The 'A' class pits area is starting to fill up now at Medemblik, the attractive little town on the Dutch Ijsselmeer, the huge enclosed area of water at the heart of the Netherlands. It has the characteristics of both a lake and the sea, fresh(ish) water and a shore all around with no tides, but, as the sea is only over the other side of the wall, it is subject to exactly the same wind conditions. This makes it a very interesting place to sail. The wind over the last few days has been rather hit and miss. Earlier in the week they were very marginal for the foilers, with only the real top dogs being able to get any airtime. But yesterday, despite a forecast of more light wind, it got turned up a little more thus allowing all sailors to get out on the wire for prolonged periods, despite it's shifty and gusting, something the lake sailors took in their stride.
Some of the fleet, such as Darren Bundock, Stevie Brewin and Adam Beattie took the opportunity to do some fine tuning of their Exploder Ad3 boats, going out repeatedly to test, then returning to shore to perform some minor adjustment, or as in the case of Bundy, swapping to different rudder shapes and settling on the latest Exploder T foils with the small bulb at the front. Brewin and Beattie spent a day setting up a fiendishly complex looking control system hidden inside their tramps. This is essentially a cascade mainsheet and traveller control which allows a particularly sparse deck layout, with just the mainsheet emerging from the centre of the tramp - see photos. All the other controls, such as board rake, downhaul, spanner and over-rotator are also underneath, giving it the impression of a loom rather than an 'A' cat. They are both sailing boomless decksweepers, so the spanner line is pretty much redundant they say.
Mischa Heemskerk, Roeland Wentholt and PJ, all sailing the new DNA F1, were all on the water for prolonged periods. The F1 requires far less tinkering as it arrives as a 'Plug N'Play' platform, but does seem to have less scope for the customisation of systems - something that some sailors may well prefer. Some groups of nationalities tend sail to about and train together, the Argentinians on their F1s and Polish lads on their Exploders all go off in their groups for hours at a time too. But Carolijn Brouwer looks to be the keenest, always the first out, and seemingly loving the boat as she goes out at least 3 times a day on it.
As to the winner? Well, as Ashby is not able to be here due to his ETNZ commitments, it is very much up in the air now. No one top sailor stands out particularly form the others now that they all have decksweepers, new designed foiling boats and can all foil upwind in the right conditions now. Brewin, Heemskerk, Bundy, Beattie, Bendyk - take your pick. As the forecast is variable, to say the least, all we can say for certain is that the best sailor will win!