Today the ‘A’ Class Catamaran World Championships in Medemblik, Holland, finally started after the first day’s wind was ruled out of class limits. Monday was 19 gusting 31kts. A boat with 150sqft of sail, that weighs a mere 75kg, is going to be rather lively at those speeds and, as the new generation of foiling boats has arrived, just keeping them simply in touch with the water would be a struggle no matter how much you yourself weigh.
So, sensibly the races were postponed for a day. The format is this; the fleet of 116 boats is split into two. Then, a ceding is applied using the finish position of a previous World Championships for the top sailors and those sailors are split between the two fleets, as are remaining the normal people, and named Blue and Yellow fleets. Two races take place back to back for each fleet on the same course, morning and afternoon. The next day, they are shuffled again, basically so the top sailors get put equally in each fleet, and it is repeated. Then on day 3, the Gold and Silver fleets will be sorted from the results and they then race in those fleets until enough races have been completed to form a championship. Unfortunately, three Argentinian sailors didn’t check which fleets they were in, and sailed in the wrong races, getting a DNS for both. Lessons learned there for everyone.
The interest this year is that two of the main ‘A’ cat manufacturers have got brand new boats out. Not just remodeled or updated, but completely new designs. The Polish Exploder factory has their AD3, designed by Spanish designer Gonzalo Rodondo. This boat has benefited from the fast design to production times Exploder manage to achieve so is utilizing their latest foil and rudder designs. The boat is now, as a result, much more stable on the foils, and will foil in lighter winds earlier than the older designs. It has an improved aero package with a twin trampoline and lower beams. It also benefits from being the cheaper of the new boats at €13600 + vat for the platform (Hulls rudders, boards ect). The other new arrival is the radical looking Dutch built DNA F1. This is real stealth looking machine, a look exaggerated by the clear coated black carbon finish. They too have really concentrated on the across and under the tramp wind flow, and has very few exposed fittings. It has a stiff carbon fabric tramp, aerodynamic rudder bar and aerodynamic carbon shaped front and rear beams. It is really a thing of beauty, and would grace any motor show. This one will cost you €21000 +VAT.
Starting at 10am, the wind was a marginal 5-8kts and swinging. However, it was due to pick up during the day to a pleasant 12 kts , so bang in the new foiling boat design’s window. But this meant that the Blue fleet, starting their two races first, had the lighter breeze. However, the ‘A’ Cat can be had in 2 flavours now. The ‘Classic’ straight or C board boats, and the newer ‘Foiling’ designs. Both measure as ‘A’ cats but with their lower drag boards and rudders, some slimmer, older designed hulls with fat topped mainsails, the ‘Classic’ tends to be much better in the lighter wind and also easier to sail too for the beginner. The foilers can only press home their advantage using their new shaped decksweeper sails and foils, assuming the sailor has the practiced skills developed, in about 9 kts+. Below that, they can be a little sluggish.
This was demonstrated well for the most of the first race. All the boats started first time, and it was marginal trapezing wind for the fleet. The left side of the course looked to have the edge so most plumped for that direction. At the top mark, Jörg Horn in GER 10, an older Classic C board Nikkita was a good 2 mins ahead or Jorg Goesche GER 102 on his new DNA F1 after the 7 long min first beat. Jörg’s smooth style allowed him top creep away from the fleet. Then the rest of the pack followed, like hounds after a fox, but he continued on after the top spreader mark to go downwind the same side as he came up – always a good tactic is you are doing well. Several boats split and gybed after the spreader, but many found they had lost out at the bottom.
At the twin bottom mark he still lead and remained in the lead for the next two laps despite a slowly building breeze until finally hunted down on the last downwind leg by the Exploder AD3 of former World Champion Stevie Brewin AUS 4 who was by now foiling nicely. Stevie won but Jörg was a good second.
The Blue fleet 2nd race was in a slightly higher wind and the left of the course was still favoured. This time, the better upwind pace of the decksweeper sails started to pay off and first around the mark this time was Paulo Penco on the DNA F1 ITA 3 who did the first leg on 6 ½ mins, closely followed by Emmanuel Dode’s F1 FRA 2 and Konstantinos Trigkonis on GRE 7 who had just arrived fresh from the Tornado Worlds on Lake Constance. But eventually the race was won by the DNA F1’s designer Pieterjan Dwarshuis on NED 28, much to his enormous joy and not a little surprise. German champion Bob Baier took 2nd on the Schuerer D7 and Stevie Brewin was 3rd.
45 mins later it was the Yellow fleets turn. By now the breeze was a nice 10-12 kts. This was the fleet with former World champion Mischa Heemskerk in the DNA F1 NED 7 and Olympic medalist and America’s Cup sailor Darren Bundock in the Exploder AD3 AUS 888 in the draw. Bundy reached the top mark first, closely followed by Daniel Philpott NZL 262 sailing his late father Murrey’s unique LR6, and both had chosen the left again. However, Misha was only some 20 sec behind and began his chase using all his development experience on the DNA F1 (A little unfairly we all thought!) to reel him in on the following downwind leg.
Catching him about half way down the leg, Mischa led at the next to mark and eventually finished a few minutes ahead of Bundy, with American Champ, Bruce Mahoney on the F1 USA 311 in third. Bundy’s wife, the former Dutch Olympian Carolijn Brouwer arrived a short while later in 6th on her Exploder AD3 NED 888.
The final race of the day was another Misha win, demonstrating some impressive upwind foiling speed and coming in some 2 mins ahead of Bundy, this time with the Polish sailor Tymoteusz Bendyk on the Exploder AD3 POL 15 in a close third. Carolijn was a superb 5th this time proving that girls can go just as fast too and sailing with her slightly cut down rig, all legal within the rules.
As the windier afternoon races were much faster, it was not possible to make a true comparison of the top sailors in the two fleets yet. Stevie Brewin, Mischa and Bundy all show real pace but the Wednesday races will show us all more. And we can’t wait!