A rum bunch of ne'er-do-well British ‘A’ cat sailors went over to Holland for the 2016 World championships earlier this month. We can say this now, because Lester Barr just went to watch and not sail in the end, and could in no way be described as such. Led by President Struan (15) DNA were Phil Neal (55) Exploder A14, Mick Davidson (61) DNA, Sam Newton (6) Exploder AD3, Colin Bannister (11) Exploder AD3, Jamie Walker (9) Scheurer G5, Mike Bawden (111) DNA, Bob Fletcher (73) DNA Classic and Matt Burnett (99) DNA. - The figures are their GBR number, not their mental ages, but if the cap fits as they say…
Most arrived a week earlier except Matt, who arrived the day before the practice race. The first thing that happened to him was that his boat was declared illegal, and he’d not even sailed it yet. The Exploder board tips on his newly acquired DNA were 50mm to close when fully down, so he needed to raise them 40mm before they were deemed legal. Also, he was required to demonstrate that a 10mm Tufnell block packing out his bottom rudder pintle was not in fact actually bonded to the hull, otherwise it would be deemed to be 10mm over length. But these things being fixed with the assistance of the others in the GBR team, he was ready to get afloat. All the other boats had been measured and checked in the UK, so all was OK. The judges would randomly pick out 5 boats a day for inspection, so it was wise to be legal to avoid a DSQ.
With 119 boats, the fleet needed to be split into two, a Blue and Yellow fleet. This was done by separating the first 25 sailors who were leaders in Punta Ala, and then distributing the rest equally. After the first day, the procedure would be repeated with the idea that all the good sailors wouldn’t be in the same fleet as the points from these races counted. After 2 days of this, the fleets were split again into Gold and Silver based on points, where they would remain.
The practice race on the Sunday gave everyone, including the race committee and rescue crews a dress rehearsal. The real racing started on Monday. Or not. The wind and horizontal rain was decided by the race officer to be a bit over the 22kt limit. Gusts of 31kts sealed it, so everyone returned to their trailers or villas and watch England cling on for a bit on TV. Tuesday was a lovely sunny day, a nice breeze was due to pick up in the afternoon to a decent 15 kts or so. Not good for the Blue fleet who sailed in the morning, unless that is, you had a Classic non foiler, in which case it was a good leg up.
The first two races were won by Stevie Brewin on his Exploder DS3 beat Jorg Horn GER10 on a classic Nikkita when foiling conditions developed later in the race. PJ Dwarshuis on the new DNA F1 won the second, much to his surprise and delight. In the light stuff, Mick and Struan had a tussle, swapping 49th place each race. Sam finished a poor (for him) 20th and 19th.
In the Yellow fleet races, held when the breeze had got up nicely, Mischa Heemskerk fought with Darren Bundock, Exploder AD3, to get two bullets. Bob got 30th and 40th, Phil 23rd and 27th, Mike for a superb 15th and then a 29th, Colin 48th and 43rd and Matt and Jamie fought it out to get 56th and 53rd, and 55th and 54th respectively but Jamie managed to explode his traveller track somehow.
The next day, Wednesday, it was windy in the morning, dropping later, As the fleets were shuffled overnight, the new Blue fleet makeup was different. However, Mischa was lucky and was in the windy fleet again, up against Sam, Matt, Colin, Mike and Struan this time. Sam was starting to get into his stride with a 13th and 11th, but the first day’s performance would damage final position.
The Yellow fleet had Stevie Brewin and light wind expert Bundy fighting it out, with Bundy coming out on top both times. In the lighter stuff, Bob on his C board boat just pipped Phil in both races.
Overnight, the Gold and Silver fleets were formed. Sam, Phil and Bob made the cut in a strong fleet overall. Thursday’s weather was aging to start well and the drop off to nothing. The Gold fleet was out and got in their two races, but with pretty much a drifter by the end of the second race. The Silver fleet all floated about like ducks, but were eventually sent hope again. Mischa got 2 bullets over first Stevie, then Bundy to edge ahead more and became pretty much uncatchable. Sam had a 24th and 20th, Phil a respectable 36th then a mare of a race as the wind died and scored a 50th. Bob was the opposite, with a 58th and then a 38th. As Gold races had now been sailed, the results were confirmed as a championship officially.
The final day had the Silver fleet needing to get it’s championship race in and were sent out first. From the off it was obvious that the Argentinian Sergio Mehl ARG 1on his DNA F1 was the man to beat. No-one came near him other than his fellow countryman Julio Saubidet ARG 4 on a borrowed Exploder Ad3. To be fair, these guys should have been in the Gold fleet, but a mistake on the first day saw them sail in the wrong fleet so had 2 DNS each, condemning them to the Silver fleet. Colin had a good 20th in the first race pushing him up the table nicely.
Then the Gold fleet started, Mischa again in front. However, his lead times were considerably less than at Punta Ala as the fleet seems to have closed up on him. 1-2 mins lead was the usual margin. Polish Jacek Noetzel was up in the mix with Bundy and Stevie for the top places. But Mischa did it with a clean sweep and was thus World Champion, with a race to spare.
The top woman sailor, Carolijn Brouwer, gave most of the lads a good pasting and finished 15th in the Gold fleet at her first A Cat event.
The final two races consolidated the final placings. In the end our lads finished;
Gold Fleet – 59 boats;
22nd Sam Newton
49th Phil Neal
53rd Bob Fletcher
Silver Fleet – 59 boats;
8th Mike Bawden
31st Colin Bannister
39th Struan Wallace
41st Mick Davidson
54th Matt Burnett
56th Jamie Walker
On the whole a very enjoyable event from the GBR team. The pace and skill of the sailors since Punta Ala has gone up another gear. Foiling is now standard practice in anything above 8 kts or so for the good guys, but a well sailed C board boat is still virtually unbeatable in the light stuff. Sailing one course was controversial though, as it gave advantages to some sailors drawn in windy fleets all the time, Mischa taking full advantage of his lucky draws. There were few mishaps, or breakages really and the race team got the whole thing going as well as they could given the unpredictable conditions of the IJsselmeer.
Many lessons were learned that will be invaluable when we host and run the event at Weymouth on 2019.