew Downie, ECPR Big Boss, that a sponsor, Allen, had put 100 pints behind the bar. ‘Is that each?’ some wag asked. BBQ and then a great band played. No idea who they were, but they made a great sound. However, us ‘A’ Class athletes were all tucked up in bed by 10:30pm as an early start was in the offing.
Bang on 5:30am, the PRO woke everyone up and told the rescue crews to get their skates on, before playing the traditional Sweet Caroline hit over the tannoy, leaving it as a earworm for the day for many. 8am was the start for the ECPR, 8:15 for the Colne Point sailors. So at the allotted time, boats formed an orderly queue onto the hard to have their flares, paddle, rope and compass ticked off. And the Sailracer trackers were handed out.
85+ cats launched onto the river, now on the ebb tide to help us along. The big boys got off, fortunately it was an east wind, so with the tide flowing, none were taken over the line. Then it was Game On for the Colne Point fleet.
Now, you’d think that a really blistering start would be less important for a 27 mile race than for your usual 45min club affair wouldn’t you? Wrong! The fleet started to amass near the line. You can watch this back on the Sailracer.org site, and relive the potential unfolding horror in real time. Gordon had realized most boats were over at the pin end and seemed to be planning a mass port start. OK, the thing with a port flier is that there is only usually one, or possibly two willing to try it on the start. It is a bit of a specialty of which Gordon has been known to practice more than is good for him. If you are on a boat such as the ‘A’ Cat in a mixed fleet, it certainly makes things easier. And, he once witnessed it occur at the start of one of the final races in the 2018 ‘A’ Cat worlds where NZL ace Micah Wilkinson did it successfully right across the foiling fleet, containing Glenn Ashby and Pete Burling plus other sailing Gods, at Hervey Bay. Ballsiest thing ever witnessed!
But doing a Starboard flier, if there is such a thing, well, that required less courage. More a sort of morbid sense of curiosity and willingness to see what could actually happen in reality, when a lone boat meets a mass of other boats, but with right of way.
Bang! Gun went off right behind his right ear, and Gord immediately started screaming ‘Staaaaarbourd!’ at the top of his lungs, repeatedly for the next 30 seconds. Sure enough, crews heads popped out from behind jibs or under booms, rooster tails shot up from rudders suddenly pushed one way or the other. Boats turned into the paths of other boats, screams emanated from the wronged only to get screamed at from the others they had wronged. Gordon felt a huge sense of accomplishment, as he had finally achieved something in sailing. ‘My work here is done’, he though, as he finally tacked the windward side of the entire fleet and headed East for the river’s entrance.
After a few minutes things calmed down. Time to check your surrounding boats, who was where, whom to watch and follow or to avoid. The wind was about12 kts but a little gusty here and there. Try to remember where the bits you aren’t supposed to be sailing in is tricky if you don’t sail much on a estuary. Luckily the wind seemed to be in the channel centre so the decision was made for you. Time to take a drink. Wearing a Camelback drink system, designed for runners, is the only way on a single hander to stay hydrated on a race where you could be in the trapeze for an hour or more at a time. It was worn under Gordon’s impact vest giving him a hunchback look to perfectly match his hunchfront. The impact vest was tight fitting, even more so with the Camelback. This resulted in a inadvertently pressurized water hydration system that came as a bit of a shock at first use, blasting water into his mouth and up his nose with considerable force.
After 15 mins, the windward performance of the ‘A’ Cat was showing. Few boats can match the class when going uphill, as the ‘A’ can outpoint anything. Ollie Harris on his Spitfire was going well a few hundred meters away slightly ahead from Gordon, at about the same speed, but half a degree or so lower, so closed with the shoreline meaning a few more tacks as we headed for the first waypoint of Bradwell Gate, next to the powerstation. Staying to the windward side of the old Radio Caroline ship was a good move too. Struan didn’t see that massive red boat anchored in the middle of the river for some reason and ended up in its lea for a bit. A couple of other ‘A’s were in the vicinity as was a Tornado, but as the fleet exited the estuary mouth, Gordon’s higher VMG showed to be paying off as he had stretched out a healthy lead.
Then the wind started to drop and the fleet started to disperse a little in search of more pressure. This was the point that you are vulnerable if you are leading. Do you cover the fleet by tacking more frequently, or do you try to find the pressure in front of you. He elected to do a bit of each. Trying to reduce the number of tacks too, as tacks are another potential massive CRS (cockup rich situation) that can cost tens of boatlengths. Not knowing where you are supposed to be going doesn’t help either, particularly when you find yourself in the weird position of actually leading the race. Fortunately, the lovely organisers had arranged ‘Mother’ ships stationed at 1 mile intervals, flying flags. This helped enormously and guiding the way to seeing the Colne buoy mark and it’s attendant red inflatable triangle gate. First to the top mark, but now the screaming starts.
The wind had now dropped to about 4-5 kts and was dropping still. What to do? Being a boat about purity, elegance and simplicity (Ha!) the ‘A’ Cat doesn’t carry a kite to hoist to help with going downhill. All the ‘A ‘Cats realized that their upwind pace, in a dying breeze would not have been enough to see them not picked off one at a time by the laundry flyers, rather like those old wildebeest on the Veldt being hunted by hyenas that you see in David Attenborough films. Sure enough, the lead boat changed about half way back across the bay when that Tornado went in for the kill. Not an outright kill, just enough to lame though. Death by a thousand cuts this was to be. The ‘A’ Cat going downhill in 3 kts of wind is a sorry sight. The crew is usually stretched out along the windward hull, halfway to the forestay. Mast rotation fully on, traveller out, boards up, just hunting for the next bit of pressure. The German ‘A’ Cat sailors love this sort of stuff though. In an ‘A’ Class regatta, light winds = GER at the front of the fleet.
So it continued, into the estuary entrance a slight pressure increase. This seemed to be over on the southern bank on the left and those who realized made gains on the others. By now they had been joined by the leaders of the ECPR coming through. But they too then slowed to a crawl. Every now and then a bit of a gust arrived and little bunches of boats suddenly moved off. Occasionally one of the big foiling Vampires or the Flying Phantom got up on it’s foils and shot off. Only to sit down again and with the drag of the foils, became rather more sluggish, like an old seaplane until the next puff.
This was the pattern for the rest of the race. The tide was in flow, so the fleet was being swept up the river anyhow. Eventually the finish line was crossed and the dreaded wait for the results on corrected times commenced. You have to realize that sometimes you just need to suck it up. Getting beaten by a boat that finishes as you are already hosing yours down on the hard is just what happens in handicap racing. No point in getting bitter, we all had some degree of say in the boats we sail, so it’s our own fault. If that is important to you, then as was said at the beginning, get a slower boat. Or learn to sail yours like a champion. In the final analysis, and reflecting on the drive home, you realize you probably made the correct decision and wouldn’t have changed it for the world. A really well organized event, great friendly people, a good club – what’s not to like. Back next year and it’s a week earlier. Probably rename the boat ‘The Old Wildebeest’ too.
‘A’ Cat Results
1stGordon Upton – DNA (23rd Overall) 4h 0m 6s
2ndVincey Talfourd – Bim V1 (33rd) 4h 13m 2s
3rdStruan Wallace – Exploder A15 (36th) 4h 15m, 36s
4th Dan Brzezinski – Tool (38th) (4h 16m 27s)
Fleet winner Nigel James - Dart Sprint 15 (4h 30m 38s)
Photos - Sportography.tv
Stokes Bay Cat Open – A Cat TT 1-2 Sept 2018
They couldn’t have picked a better weekend; Wall to wall sunshine, with not a cloud to be seen, breezes a little above forecast, lots of people walking, running or just watching along the promenade, what was not to like? Crews were seen talking to passers by and the occasional dad was overheard explaining to their kids that some of these boats are made from the same stuff that Formula One cars use. It was a great advert for sailing in general and Cat sailing in particular.
The Stokes Bay event is always one of the most enjoyable in the calendar. A friendly club, well run and organized events with a cheap bar and good food. However, this year saw just 7 ‘A’ Cats turn out to race in the end. There should have been more, but a couple removed themselves from the event in rather interesting ways. BACCA President, Struan Wallace was fortunate to escape injury but had his boat totally destroyed, and I mean ‘totally destroyed’ without a single part remaining usable other than a couple of blocks and a few screws, when he was rammed into by a white van at 70mph, whilst he was asleep in a layby in his camper on the A1 at 2:45 in the morning. Then Ben Mancini, who to be fair had at least arrived at the venue, then nearly brained himself when his trailer jockey wheel collapsed and the mast landed on his head, sending him to the local A&E for stiches. It would now appear that you should wear your WIP helmets at all times from now on, even in bed.
Three Rutland boats, a couple from Clacton and one from Instow joined in with a Stokes Bay boat, the only one from their fleet to venture out. The event was also the Hurricane Nationals, of which some 25 or so turned up. A few Unicorns and a bunch of Shearwaters with their usual associated camp followers. The result was about 50 cats on the water.
As the Hurricanes had been there for a day already, their start was earlier. The other fleets were arranged to join in at their third race of the Saturday. The wind was up at about 15+kts then, and had been for most of the morning, so the first race was one for those who like the fruiter end. It was also wind against the tide. The Classics and Foilers were all in the Fast Handicap fleet, so had to contend with Unicorns, and F18s. With the sun out, it was classic Champagne sailing… if Champagne had lumps in it.
The first race started and all headed for the calmer water closer inshore, before tacking across to the right for the top mark. There was also a lift as the shore approached. The mark set on the edge of the shipping channel and the trip became progressively more bouncy the nearer you got to it. However, the ‘A’ Cat is designed superbly to cope with this, and the wave piercing bows do tend to work as advertised. You just have to remember to foot off a little to maintain your speed in the up one, through one wave rhythm. Downhill, inshore was favorite. Smoother water and slower adverse tidal flow before you crossed back to the bottom marks. However, those who braved the rougher stuff by going to the right on the next uphill part found the tidal flow had gained them dozens of extra boat-lengths at the top mark. As expected the foilers finished in the lead with Local Hero Dave Roberts 2015 DNA showing the way to Rutland’s Mike Bawden on his ex Bundy Exploder Ad3. Another Rutland sailor, Gordon Upton (2012 DNA), was the first classic ahead of Clacton’s Pete Boxer (Tool). Three class newbies of Clacton’s Dan Brezinski, (Tool), Instow’s Sam Heaton (2014 DNA Foiling) and Rutland’s Francis Marshall (Bim X7R).
It usually takes a race or two for regular lake sailors to realize there are tides to play with at sea rather than gusts and shifts. The steadiness of the wind and the sustained length of the gusts do come as a pleasant surprise allowing you to do things you often can’t do for long on lakes. Doing 3 min long ‘Wild Things’ downwind, for example, on a Classic boat is a real joy.
On the next race, the Hurricanes had all gone back for slipway beers having done their work for the day, leaving the course clearer. By then the wind had dropped down to 9-10 kts, and the tide was on the turn. This obviously means that the lighter wind sailing and setup specialists start to come to the party more and all the advantages of the heavyweights evaporate like spilt acetone. The second and third races followed the same pattern – head inshore then tack across for the top mark. Only this time the inshore was less beneficial downhill as there was more pressure further offshore. The two foilers of Dave and Mike showed the way downhill as it was still just about foilable. Back in the Classic fleet, Pete slowly edged ahead of Gordon on the downwind sections where their respective bodyweight differentials became more defined. A little farther back, Dan held off Francis to get 4th. And Sam went for a swim in race 3.
Stokes Bay usually has good ents in the evening. This time, a local trio, the Velvet Doonicans, played superb blues, Americana and bluegrass tunes. Only Knopfler was missing.
Sunday was another lovely day and there was a Fun Run along the prom so more people about again. This time we all started at 10;30 am. The wind was a little up on the latter races of the day before, but the earlier start time meant that the tide was playing a more significant effect, pushing you up the course. So, right side upwind, left side downwind, at least for the Classics. The foilers being less affected by the tide downwind, as long as they can stay on their foils, tended go for where the pressure was slightly greater more off the shore.
Race 4 got off to a clean start for most. But remember that tide and the lake sailor bit? Gordon, pushing the line across the front of the fleet Glenn Ashby style, aiming for the pin but misjudged the tide with an F18 and it turned out to be OCS. Both thought they were in so carried on. Most boats tacked reasonably early to get across to the faster tide with it’s accompanying lumpiness. The leaders tacked early and layed the mark. Those who tacked slightly later found it to be a pretty good technique, as they could sail freer into the mark and power through/over the waves better, carrying more speed in. This time, most tended to gybe back earlier as the pressure was better a little off the shore. Dave and Mike foiled away into the distance. However, when the rest arrived at the bottom, we were greeted by Dave on his boat, showing signs of grief and distress. The boat had mounted the big bottom mark and was steadfastly refusing to get off. The tide was pushing him onto it, but he was still pointing into wind and effectively sailing backwards at 3 kts unable to do anything other than screaming at some passing Shearwaters advising them to round further away, as he could see his rudders disappearing in a collision if one took it too tight. Our main worry was that he may be sailing off with the mark and we’d all have to catch him up first before we could all round it. Such fun.
In the end, he got off it somehow and had a DNF. Mike finished first, Pete was second as Gordon was OCS.
Race 5 had a general recall as we were all pushed over the line and almost right on the gun, in the middle of the fleet, a loud ping was heard and a Dart 15 saw his rig disappear over the side. He was recovered and the second start got everyone away and right head on into the Hurricane fleet, who were by now just getting down to the bottom mark. These things seem barely under control at the best of times, so shouting provocative things like Windward Boat is pretty pointless, as one would destroy an ‘A’ Cat just like Struan’s white van man. Best just to run away instead as they are not in your race anyhow, so a few wiser souls decided to bang in a quick tack to get out into the faster water on the right. A good plan it transpired.
All went as the previous race with the same tactics. But the tactic of all but one boat finishing a lap early wasn’t such a good one. The confusion arose when, seeing boats ahead crossing the finish line and stop seemed to encourage the leaders of the ‘A’ Cat fleet to stop too. All except Dave who had rounded the mark before the Hurricanes finished. I put it down to the lead boats of the pack forgetting the recall and getting enmeshed in the Hurricane fleet as normal, finished when they all did thus getting us a mass DNF. Lessons learned? Na, we’ll probably do it again.
Last race, same pattern only the wind had dropped a knot or two at the bottom half of the course. Dave and Mike foiled off at the top mark as per usual, with Dave winning the series with straight bullets in all but his buoy mounting race. Pete and Gordon battled it out at the front of the Classic fleet, Gordon winning uphill in the windy bits, Pete winning downhill in the quieter bits. Dan watching from a discrete distance further back. In the end Pete won, being on the inside at the final top mark and keeping the position all that leg to win and clinch the Classic series. And as ever, the best wind is always found on the sail back into the beach.
Finally we had great racing in a lovely venue with great people. We learned not to be scared by massive dredgers chugging through the race area. We saw how high an ‘A Cat can fly when launched off from the wake of a speeding Gin Palace driven by a man no little situational awareness and a orange wife. The newer guys always learn lots, so that’s why you should come to these events, as you never go home knowing less than when you arrived. Many thanks to Stokes Bay for another great event.
Thanks to Dawn Bawden for the photos.
UK NATS 2018 – WPNSA
The 2012 British Olympic venue of the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) was the location chosen for this year’s UK National Championships. This was done for a couple of reasons. Firstly to give sailors a last chance to race at the venue before the ‘A’ Class World Championships are held there in August next year. And secondly, to give the WPNSA an opportunity to see the ‘A’ Cats in actual racing action, allowing them to calibrate lap times/distances etc and give the shore crews an idea of what is to be required of them for next year. As the home of the British Sailing Team, who are out training in squads every day and being a popular venue for regattas, in all respects their systems worked perfectly as their organization, a legacy from the Olympics, is still very much functioning correctly.
However, this year, as a result of a large high-pressure system sat over the Atlantic, the winds were a little peculiar of late, and tended to be Southerly or South-Easterly, rather than the usual South-Westerly, and tended to be stronger in the mornings, dropping off in the afternoons. This gave an interesting range of conditions to test the fleet. They are usually a little higher than you see on most forecasts too. This year attendance was somewhat diminished due to clashes with Texel and various other commitments suffered by BACCA members, leaving only 12 boats to race, plus some Unicorns, invited along to play too.
Racing together on one start, both Foiling and Classic divisions found the racing both good and challenging. When the wind is from that direction, Portland Harbour tends to have better winds than out in Weymouth Bay. Steady smooth winds over flat water made for excellent foiling conditions and allowed the Classics to ‘Wild Thing’ downwind for minutes at a time.
The first two days saw 3 races each day, with the first two on each day in 10-13 kts, the third races of the day in more marginal 6-8kts winds. The last day had SE winds of about 9 kts initially, but dropping and was 5kts during the last race. Rather frustrating for some, but right in the zone for others.
From the start, Artemis AC team member, former GBR Tornado Olympian and local boy, Adam May (Exploder Ad3), showed the pace over his close rival, the Worlds Fastest Sailor and another local boy, Paul Larsen (Ad3). However, it was Adam’s freakish ability to get foiling in ridiculously light winds that gave him 7 bullets in the 8 race series. Both sailors had also helpfully shared their local knowledge of where the wind was best with the rest of the fleet, but they were still pretty uncatchable most of the time. Further down the Foiling fleet, the Stokes Bay sailor Dave Roberts, tried his best to dent their dominance scoring a couple of 2ndplaces in the process.
Next in the running order were the two Rutland sailors Mike Bawden (Ad3) and Phil Neal (Exploder A14). This pair are used to battling against each other week in and week out, so just took the fight to Portland and Mike was the stronger on this occasion. ‘A’ Class newbie, Sam Heaton doggedly battled around the course, refusing to give up but learned some good skills in doing so. He is the perfect example of why all newcomers should enter such events. It would have taken him months to learn what 3 days have taught him here, and the advice given from the other sailors is invaluable. Rounding off the fleet was Ben Daignault (DNA). Ben suffered a major rudder stock failure in race one after a particularly spectacular crowd-pleasing foiling wipeout, so was all ready to go home early. However, Paul Larsen’s legendary Aussie ‘can do’ attitude kicked in, and he got going after the sailing, with carbon, hairdryers and a bin liner and next day Ben was back on the water with a fixed and working case.
In the Classic fleet, BACCA President Struan Wallace (Scheurer G5) was usually the fastest in both the windier and lighter stuff. But his inability to consistently remain on the dry side of his boat, even when the boat was behaving itself will be remembered. During race 3, in the light stuff, and having gained a good lead, he somehow just fell off it. He resurfaced to see his boat serenely sailing on downwind, at the perfect angle and just missed the bottom gate. Had he been on the other tack, it would have won all on it’s own, as it would have crossed the finish line rather like a loose horse in the Grand National. Next day he did a similar thing in more wind and the boat waited for him on it’s side this time.
Next down was RSC’s Gordon Upton (DNA), a heavy wind specialist, vs Bala based Owen Cox (Bim XJ), the light wind specialist. Owen scored 2 bullets on the final day to finish 2ndoverall after Gordon struggled to get going with his heavier wind setup. Another good light airs sailor, Ben Mancini (Bim 2000) from Weston, came in 4thoverall after also struggling with mast rake in the windier early races. And welcome ‘A’ Cat returnee and Largo Bay sailor Derek Gibb (Scheurer G5) was 5thafter retiring in race 5 and played no further part in the racing.
In the end, despite the lowish turnout, the event was very enjoyable. The waters of the WPNSA are as excellent as we had been led to expect, as was the reception from the staff and helpers, who also had to cope with and herd 50 or so excited local kids who were having some Dragon Boat races that weekend too.
Now bring on the 2019 ‘A’ Cat Worlds, to with you are all warmly invited and the local cider is being brewed as we speak.
‘A’ Cat Nationals - Stokes Bay SC 1st-3rd Sept 2017
‘Come to Stokes Bay!’ we said. ‘It’ll be great!’ we said. ‘It’s a super friendly club and the water’s nice and the beers cheap!’ we said. In the end, 14 boats turned up, and 4 of those were from the Stokes Bay club. A somewhat disappointing turnout when you conceder it was the UK National Championships and had been in the calendar for 12 months. But people have other things to do with their weekends sometimes and so be it. They all missed a great event.
The forecast was a testing one. It promised both ends of the ‘A’ Cat’s range. Friday and Saturday was to be sunny 5-7 kts, Sunday an overcast and rainy 19-22kts., something for everyone in fact. The event was part of the SBSC Cat Open and it was also the Spitfire Nationals. There were also a bunch of UKCRA kids on the Nacra 15 together with a few odd Tornadoes, and F18 and some Unicorns. Plus a whole flock of Sheawaters.
Friday racing, due to the light wind, only consisted of the single race the PRO managed to get in. We all drifted gently about the Solent in the sunshine until our new treasurer, Richard Hargreaves won on his DNA F1. Ron Price was 2nd and Dave Roberts took 3rd. Local knowledge might be playing a part here. Richard, who is now a SBSC member, but lives on the Isle of White, actually sailed over the day before on his lovely 1971 28 footer. Made a nice change from an old campervan. However, he had to park in Gosport, so he got a nice walk each morning. That afternoon and evening saw the arrival of the rest of the fleets ready for the weekend.
Next day was just the same, lovely and sunny, but pretty calm. After a delay of an hour, the PRO got us all away again. All the boats were in slow mode, and the Classics were mixing it up with the foilers, whom stripped of their winged heels, were distinctly easy to keep up with. Race 2 was won by local boy Dave Roberts on his 2015 foiling DNA , but Classics sailed by Pete Boxer and Ben Mancini were 2nd and 3rd. Race 3 was, in many sailors view, an illegal race. The wind dropped at the top mark to about 2 kts. However, as there were no wind measurements at the top mark, the PRO squeezed it in. Again, the Classics dominated, with Ben and Pete in 1st and 2nd, but then the ‘A’ cat ‘newbie’, the 2000 Olympics sailor Adam May, had found out where to point his boat and got a 3rd. He’d just returned from the Worlds where he was placed 21st, so I think the others may have gotten lucky.
Race 4 saw a little more breeze spring up after we had all been sent back ashore for whitebait and chips. So, everyone sailed out again to the start line. This time the foilers, with their decks-weeper sails started to make an impact. Their upwind efficiency, always a little more than the Classic’s fat head sails, was starting to show. But the Classics weren’t dead just yet. Ben got a well sailed 2nd with Dave in 3rd. But, on the last lap, another boat was seen to hit the top mark. Not a problem, we’ve all done it. However, it sailed on for a finish instead of re-rounding. In hindsight, the witness should have protested instead of relying on the word of the sailor that he would declare a RTD for that race. He didn’t. Had he done as promised, it would have made a difference to the final results for several sailors. Lesson learned. But that night we were entertained in the SBSC bar by a live band and cheap beer. What’s not to like there?
Sunday opened with a steadily building breeze. Rain was promised by lunchtime. It was already 14kts by breakfast and a good 16kts by launching time at 11am. Crowds were beginning to gather with morbid curiosity, sensing something spectacular could unfold.
A Classic View.
Prior to launching, you need to configure the boat for a real blow. Rake the mast back more, adjust the mainsheet strop so the cascade mainsheet is nicely set and not going block to block, leaving you nowhere else to go when you need that extra flatness in the really fruity bits.
Now, the key to sailing in the higher wind ranges is to be deaf. Flapping jibs and your flapping clues just heighten the feeling of wind strength. Just get on with it and launch, then you see if you can find the time to worry about such things. You’ll usually find it isn’t as bad once you are away from the noise of the shore and heading out to the start area. From then on, you can only look out for yourself, which is what I did.
I got the trapeze height sorted. I have to admit that I do have a high wind advantage. But the extra righting moment and extra power that a 95kg Adonis such as myself can produce comes at a personal cost. I needed the trapeze line set a little higher so I could get back onto the boat without flailing about like an upturned beetle. That set, and both tacks tested, it was off to the start area. Yesterday, in the slo-mo stuff, you didn’t really notice the other classes. But now it was game on, those feral teenagers all sailing their Spitfires and Nacra 15s where something to properly watch out for.
So, 5, 4, 1 Go! All the ‘A ‘ Cats set off for the first beat. The wind was now 18kts but a correctly set up ‘A’ Class can be a thing of beauty in those winds. I’d pulled the boards up about a hand’s width and this gave the boat much more control. It wasn’t trying to trip over itself, but just blasting along nicely. The added mast rake meant I could almost match the deck-sweeper guys for height, if not speed, the old DNA Classic was loving it. The waves were not too bad, maybe a couple of feet, but you had to watch for the wakes of the big boats as they sometimes came in from weird angles.
Top mark, 2nd place behind the World’s 21st best ‘A’ Cat sailor. I rounded the mark, they had no spreader, which was a good thing as a dead reach in those winds would be interesting. Through the ‘zone of death’, not too much main let out so the top didn’t fall off and get caught by a gust, downhaul off, spanner out, traveller out to the footstraps, get sat in that little triangle of the track and the rear beam, haul in the main, get the hull flying and steer for the best depth you can whilst hiking. Downwind trapezing could be an option, but then going down the mine after sticking the bows into the back of a wave was also an option, so survival was the best policy this time.
The first lap finished as we rounded the left of the two bottom marks, just as the next fleet was starting. Fortunately, they were about 50m downwind sailing a parallel course and didn’t interfere. This time.
The next time we arrived at the bottom, it was to be a different story. As the other fleet has their top mark some 400m downwind from ours, their lap was shorter. This then put them all on the same layline for the bottom. Thinking ahead, in a rare moment of clarity, I realized what was going to happen if I tried to race them at the mark. And, sure enough, with the spectacular self awareness common to many teenagers, they all charged into the bottom mark like a herd of bullocks, only being dimly aware of other boats of their class. An ill positioned ‘A’ cat, suddenly arriving at the same point would not fare well, and rule 10 would be little defense when becoming an ‘A’ Cat kebab on their poles. However, their boat control and speed of kite dumping is pretty impressive none the less.
The race finished and Adam won, Grant Piggott 2nd with me in 3rd. Their foiling skills were on display now.
It was then I discovered that the tight outhaul was so tight that I’d pulled the bottom of the sail out from the track. Only the downhaul had kept it from unzipping all the way up. OK, what to do? Go in? Na, this was my wind zone. Drop and rehoist the sail? Yea, that would work, assuming I could get it down in that wind, on the water, in those waves! So, in the end I just rethreaded the sail below the mast slot and kept the downhaul tightened, and dropped the outhaul off a little. Seemed to work. In fact it worked nicely as in the next race I didn’t touch the downhaul at all after setting it. In that wind, now 19kts, power downhill was something I possibly didn’t need more of, so it made rounding the marks easier, just worrying about the spanner and traveller settings.
The next race started with minimal fuss and we all set off again. And again, bouncy bouncy, splash spash uphill. Adam inexorably pulling ahead again. The laps unwound in the traditional fashion with the same bottom mark death potential. But this time, remember those Sheawaters? Their course had their bottom mark set downwind to ours, and about 100m further to the left. This meant that these vaguely amusing looking, chubby little cats, started coming upwind on their port tack just as we’d all got going on starboard towards our top mark port lay-line. They seem to have a crucial blind spot rendering them blind to starboard boats. We all screamed ourselves hoarse in the ensuing next thirty seconds. How we laughed. At the finish the foilers had showed their pace and superior downwind depth and Adam, Grant and Struan Wallace, showing a late charge was 3rd. The two remaining Classics, of Ben and myself came in not too far behind but in 7th and 6th respectively.
The final race was a repeat of the same techniques and tactics. The wind was now gusting some 24 kts, but my old DNA was sucking it up. The board setting was a real winner again. Lap one, I was 3rd at the bottom., Lap 2 I’d even overtaken Grant upwind and to windward. But on the next lap he’d discovered upwind foiling. I was still in 3rd on the last lap with one last gybe to the finish. Remembering what Paul Larsen had said in a similar wind race at Sopot, I was concentrating hard on ‘not pissing it in’.
Swimming around the back and finally making it onto the hull, I’d realized I was too close to the shore to get it back up again without help. The rescue was called to pop up the mast and I got on board using that pole dancing technique I’d practiced in the privacy of my bedroom. However, foolishly assuming they’d tow me out to sea a bit before they let go, but they then just left me and I had to panic desperately to get up both boards and rudders before I was washed ashore sideways a few moments later. Luckily other cat sailors ashore, still drying their eyes from laughter, came to keep me off the pebble beach and get my trolly. Adam won again, with Grant and Struan following. Personally I was very glad I went out in that, proving to myself that I can still do the big winds. Everyone who attended had a good time. And Richard even got to sail his big boat home on a nice beam reach all the way back.
So, we now have new National Champions - Adam May, Foiling and Ben Mancini, Classic. Congratulations to them!
We are very lucky now to have someone of Adam’s level regularly sailing our boats. And together with his fellow Weymouth based sailor, Paul Larsen, we can all start to build skills we’ll be looking for in 2019 and the Weymouth ‘A’ Class Worlds.
Photos - Tanya Piper.
Name Club R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 R7 R8 Pts
Adam May WPNSA (5) (6) 3 1 1 1 1 1 8
Dave Roberts SBSC 3 1 4 3 2 DNC 5 DNC 18
Grant Piggott Weston 7 4 (12) (8) 5 2 2 2 22
Ron Price Weston 2 7 (9) 4 6 6 4 DNC 29
Struan Wallace TBYC 8 5 7 (9) (10) 7 3 3 33
Richard Hargreaves SBSC 1 9 5 6 9 4 (DNC) (DNC) 34
Gian Giacomo SBSC 6 10 10 11 8 (DNC) (DNC) DNC 60
Peter Lewer SBSC 11 12 (DNF) (DNC) DNC DNC DNC DNC 83
Ben Daignault ESSC 13 (DNF) (DNC) DNC DNC DNC DNC DNC 88
Ben Mancini Weston (12) 3 1 2 4 5 (7) 4 19
Gordon Upton RSC 4 (8) 8 7 7 3 6 (DNF) 35
Peter Boxer Clacton 9 2 2 5 3 (DNC) (DNC) DNC 36
Anthony Wykes RSC 10 11 11 10 12 (DNC) (DNC) DNC 69
Paul Larsen's FPV of Day 1 at the Worlds. Some of the actual facts/positions are missed from such a perspective, but who needs those things anyhow!
'Well the breeze finally arrived for day 1. I got on the water first to check all the changes made for the previous light winds. Decided to come back in and release the tension on top battens. The rest of the fleet were coming out so I was very aware of the potential for a f**k up as they were all hanging off the back dropping rudders. Safely steered in, only to have one of the volunteers helping bring trolleys run past my tiller extension and snap it. There goes my spare emergency external slider!!! Changed battens and headed out again. Pin end bias. Started two thirds down and dropped traveller on start line... which lead to the traveller-to-mainsheet knot pulling through the return bungy-ring-thing... which I then had to rip off meaning I now had a big mainsheet/traveller tail swinging around looping over everything it bloody well could.
Still... I'm quick uphill in these conditions and managed to punch my way into clear air and up to the top quarter of the fleet at the first mark. Claim a few more scalps downhill with a few "oh shit" close quarter moments thrown in. Tricky second beat... good second downhill, but just missed the bottom gate coming in with pace which required a quick gybe with no room to bear away on exit. Was thinking "easy Larso... don't piss it in."
Pissed it in on exit.
Should have dumped full traveller before gybe in prep. Got it up quick so only lost a few. Salvaged a 15th.
Second start. Class signal goes up. Press button on new race watch... it's frozen and dead. No watch. Looks boat end biased. Decide to go in second tier at boat so I can follow the leaders timing wise and tack to clear if it goes wrong. Work my way in nicely behind Mischa. They're all early and have to clear out leaving me with a gloriously big hole right on the boat. Nailed it. Great first beat with solid pace. Only nervously playing with foiling uphill as keen to play safer averages for now. Comfy top ten at first mark. Good downhill again. Incoming dark clouds, rain etc up next beat and it goes light on my side. Fortunately the other side gets some hurt as well. Lost a few places but still in with them. Solid downhill in fast conditions as rain follows us down. Fast mark rounding and I go hard left in solid 20 knots. Foiling, skimming... generally hauling the mail. Tack randomly and nail the layline. Still solid top end breeze and flat water. Foiling uphill and killing it. Actually fighting to keep her down at times. In wind like this, upwind is the new downwind on these things.
Stevie Brewin is leading and coming downhill in same pressure. We're on a collision course both with narrow grooves to manoeuvre in. Closing speed 40 + knots. I concede (that being-on-port-tack thing) and nearly piss it in rolling in to windward at pace. Come smoking in to top mark in 5th place and hot on the two local guns tails (Jacek and Tymek). Breeze pumping. Summit fever. Try my hardest but just don't nail the bear away... go over painfully slowly sideways with everything off just before spreader mark. Rush to get boat upright and do so pretty quickly. Boat comes up and starts bearing away as I struggle to climb over front beam. Takes off downwind with me pegged around beam. Booties being ripped off. Nose dives again but rounds up and stops. Climb on, tack and make spreader mark. Lost 7 or so places. Trapeze wrapped around top batten so gybe straight after mark and head out alone inshore hoping to trapeze wire will flick off. Worried about holes gybing inshore but nail good gust and seem to have good pace. Aware I'm on my own but stick it out as good pressure. Gybe where it's "about right" and nail the lay again. Trapeze wire not free and hook-handle about 12' up. Just yank the shit out of it and it comes down. Hook in and have scary fast, hot angle all the way down to line. Some of the others have to double gybe... salvage an 8th.
21st overall but not much in it. "Shoulda, coulda, woulda" stories abound. Great fun and good pace.
Boat loves breeze and uphill pace is what you would want in this event. Looking a lot lighter today... but still some breeze.
All that practice in Weymouth pays off in breeze as general boat handling counts i.e. I'm comfortable with it... even capsizing. My big weakness is light wind fleet racing where I'm not practiced. Now that it's game on...it is what it is... only day 1' 😂
Ullswater ‘A’ Class TT
RYA Club Of The Year 2017, Ullswater Yacht Club, were the generous and friendly hosts of the latest British ‘A’ Class Catamaran Association Cat open meeting and tolerated these 7’6 wide single-handed cats taking up their front lawn.
Despite a forecast of torrential downpours and no wind, 7 ‘A’ Cat sailors and one Unicorn decided to finally make the trip to beautiful Lake Ullswater for another round of their TT series. And in the end, it never rained whilst the sailing took place, but in fact, took place under increasingly blue skies. However, the wind was a little on the light side and it promised to become a sailing game of Snakes and Ladders. The ‘A’ Cat fleet is now divided into 2 types; the Classic non-foiling boats with straight or C boards, and the Foiling boats with their J, JZ or Z boards. But in light airs, the Classics will often have the upper hand having the lower drag boards and fat-headed sails.
Famous for the Lord Birkett Memorial Trophy race, the cats were keen to sail the 14 mile round trip to the southern end of the lake and back. This was scheduled for the Saturday. Assisted and accompanied by their Race Officer, Malcolm Yates and his safety rib driver Matt Bell, the start finally happened after a 2hr delay. The ‘A’ Cats, usually know for their ‘take no prisoners’ upwind performance and which only a few other cats can match, started their drift down the lake, all setting their ultra low drag modes for 2kt wind. Each sailor searching for the little zephyrs of breeze that would propel them to the next one in a sort of sailing dot to dot, with the sailors hardly daring to move once some momentum had been established.
The Race Officer decided to put the sailors out of their misery and finish the race short, just at the westerly kink in the lake about 2 miles or so down from the start. And of course, as first sailor, Gordon Upton on his DNA Classic, finished, the wind filled in, allowing all the other sailors led by Ian Blease-Dudley on his DNA Classic and Richard Bartholomew on the Exploder A15 Foiler, to cross the finish within a few dozen seconds of each other. (The lone Unicorn of Oliver Murray finished 8th on the water, nearly 10 minutes after Gordon, but on corrected time was actually 2nd!) However, as it is such a lovely venue, and seeing a decent wind ahead in the longer western arm of the lake, all the sailors just decided to keep going for the fun of it. And, of course within minutes, the whole fleet were flat out on the wire streaking through the mountain scenery towards Glenridding. The sun was out, the water was flat, all was right with the World and Champaign sailing was experienced by the whole fleet.
The next day 3 round the cans races were scheduled. The club decided to fit these in with the UYC club racing, just with a separate start sequence. Still in light airs, and minus the local Unicorn, the fleet set off in the 5kt wind. This soon dropped to about 1kt but in patches across the lake. Again, the ‘join the dots and hope for the best’ technique resumed. Jamie Walker on the Bimare XJ Classic picked the best route beating Phil Neal on the Exploder A14 Foiler and Richard. Gordon managed to miss the gate on the first upwind leg and had to return back, as did Ian, allowing Lester Barr on his DNA Foiler to finish 4th. The keen newby to the fleet and on his first open meeting, Francis Marshall on his Bimare V1R Classic, gave up that race after his boat started sailing backwards on a few occasions – a totally understandable reaction.
Race 3 was led by Gordon from start to finish. He inadvertently sailed into a nice sustained gust at the top of the first windward leg, surfed down a lake steamer’s wake and managed to stay in the gust for a while downwind, gaining half a leg lead. Richard and Phil were the only real challengers and finally Phil clawed back to within 100m at the finish.
The last race was led by Richard all the way from Phil. Gordon was in third until he strayed too far right on the last downwind leg and ended up on a hole as Jamie and Ian sailed past.
But, in the end, despite the superlight conditions, everyone had a most enjoyable time. A lovely club, great food from Chef Dave and a superb venue – what’s not to like?
Many thanks to UYC, and to Malc Yates and Matt Bell.
Rutland Water ‘A’ Class TT
On a weekend of textbook catamaran sailing weather, the Rutland ‘A’ Class TT took place on the 13th – 14th May. A stiff 13-16 knot breeze kept blowing pretty much the same each day and the broken cloud that developed certainly helped the feel good factor in the boat park. 14 boats raced, with 5 of them being visitors.
Racing from within the fast handicap fleet start, the ‘A’ cats all got away cleanly in every race. Dave Lowe (RSC) on his DNA , a non-foiling ‘lowrider’ or Classic as they are now termed, (To distinguish them from the newer Foiling versions) immediately showed pace and led race one, tussling with Mike Bawden (RSC) on his Foiling DNA and being stalked by ‘A’ cat newby, Nick Barnes (Brightlingsea) on his old Bim. Phil Neal (RSC), on his foiling Exploder A14 in finished 4th and Struan Wallace (TBYC) 5th on his Foiling Exploder Ad3. A few boats blew over, one of them being Gordon Upton (RSC) when, during a gust and sailing downwind, he slithered inelegantly headfirst down the tramp of his DNA Classic and the boat fell over. Note to self – more Sexwax on the trampoline next time.
Race two started after about 45 mins delay as the PRO reset the course first one way, then the next. The competitors were starting to get rather cold after their exertions in race one and floating about like ducks didn’t help. But then they were into the sequence. And…with 21secs to go, he cancelled the start, for another course reset. How we laughed! 10 mins later we finally got away. This time Gordon, who nailed the pin end, led the pack for the first two laps before the inexorable hunting down by Dave, still going like a monster. The edges of the course seemed to be where the best wind was, and both sides produced good lifts for those who exploited them. It started to gust a little stronger and Mike Bawden snapped his tiller, so game over for him for that weekend, leaving Dave to beat Gordon by 100m. Phil Neal finished 3rd.
Race three was in a similar vein, and most had realized that the key was to avoid the middle of the course. Dave, Phil, Gordon, Nick and a good race for Jamie Walker (RSC) on his old Classic Bim in 5th, much to his delight.
Following a rainy night, the next day started with the wind more in the North West, meaning a course being set into the start of the North leg of Rutland Water. Local knowledge of the place reveals that, again, the wind would be at the edges again. So, the fleet set off into the increasingly gusty 13-15kt wind. Reaching the top mark, they discovered that it seemed to be in a bit of a shadow, and probably as a result of a wind shift, they needed to beat up to the spreader mark too. Downhill, the fleet took advantage of the numerous gusts arriving and the leaders, Dave particularly, decided to go right across to the South shore before gybing for the bottom marks. A good tactic, as he led the race from then on until Phil, in a foiling frenzy, overtook him for the bullet. Gordon was 3rd, Nick 4th and Neal Klabe (GWSC) in a close 5th spot.
The fifth race finally commenced after another delay for a 20 degree left shift. This put the top mark at the start of the Southern leg of Rutland Water, so the previous day’s tactics were employed again. This time, Dave took the bullet, Phil 2nd and Neal snatched a 3rd from Gordon on the last downwind leg.
The final race was much the same, except that Dave pulled his boat on top of himself in a tack to avoid Struan. Then a little later Gordon, hoping to tack onto port, bang on the lay line for the top mark and cross ahead of him. But he tacked right into a hole and forced the starboard Struan to avoid him. Sailing on, Gordon did his penalty turns and simultaneously put a curse on the Scotsman for correctly applying Rule 10. Moments later, as Struan tacked at the top mark, his buoyancy aid became inextricably fixed to his port trapeze wire leaving him sailing around in tight circles, lying prone on the port hull, whilst he disentangled the thing, hemorrhaging places. Gordon found himself back in 2nd place again, behind Phil at the start of the last downwind leg. Then Nick silently made his move and sailed wide right, into a few choice gusts and got the 2nd position. Gordon 3rd, and Dave recovered to 4th ahead of the hapless Struan.
A little further down the fleet, Ian Blease-Dudley (Brenig SC), another newbie, Peter Boxer (Clacton), Matt Bottfield (RSC) and Lester Barr (RSC) all traded places and all hugely enjoyed the experience.
Having to cope with Hurricane 5.9s belting down on port towards the bottom marks, with all their laundry flapping, as the leading A Cats sailed up the reciprocal course on starboard, could be the thing of nightmares. So, discretion in not enforcing your rights would save you collecting one of these 190kg trucks between your hulls, with a closing speed of some 35 kts! Avoiding the Dart 18s was another added bonus. These were on a shorter course set along the same track, but as they sail a radically different downwind legs to the ‘A’s, this occasionally gave you the same feeling as if a bunch of deer were suddenly running across the road ahead of your speeding car, as they seemed to travel in clumps (or whatever the collective noun for Darts is!)
Whilst not yet survival conditions, the gusty conditions tended to negate the foiling boats advantages as caution became the best policy. Plus, this was also a chance for the ‘Larger Gentlemen’ to shine in the higher winds. But in all, it was agreed it was a superb weekends sailing in pretty full on conditions. Many consider it to be like two and a half hours full circuit training, whilst being occasionally hit with a cricket bat …it was that much fun!
Many thanks to Rutland Sailing Club.
The results on the water are as follows when the different handicaps were applied.
Following the cancelling of the Weston TT due to insufficient entries, the final 2016 TT took place at Grafham. Neil Kalbe reports.
Nine intrepid A Class sailors from as far afield as Weston sc , Rutland, Thorpe bay , Whitstable , Grafham and Australia were blessed with a beautiful Autumn weekend, bright sunshine and a nice force 3/4 for the Grafham Cat Open .
On Saturday the race officer Peter Saxton set a 1400 meter beat for the three windward / leward Races which were sailed back to back .
Race one was won by Paul Larsen narrowly beating Mike Bowden by a whole two seconds with Bob Fletcher coming third . The wind was shifting and after each lap there was no favoured side around the course .
Race two was again won by Paul who was showing some of his record breaking speed on his foiling A class this time being chased by another foiler Ronald Police with Mike coming third also on a foiler . The wind conditions were very changeable with the strength dropping ,the race officer decided to shorten the course finishing half the fleet after three laps and the rest doing four laps .
Race three got underway with Struan Wallace shooting off the start line with outstanding up wind speed only for the whole fleet to be turned around at the top mark and the race abandoned due to a massive wind shift . After we all got back to the start area and got underway , Paul again won the race with a 3min advantage over Mike with Ronald a further 2 mins behind .
So over night Paul was in first place with Mike in second and Ronald in third . Paul was giving a real master class in foiling, his downwind speed was a real eye opener . The rest of the fleet consisted of three classic boats each having there moments on the race course against the other foilers . Bob Fletcher was lying in fourth on his c board DNA with Neil Klabe on a straight board flyer mk2 in fifth . Ben Mancini who was showing great down wind speed was also sailing a straight board A , was in sixth , these three were showing that they could compete with the foilers even in these wind strengths.
Sunday was again a lovely day a little colder then Saturday but still a great day for sailing with a good force 3/4 building up to 5 for part of race five when the clouds came over .
Race four was won by local Grafham sailor Neil Klabe who managed to make the right call down wind and found himself in the lead at the gate as the leading foilers came to a halt after flying into a big hole only to see Neil sail into the distance . Paul managed to get his foils to work and came home in second place with Ronald close behind .
The wind picked up for Race Five at times nudging a force 5, Paul got the bit between his teeth and was back to his winning way with Mike close behind . These two foilers revelled in these conditions and were showcasing the art of down wind flying . Bob came in third place to show that the classics still have a place to play in our class ! Even when the wind was blowing .
The last race of this years Cat Open will be remembered for the shear unbelievable manoeuvre from Jamie Rankin on the start line . With seconds to go he managed to squeeze his craft between the committee boat and another competitor at full speed to fly up the first beat with the rest of the fleet open mouthed at what they had just witnessed . It was suggested that he had replaced the polish on his boat with Vaseline to get through that gap . However that was as good as it got for Jamie as he had to retire with gear failure later in the race . So race six finished with Paul getting his fifth win of the event by 5mins from Mike and Roland .
So no surprise that this years first A class was Paul Larsen with Mike Bawden in second and Ronald Price in third . First Classic was Bob Fletcher in forth place followed by Neil Klabe in fifth and Ben Mancini in sixth .
Our thanks go to all at Grafham water especially Peter Saxton the race officer and his team for setting great courses and running the event . We are all looking forward to next years event !
The results mean that Paul Larsen is the 2016 Foiling Champion and Bob Fletcher becomes the Classic Champion
Photos - Jodie Bawden
2016 UK Nationals
In a record turnout for the UK fleet, 24 boats raced over 4 days at Rutland SC in a variety of interesting conditions that tested all. Foiling Moth World No. 2, Chris Rashley, flew to a convincing 9 race win at the UK ‘A’ Class Catamaran Nationals this weekend to become the 2016 UK National Champion. The fleet had an international feel with an Aussie, a Frenchman and a Spanish based Scottish expat assembled with the other travellers from clubs as dispersed as Plymouth, Whitstable, Thorpe Bay, Weston, Stokes Bay and Grafham. 13 of the home based Rutland fleet made up the rest.
So, racing started on the Friday lunchtime with the first 3 of the scheduled 11 races taking place in variable 11 knot breeze, enough for the experienced foilers to fly their cats downwind. Chris Rashley is a total newbie to this class. He’d only picked up his Polish Exploder Ad3 some 10 days or so earlier, went straight to the Polish Nationals, picking up a podium place there on the way back to the UK and on to Rutland for this weekend’s event. But his foiling skills are legendary, as you would expect from a top Mothman, and he comfortably beat the World’s Fastest Sailor, the Aussie Paul Larsen, into 2nd place. However, down amongst the normal people, the racing was pretty close for the rest of the fleet. RSC locals Mike Bawden on a 2015 Z board DNA and Phil Neal on the Z10 board equipped Exploder A14 battled with the Expat Micky Todd, who was sailing a hastily borrowed 2012 Scheurer G6 with C boards to very efficient effect finishing in 4th behind Mike and Paul in the first race.
Race two saw the Race Officer adjust the top mark in the swinging wind and got everyone started. It was a difficult decision as to which side of the course was the best, as the pressure seemed to be at the edges in the slowly decreasing Westerly wind. Then at the start of the second lap, the top mark decided to try to join its two downwind colleagues, so drifted off about 50 yards to leeward. The spreader stayed where it was. This confused a couple of the leading boats who in their excitement, not realizing it was not a planned course change, just rounded the mark and set off downhill again. But the following boats realized what had happened as there was no C flag flown with an accompanying repeating horn at the last bottom mark, and continued on upwind to round the spreader. By the final lap, it had returned to its rightful place again. The two miscreants then retired after the race as their error was pointed out, leaving Colin Bannister, on his Exploder Ad3 with a good third place.
Race three was a less energetic affair, with the dropping wind giving a distinct advantage to the Classic boats. Chris still managed to foil though, realizing that the ‘A’ Cat can quite probably foil in lighter winds than the Moth. Paul also tried to foil but on the last downwind leg gybed and broke his tiller joiner bar, and the resulting Australian industrial language confirmed this to a nearby amused Classic DNA sailor, who realised that he had him beaten in that race at least. Micky got a 2nd showing there was plenty of life in the older boats yet with Phil Neal in 3rd.
The second day was forecast to be similar, but in the reverse Easterly direction. The first race of the day (R4) started with a decent trapezing beat up the 1 mile leg, but then it just switched off leaving everyone just looking at each other drifting downwind for 10 minutes. But then, at the bottom it switched on again so they all zipped back up, but this time it stayed and those going over to the left of the course found the higher pressure. Chris, Paul then Phil finished in that order on that one with the lead Classic of Micky in 5th.
Race 5 saw the wind at about 13 knots throughout the race, but again at the edges of the course. The higher winds meant that all the foilers were giving it a go now, some more successfully that others. Several seemed to forget that VMG is king, and just went for the speed, possibly double that of the Classics. However, they were only sailing half as deep downwind with the result that they were just whistling across the sterns of the Classics time and time again, like sheepdogs on a walk, but not actually overtaking them. And the sound of a foiling boat coming off its foils, or ‘Uncloaking’ as I like to think of it, right behind you as it tries to slow down makes one think the thing has simply exploded in a cloud of carbon. Excitement was witnessed on the finish line as Colin Bannister was going for a foiling finish to try to beat a couple of Classics just ahead. He lost his footing at a crucial moment, rotated 180 degrees vertically on his trapeze, filling his nose, eyes and ears with water, then continued the rotation again all without capsizing. A truly impressive display of circus skills. The committee boat was suitably entertained.
The last race of the day was won by the usual duo with Mike Bawden in 3rd this time after a race cancellation due to a drifting top mark again.
Day 3 was again starting at about 14 kts and due to drop slowly but back to Westerly again. This time the nice Bank Holiday sunny weather had brought out a few more boats onto the big lake. Phil and Mike continued to battle for 3rd place with Phil winning out in that one. The higher breeze saw the leading Classic pushed down to 7th. The fact that several of the sailors forgot to read the lap board on the committee boat and stopped after 3 laps before realising and restarting their final lap didn’t help much either. After the first race, Chris remarked that it was like playing Mario Cart in the PS3, as you had to contend with slow leisure sailors wandering onto and off the course, a flotilla of canoes, sizable fish to be run over, two big bubbly aerators and fishing club boats randomly driving about and suddenly stopping to cast, seemingly oblivious to the Formula One race going on all around them.
Race 8 went to a similar pattern in a similar wind but Phil forgot to hook on to the trapeze at the bottom mark and capsized putting him down to 11th and Mike got another 3rd behind Chris and Paul. Micky sneaked a 4th. The last race of the day (R9) ended in a drifter and was finished at the top mark after a lap. Chris, as usual, was leading, but Classic sailors Micky Todd and Bob Fletcher on his C board DNA got the 2nd and 3rd places that time.
Day 4’s racing was cancelled due to lack of wind, but the fleet had got 9 good races in. The conditions provided something for everyone. For a few this was their first Nationals, such as Ron Price, the designer of the fully foiling two person cat, the Whisper. He had some good races on his converted foiling DNA. His boards had been positioned much further forward than all the other boats, just behind the front beams and it proved a stable and efficient design experiment. A few other newcomers to the class also enjoyed racing and all greatly benefitted from advice from the leading lights in the ‘A’ Cats’ friendly and helpful atmosphere.
Hence Chris Rashley 2016 National Champion and Micky Todd is 2016 Classic National Champion.
But it was Chris Rashley’s skill that dominated even Paul Larsen’s supreme technical knowhow. Having such luminaries coming into this stylish beautiful class in the UK can only help to keep it at the forefront of design and speed, as in 2019 the UK hosts the ‘A’ Class Worlds at Weymouth.
Many thanks to Rutland SC and to Ronstan for supporting the event.
Photos Helena Darvelid/Sailrocket http://helenaimages.photoshelter.com/
Jodie Bawden - http://www.jnbimages.co.uk
2015 A Class UK Nationals.
This year’s British A Class Catamaran Nationals were held at Plas Heli, the brand new Welsh National Sailing Academy centre in Pwllheli, on the Llyn peninsular, North Wales. And a mighty fine venue it is too. With a 3 mile sweeping sandy beach and a view of the mountains of Snowdonia across the water, it is a very picturesque spot offering good sailing.
This year, as the Nationals were only 2 weeks after the Worlds, we were not expecting much of a turnout. However, 18 boats eventually arrived from all over the country, many telling epic tails of journeys to the venue.
A few sailors had arrived a couple of days earlier, but the weather didn’t play ball, being slightly over the class limit of 22kts, set to prevent these 75kg from literally taking off, even more so than they do already. But, when the first race day arrived on the Friday, the skies had cleared to a cloudless blue, the temperature rose to a balmy 14 degrees – and the wind virtually completely disappeared.
A-Class Catamaran sailors are ever the optimists, but we do have another class limit of 5kts for minimum wind conditions this time, and the race officers are aware of this. Nevertheless, 17 boats headed for the start line out in the North end of Cardigan Bay. On the way, one of our number, Jamie Walker, got mugged by a pod of dolphins that scaring him witless by their sudden appearance and proximity. Not too many dolphins in Rutland Water where he usually sails.
The first race started in about 8 kts, which rendered the foiling boat’s advantages null and void, and leaving them on more equal terms with the ‘Classic’ C or straight board boats.
The light airs made for the A Cat’s low drag mode – bows down, fuller sails, lighter sheeting and no crew movement. In fact, it can take more skill than in higher winds as concentration can start to wander with the absence of the near death experiences usually encountered at the higher wind end, and now not helped by seeing Mount Snowdon in the distance. Gentle movements to coax the boat along and around the dustbin lid sized jellyfish floating at foil tip depth. Tacking and gybing have to be conducted in an even smoother manner as anything else will just leave you stationary again. The Bavarian sailors would love these conditions.
That was the pattern for the first day. Slow motion cat sailing, with those who can sniff the wind best at the front. Ex European champ, Chris Field, led Dave Williams and Mike Bawden at close of play after 3 races despite only getting 2 seconds and a third.
The next day promised even less wind, but still as cloudless, and the Race Officer managed to squeeze in one race, in very marginal conditions. Personally I think the race should have been canned. But then I had apparently been black flagged, along with Lester Barr, for being over the line in the last minute, so I would think that wouldn’t I. The slow motion chess game continued. This time, reigning UK Champ, Sam Newton had turned up after missing Friday due to work commitments, soon put his light weight to best use to finish second behind Chris. Racing was then abandoned and it took 30 mins to sail back home.
The final day started earlier, to catch the better breeze promised and to get in two more races.. This time the wind was about 9-10 kts as the fleet started off towards the top marks. This time, everyone was out on the wire, making us all happier. Funny how A-Cat sailors are happiest when they are not actually on the boat. Rounding the top mark, the usual split happened as sailors searched for more pressure on the right or left. Dave Lowe had been attacked by a jellyfish on the first leg resulting in a broken rudder hold down rod, so he limped around. The lead boats favoured the left side downwind for some reason, and many followed suit. However, a couple of boats, who seemed to have made a bit of a fist of the first upwind leg and were lying in about 14th position, delayed gybing off at the top, deciding to keep on the starboard tack much longer.
Being at the rear half of the fleet at the top, they had nothing to loose as the rest of the fleet zoomed off on port, many attempting to trapeze downwind. However, they discovered that the wind was such that it was a margin call as to whether you went for speed or into a low mode. They elected to do the latter. This allowed them to lay the bottom gate from the top gybe. At the end of that leg had taken 8 or 9 places from the speedsters.
Rounding the lower split mark, the next lap was similar, but a few wiser souls had noticed their faster speed was not necessarily the same as a faster VMG and copied their example. The race finished in a little confusion as the Race Officer had missed the first four boats around the bottom gate before hoisting the S flag. However, their places were recorded anyway and Sam snatched the bullet with Bob Fletcher, happier now to be back on his old faithful C board DNA after sailing the first half of the season on the J board version, finished second and Chris Field in third.
The final race was again in better winds, and although it was a knot or so higher, the downwind leg was similar to the previous race, with the ‘Wildthing’ (Flying a hull downwind) being the marginal technique now, or foiling if the boat and you were capable of it always remembering the old VMG is what counts. The sailors were all just getting into it now as the race finished and they were told to go home. Chris and Sam having swapped places and Rutland sailor Phil Neal getting third.
So, how many times has this happened to you? The best of the day’s sailing was the downwind blast to the beach. Looking around, nearly every sailor was on the wire going downwind and grinning. Nice breeze, warm sun and clear blue sky. All, apart from the scenery, rather un-Welsh somehow. Not that anyone was complaining.
Many thanks to Plas Heli for a superb Nationals and good organization. And thanks to Brand Identity for the event shirts and Forward WIP for the rash vests
All photos Jodie Bawden
A Class Worlds in Punta Ala.
19 years ago, Glenn Ashby, the ETNZ skipper, won his first A-Class cat World Championship. This week, in Punta Ala, Tuscany, he won his 9th. The popular little Aussie was fighting off a challenge from his closest rival for the crown, the ‘Flying Dutchman’ Mischa Heemskerk. in the largest ever fleet of some 173 boats
Long considered the Formula One of cat sailing, the A-Class has seen a steady increase in popularity over the last few years as fully foiling designs become more commonplace. Being a development class, everyone is interested in the latest advances. This year the two top sailors were using the latest deck sweeper sail design pioneered by Mischa in 2013 but only recently revisited.
As sail area is limited to 150 sqft, including the mast area, but no limits on shape, they have merely taken the area from the top and added it to the bottom. The net result is a sail that produces less heeling force to accommodate the foiling boats requirement to be kept flat. Previously, the C shaped dagger-board boats wanted to fly a hull downwind, known as the Wildthing. A fatter headed sail did this well with the higher up sail area. The larger area lower down now produces much more power, particularly upwind, where the heeling rapidly becomes a problem. The A-Cat has always been the undisputed king of upwind sailing, now they have an even higher gear. The 9m high mast is retained as the sail is much more efficient if it tapers slowly to the top.
On the racecourse the sails proved devastatingly fast in the right hands. So much so, that one occasion in the qualifiers, had the race not been stopped as the wind had dropped below the 5kt minimum, Mischa could have timed out the whole fleet by finishing 30 mins ahead.
The format was that after 4 qualifying races in two fleets split randomly, but with Glenn and Mischa in different fleets. After 4 races in 2 days, they were then split into a gold and silver fleet based on finishing positions. The remaining 5 races were then run over the next 3 days. The wind also varied from drifty 6kts, to full on 18kts over the week. Both sailors dominated their respective fleets, with only Stevie Brewin managing to beat Mischa in one qualification race.
It was in the first Gold race that the two rivals met for the first time on the water in this championships. The first race was in a good 16kt breeze. Glenn led at the top mark by 15 seconds. On the second lap, however, Glenn had his port trapeze bungee break and has to slow in order to retrieve the line and prevent it from tangling around the batten ends, thus condemning him to hiking out on the port tack. It cost him about 300 m.
Then on the last lap, Mischa going fast on foils downwind, got himself into a gybing death roll and the subsequent capsize cost him the race as Glenn won by 90 seconds with Stevie in 3rd.
The next day was, if anything, even slightly windier when the fleets set off for the race areas. At the start both sailors headed for different sides of the course. Coming together at the top mark, Mischa was leading by 18 seconds, with Scott Anderson leading the chasing hounds 30 secs later. On the next lap Mischa had increased his lead by a few more seconds. A moments excitement at the top mark happened when the following pack containing Jason Waterhouse, the AUS Olympic team Nacra 17 crewman. He misjudged his tack and straddled the mark, with his hulls. Loosing places rapidly, he managed to reverse off it and got himself back up to 5th at the finish.
On the last lap, Mischa was still leading Glenn by nearly 30 seconds. This time, the ETNZ skipper decided to gybe earlier and force a split. Mischa fatally neglected to cover him and when they came together again at the finish, Glenn had found the extra pressure he needed and the pair crossed the line, with Glenn winning by 3m!
Race 3 of the gold fleet was a delayed affair as Jason Waterhouse, yes him again, managed to puncture the pin end rib leading to a lengthy delay as the sinking boat was replaced by the photo rib. All eventually got away first time and Glenn led for the whole race. Mischa seemed to sense the title was slipping away as Glenn finished a good 30 seconds ahead, then did his trademark dismounting capsize after crossing the line, realizing that the championship was all but in the bag. The remainder of the exhausted fleet followed led by Manuel Calavia, Andy Landenberger and Jacek Noetzel.
The last two races were sailed in 6kt winds, which allowed the Bavarian sailors; Georg Ruetter, Matthias Dietz and Katrin Brunner to get into the game. These light wind specialists dominated both races and in the first one, still won by Glenn to clinch it, Mischa was relegated to 46th after valiantly trying to foil when he should really have gone into low drag mode like all the others. The final race was just for the final positions of the following fleets and was won by Matthias after Glenn was DNF.
So, a clean sweep for Glenn Ashby. Mischa gave it a good effort and sailed out of his skin, Glenn’s style is smooth and deceptively effortless and efficient. Plus experience of top level pressure must have made a difference also. Mischa’s style is all power and trying to beat every inch of speed from the boat. But in the end Glenn was just too hot for him as A Cats seem to like being stroked rather than patted.
All sailors here thought it was a superb championships. Well organized and something for everyone windwise. New designs for sails and foils are now standard issue for many, although C board boats still finished in the top 10, so don’t throw them away just yet. And although half of the US team’s boats didn’t arrive after a customs issue over a missing US customs stamp left the boats in their container at the port, one of their top sailors, Lars Guck, managed to get a good 12th on a borrowed boat of a different design to his, lent by the Polish Exploder company. The A Class brotherhood remains strong!
1 AUS 1GLENN ASHBY 8,0
2 NED 1007 MISCHA HEEMSKERK 15,0
3 ESP 11 MANUEL CALAVIA 28,0
4 AUS 4 STEVEN BREWIN 39,0
5 AUS 133 JASON WATERHOUSE 42,0
6 POL 1 JACEK NOETZEL 49,0
7 SUI 11 SASCHA WALLMER 77,7
8 AUS 31 SCOTT ANDERSON 83,0
9 USA 311 BRUCE MAHONEY 92,0
10 GER 76 HELMUT STUMHOFER 97,0
Uk Sailors in Gold fleet
15 GBR 6 Sam Newton 135pts
16 GBR 7 Chris Field 140pts
74 GBR55 Phil Neal 408pts
Uk Sailors in Silver fleet
42 GBR 15 Struan Wallace 311pts
58 GBR 8 Richard Bartholomew 386 pts
69 GBR 43 Robin Foster-Taylor 470 pts.
Rutland Cat Open, the 'A' Cat version.
The Rutland Cat Open is one of the top UK inland cat events and, as it is home to the largest fleet of A Class cats, some 14 boats, it tends to be pretty well attended, even before the visitors arrive. This year was no exception, however the forecast was not to be for the faint hearted. The 5 travelling visitors who turned up were added to the home fleet and a total of 14 boats eventually signed on.
The Saturday was not quite as forecast. It was a bit windier. The race officer decided to postpone the start an hour in the hope that the wind might drop a little as it was forecast to do. So, a flotilla of brave or blissfully unaware souls sailing Hurricanes, Darts, Unicorns, a Falcon, a Viper, a Tornado, a Spitfire and a Duma all set off with 5 of the 'A' cats to the eastern end of the lake a good two miles away for the delayed start. Not all made it. A few of the Hurricanes were shot down on the way there, as was the Viper. Then a few more turned back, including an 'A' Cat, deciding that discretion was the better part of valour and seeing no point in snapping his expensive toy for no reason.
Race one got underway with the 4 remaining 'A's in the Fast Handicap fleet. I know it says in the Int. A Cat Association rules that if it goes above 22 knots average, we get to go home, but this was a general cat open, so it's down to the sailor. The 31 knot gust recorded by the committee boat was thus deemed acceptable.
National Champ, Sam Newton, together with 'A' cat rookies Ian Blease-Dudley, Andy Hay and Kevin Dutch all started, possibly wondering why it was only them racing Sam and why all the grizzled old veterans had stopped on the beach. Andy Hay found the answer after one lap, when a mainsheet strop failure caused a capsize and the subsequent loss of a daggerboard, that finished his weekend. Kevin blasted on in a borrowed boat. But coming from Dart 15s, he wasn't freaked out by big wind, and having never sailed an 'A' cat until the day before, was blissfully unaware of what they can do to you in the upper wind speeds. The same probably was true for Ian and Andy too. But Sam, all 60kg or whatever of him, possessing a freakish ability to depower his Exploder A15, just carried on regardless and got a bullet in the first, with a second to Lloyd Turner's Duma 16 in the fleet results. Kevin had had enough after the first race, but Ian kept plugging at it for the next two, securing good results due to the numbers not racing - lessons learned gentlemen?
Day two was a little kinder, with 17 knots gusting to 20. Still in the upper end, but a good one for the, dare I say, 'larger gentlemen', in the fleet. All the 12 surviving boats were on the start this time and got away cleanly in the first race of the day. Again Sam lead the way, being chased by Dave Lowe, Gordon Upton and Phil Neal hot on his heels at the first top mark. The downwind charge then began and they then had to keep their eyes well peeled as they ran head first (literally sailing at 180 degrees at each other, but with them on starboard) into the Hurricane and Dart fleets who started later in the sequence. Over to the South shore, a fast gybe and down to the bottom mark. It seemed to only take a couple of minutes, but I suppose the time expansion effects of fear played a part.
Rounding the bottom to port, we continued on that tack and some discovered an interesting lift at you got near the North shore. By near, I mean within 50m. This was enough to lift the lucky ones, who could point well, almost 10 degrees until they could sail 30m parallel to the shoreline into Whitwell Creek. Then, with a well placed and executed tack would see them get another lift, but on the starboard tack this time, from the wind rounding the little peninsular by so much that you could lay the top mark with angles to spare. Sometimes things actually do go to plan!
At the top, realising the wind was down the sides of the lake and not the middle, the decision was to either gybe left at the spreader mark and use the lift again back down the course before crossing to the bottom, or to carry on, braving the slighter lighter stuff in the middle until picking up the big stuff again on the other side. The problem was, each lap was different, so yer takes yer choice.
This carried on for a further two more laps with Dave leading Phil over the line with Gordon, Mike Bawden and Bob Fletcher following behind. Sam had mysteriously disappeared for some reason.
Race two was basically the same tactic, only this time the front runner had to do battle with that Duma 16. In case you are wondering what that is, it's an F16 designed by Lloyd Turner on Canvey Island. It's designed for the Thames Estuary, so seems to have really deep hulls with lots of freeboard to cope with the sharp chop you get there. But belying it's slightly comical appearance, it goes like an absolute monster in a blow and was well sailed too. We kept encountering it at crucial points on the course like a charging rhino, so was best avoided and daren't look it in the eyes.
So at the end of lap three, Sam was first, followed by Dave then Gordon, who had pulled out over a minute or so on Phil and Bob Fletcher. The first three all crossed the finish line and pulled up, but then wondered why no finish horn was heard. Sam was the first to twig the reason, Dave gybed about to look at the sign on the stern of the committee boat and Gordon saw the dawning realisation on Dave's face, so quickly reconfigured the boat for uphill sailing as fast as he could. The RO had added an extra lap to the race before the start and we hadn't noticed - lesson learned number two!
So, after giving the rest of the fleet a sporting chance to catch us all up, the last lap started but the leading three managed to just keep ahead to the finish. Won't be making that mistake again.
The final race saw Sam head for shore safe in his first place in the class. The race started but this time Phil went like a man possessed. The deceptively competitive Phil was not going to get beaten three times by his Rutland club mates. Dave made a sterling effort to keep up, but to no avail. Gordon's largely pie based diet was starting to come into play and as he started to flag at the end of the last lap when Mike, no stranger to the pie cupboard himself it must be said, zipped past him at the bottom mark after Gordon made a mess up of his rounding by leaving all the string pulling a bit too late before the mark. Phil won by a good distance from Dave, with Mike third.
But again, the 'A' class rookies were also impressive, all sailed in high winds and made it back alive with big grins on their faces. Those who travelled were made welcome and gained valuable experience together with extensive bruising. In all, it was what we hoped it would be.
Thanks to Rutland Sailing Club and Cat Captain John Terry for a good event.
'A' Cat Class Results
1. Sam Newton Exploder A15 RSC
2. Ian Blease-Dudley* DNA Bala Cat Club
3. Dave Lowe DNA RSC
4. Phil Neal Exploder A14 RSC
5. Gordon Upton DNA RSC
6. Mike Bawden DNA RSC
7. Bob Fletcher DNA RSC
8. Kevin Dutch* Bimare V1 Seasalter
9. Richard Bartholomew Exploder A15 RSC
10. Lester Barr DNA RSC
11. Robin Cruickshank DNA Ullswater YC
12. Jamie Walker Schurer G5 RSC
13. Andy Hay DNA Mayflower SC
14. Chris Field (Did not sail) DNA Whitstable SC
* denotes first A Class event.
Grafham A Class Open 21st-22nd March 2015.
It would have been nice if the weather had played ball for the first ranking event of the year! Saturday was 21kts gusting 30, Sunday was the polar opposite, 2-4 kts dying off to flat calm.
So, Saturday sailing was scrubbed, and we are all left to watch rugby all afternoon, with the final England result putting the seal on a perfect day! Everyone agreed to come back the next day with the hope of getting 5 races to make a qualifying series, and as many had travelled, this only seemed fair.
However, with the forecast showing a dropping wind throughout the day, a 10.30 start was set. Race one got off in a 7kt breeze and it was soon obvious that the 'Old Skool' thin hulled, skinny arsed boats had the advantage in the really light stuff with Jaimie Rankin on his Auscat V pulling ahead in the gradually dropping wind to take the bullet followed by Phil Neal on the Exploder and Steve Sawford on his Bim V1.
Race two saw the fleet sail into various holes around the course and this time 'A' cat newby and Grafham sailor Neil Klabe on his Flyer I finish in pole, with Lester Barr on the and Bob Fletcher on DNAs coming next.
Start 3 saw Gordon Upton OCS but dipped back while the rest of the fleet sailed and drifted off to towards the top mark. The race was scrubbed before they reached it as the wind had died, so for Gordon, every cloud eh!.
Race 4 started with Dave Lowe and Gordon getting shut out in the light wind at the committee boat end 30 seconds before the start, so it was game over for them before it had even started. The race was won again by Neil Klabe, with Jamie second and Lester Barr third.
Start 5 looked encouraging, however, the wind turbines, conveniently sited 6 miles dead upwind had all stopped turning, giving us all an idea of what was coming. At the top mark, Mark Aldridge rounded followed by Jamie with Gordon and Bob close behind. But then the wind went completely and the race officer canned the event leaving us all to be towed home.
So, congratulations to Jamie Rankin, Neil Klabe and Phil Neal! It was predicted that Jamie would win on the previous evening in the local pub. A good sailor and being 65kg when wet, and on a thin shaped Auscat V in those conditions, a good light 'un would always beat a good heavy 'un! In all it was a very frustrating event for most, with only 3 of the planned 7 races completed. But the evenings at the local pub were enjoyable and it was good to see familiar faces and meet a few new ones.
Thanks to Grafham Water SC.
© 2015 BACCA
Grafham Water Cat Open 2014 - The view from the 'A' Class Fleet.
Building on the momentum of the numbers we managed at the Nationals, 15 'A' Class travellers went to Grafham for their annual cat open, and the final BACCA ranking event of the year. The forecast for the weekend was to be 'breezy' according to the BBC weatherman, and he was spot on.
Saturday saw 3 races scheduled in a decent 14 - 20kt wind. The 'A' cats were starting with the other single handers, Shadows mainly, but with a Nacra Inter 17 in the mix too. So some 20 boats jostled for position on the first race start. However, they all behaved themselves and a clean start was the result. But the long legs of the A Class cats soon began to work, leaving the Shadows behind on the uphill stretches.
Heading to the top mark, is was found that the left hand side of the course seemed to be offering better winds and significant gains had been made found by those tacking off later. Rounding the top mark, through the 'zone of death', never much of an issue on an 'A' Class if you are in the right position, the fleet split left and right in search of the gusts we were all beginning to find. Chris Field soon began to get up on his Z foils and left the rest of the fleet for dead from then on. Everyone else, apart from Phil Neal on his Exploder, were 'Lowriders' so the Wild Thing (Flying the hull downwind) was the fastest technique to the bottom marks.
The wind was now starting to build and the gusts getting bigger, although the direction was pretty constant and big shifts were really not a problem. At the bottom marks, everyone chose the starboard rounding one to put themselves in position for the favoured upwind side.
The race continued in a similar vein for the other 2 laps but during which 2 boats retired after coming together and a couple of others found the conditions not to their liking and deciding discretion was the best part of valor. Jamie Walker decided against this policy and whilst bravely attempting to trapeze downwind on the finishing last leg, sailed straight out of end of his gust, resulting in a massive teabagging and subsequent capsize just yards short of the finish. Chris 1st, Phil Neal 2nd and Bob Fletcher 3rd.
Race two was similar to the first, but with another couple of clicks more wind this time. As the same course was being sailed by F18s, their downwind speed sometimes meant that they could arrive at the bottom mark at some pace with all the laundry still flying. These beasts give each other no quarter at all and the thought of being sandwiched between 4 boats at some 130kg+ each, trying to get around in the same bit of water in 20kt winds at the bottom mark made us all take it a little wider than usual. However, you can get your own back shortly afterwards as by carefully letting a little mast rotation out and dropping a tiny bit of downhaul, the net result is the A Cat suddenly points a couple of degrees higher, albeit at a slight loss of speed. But as we are faster upwind anyway, they then find out that you are squeezing them higher and higher upwind. The resulting industrial language only serves as confirmation that it is working and before long, you are left nicely alone.
In this race, Dave Lowe had found his Mojo and was really getting his DNA travelling, finding the right gusts and sailing tidily. The result was Chris 1st, Dave 2nd , Phil 3rd.
Race three was again similar, but by now the wind was really getting going and the gusts at the top of the course were starting to become unpleasant, resulting in some heavy teabagging action. And, as the wind increased, energy levels began to drop leaving crews starting to make mistakes. Ropes got tangled around feet, tacks were fluffed, cramp sets in and legs get swept off the boat by waves, leaving the helmsman to swing around and smack the back of his head on the hull near the front beam. That was me BTW. Luckily my Forward Sailing helmet saved me from a nasty injury! The race finished with Chris 1st, Dave 2nd and Phil 3rd.
Day two started reasonably sensibly, but again the weather promised even more of a blast starting at about 10.30AM. Race one started at…….10.30! Most of the A Cat sailors had decided that it might be prudent to sit this one out, but this message hadn't got through to Bob and Chris, who launched off. Everyone else watched with a morbid sense of curiosity.
The race started, Chris was really flying, but Bob was starting to struggle and sensibly gave up after one lap. Then even Chris sailed into one huge gust going upwind, recorded at 29kts. Watching from the clubhouse, we saw his sail let out, but the hull still kept rising, more sail out, more hull rising, but finally he got it back down again. He later admitted that this had freaked him out somewhat, as he had just sold the boat to Bob, he had better just try to trundle around and finish the race in one piece, which he did.
That was it for the weekend. At least there was a good days racing on Saturday and several people commented on how great it was to see the UK 'A' cat fleet growing at a good pace. A very well done to all those who took part and thanks to Grafham Water SC!
The final results were;
1st Chris Field
2nd Bob Fletcher
3rd Phil Neal
4th Dave Lowe
5th Struan Wallace
6th Gordon Upton
7th Ben Daignealt
8th Mick Davidson
9th Steve Sawford
10th Jamie Walker
11th Mike Bawden
12th Chris Sampson
13th= Colin Bannister
13th= Lester Barr
13th= Rob Cruickshank