In about 4 weeks time, the 2016 ‘A’ Class World Championships will start in the picturesque Dutch town of Medemblik, on the Western shore of the IJselmeer.
So, what can we expect this time? Things move on at a pace in the ‘A’ Cat world sometimes. It was less than a year ago that Mischa Heemskerk unveiled his latest version of the decksweeper sail, and beat all comers by some margin, including the World Champion Glenn Ashby, at the Dutch Nationals last summer. But then a few weeks later, Ashby had chopped up one of his sails, made it into a decksweeper and turned up at the 2015 Worlds in Punta Ala to get him back. There were only 4 decksweepers at that event, but all proved their efficiency in all but the really light stuff , where the Southern German lake sailors got up into the points.
But that was in September. Poor old Ashby this time has only had 8 months to enjoy the trophy before it gets decided again and he hardly has time to get it out of it’s box in his garage to give it a quick polish.
This year it may be a little different though. Many of the top sailors, who are sailing on the foiling boats, have now all got their decksweepers, both with or without booms. So the playing field becomes a little leveler again. Also, add into the mix the fact that Exploder, DNA and Vision all have brand new redesigned platforms that have more optimized foiling positions and will allow the boat to foil earlier. Plus the Schuerer design has new foil packages too, then the whole business goes up another couple of notches. Rather like the first race of the new season in Formula One, no-one is quite sure what is going to happen until the first start.
This year, alongside the usual suspects we will be seeing Darren Bundock, Ashby’s Olympic crewmate and former America’s Cup rival, who may be keen to show him who is top dog and would like to add an A Class World championship to complete his collection of the big four cat classes. He already has his name on the F16, F18 and Tornado trophies. Heemskerk, of course, will not be happy with runner up again, so will be using all his experience as the chief development pilot of the new DNA F1 to his advantage. Spanish Champion Manuel Calavria will be getting stuck in too and building on his solid third place position last year, the first finisher without a decksweeper. As will the Aussie Champ Stevie Brewin, who will be, no doubt, looking for another ‘A’ Class World crown and favours the boomless sail configuration.
Former Champion American Bruce Mahoney cannot be ruled out, as can the top Polish pair of Tymuteusz Bendyk and Jacek Noetzel, who may also surprise on the podium. On the women’s side, Bundock’s wife, the former Olympian Carolijn Brouwer, will give the lads a very good run for their money.
It will all depend on the usual factors. Being in Holland, the weather cannot be relied upon to play ball. Over the week of racing, which starts on the 20th June, we may well see anything from drifters to top end wind speeds. The class rules dictate no racing in less than 5kts or more than 22kts. This makes it particularly interesting for the competitors as, once measured and stamped, they will not be allowed to change sails unless they are damaged and are deemed unrepairable in the time available. Also, as the IJselmeer is relatively shallow, a short chop can develop in certain wind directions, making boat handling, and particularly foiling in higher winds, spectacular to say the least.
All competitors are now busy training for the event. The fact that it is in June rather than the usual August or September means that for Europeans, the match fitness prep needs to be built up faster that usual, particularly with the all or nothing wind conditions experienced in the first few months of this year. The only two events left before the start are the Southern German Ammersee Cup this weekend and the final dress rehearsal of the European Spring Championship next week at Arco Del Garda. Expect to see some top sailing there as the sailors try to finally get a good shakedown and practice.
We all wait in anticipation of what is promised to be an exciting championship and with 133 entries to date, it should be spectacular again too.