The final day was scheduled for 4 races. The Silver fleet, being unable to race the day before because of lack of wind, were the first off at about 10am. The wind was a nice breeze of about 10-12 kts from the West. Not particularly gusty or shifty. The overcast sky looked like threatening rain, but on the Ijsselmeer that means nothing. In the end, it didn’t rain as we did or didn’t expect it to.
The first Silver race got underway with little problem, as the U flag (anyone found course side of the line within the last minute gets a stiff talking to and DSQ with no redress, unless a general recall happens, and if they don’t go around the ends) kept the fleet shy of the line until the go. Straight away the Argentinian Sergio Mehl shot into the lead on his new DNA F1 (ARG 1), leaving the rest of the fleet for dead. Most of this fleet settled for the left side again, but a few switched to the right. The two fleets rejoined at the top mark, with little advantage seen to either fleet. At the top Sergio was ahead of the fleet and never looked back. He stretched his lead on each lap until he was several minutes ahead of the pack, despite a dropping wind. Fellow Argentinian Julio Saubidet (ARG 4), on a borrowed Exploder AD3 from Arno Terra, was second and the Polish sailor Stefan Schleifer (POL 200) came in third.
With the Silver fleet first race over, the Gold fleet started their penultimate round. By now the wind had picked up again, so right into Mischa Heemskerk’s zone. They got away cleanly and the race settled into the usual pattern of Mischa leading but the battle for the next few placed boats was keener. The top left side looked to be the best, however, the best pressure was just a little too high up the course to be properly usable by most sailors, so the now traditional square shaped sailing course developed again. One of the leaders Stevie Brewin (AUS 4) broke off his port rudder on his Exploder AD3 on the last downwind leg and dropped him down from about 3rd place to 8th at the finish. Luckily, he had enough time to return to the beach for a replacement before the final race. Again the wind dropped during the race as if someone had not fed the meter, and most of the fleet floated over the line in sedate fashion. Jacek Noetzel (POL 1) came in 2nd and 3rd was Darren Bundock (AUS 888) both on the Exploder AD3.
This was match point for Mischa, who cruised in for his 2nd World A Class title. His first was in 2013 in Florida, the one held just before a hurricane. And the Flying Dutchman did sail like a beast possessed so well deserved!
The final Silver race was again won by ‘the A Class Fangio’ Sergio Mehl (ARG 1). In reality, he should have been in the Gold fleet, but as a result of not checking the notice board on the first morning, he and two of his other countrymen would have seen that their fleet race times had been switched. As a result, they sailing in the wrong races, and were thus given 2 x DNS for not being in the correct fleet start. Lessons learned.
The final Gold race was to decide the other positions. Bundy needed to seriously mess up to loose second place, and in the end finished in 5th to secure his podium place. Stevie had to beat Jacek to get the 3rd. In the end, he got a bullet to do it. Carolijn Brouwer (NED888) ended up in a superb 14th place in her first A Class event and top woman sailor. Sam Newton (GBR 6) was the top GBR sailor, let down buy a poor first day, and finished 22nd.
But the most interesting part from your correspondent’s point of view happened at the start of the last lap. As part of the role of primary‘paramedic’/photographer/rescue crew, I was on Rescue 1, on that day being coxswained by Graeme Harbour, the IACA Chief Measurer and technical head. We received a call that a boat had gone over at the top mark area and were to assist. We raced up to see, worryingly, an empty capsized Askell Catamaran drifting down onto the top mark. Luckily though, the exhausted owner was rescued by a passing Belgian, who thoughtfully took him home. He had fallen off the trapeze whilst sailing home from the Silver race and been unable to swim fast enough to catch it – to be fair, Mark Spitz would have a struggled to catch a capsized A cat. It was also being attended by another photo rib, and a jury boat. Upon enquiring what was going to happen, it was decided to get it back upright and sail it away from the area. Then for some reason, everyone looked at me. So the boat was boarded and got upright in the nick of time before Mischa and his mates all arrived on top of us. It was then sailed home to claim salvage rights, eventually swapped for a bottle of Cava.
As there were 119 boats racing, the class rules say it should be split into 2 fleets for more than 110 boats. Due to constraints placed on the event by finances and available rescue facilities, it was necessary to sail one course with 2 fleets at separate times. This raised the possibility of fleets sailing in different wind conditions, which happened on most occasions. Although the fleets were ‘shuffled’ to get a mix of rated top sailors in each fleet, it was inevitable that some would sail more races in conditions that favored them. Mischa was the biggest winner of this system. He never sailed a light wind race as all his races were in the higher winds where he excels. Had he been drawn in a lighter wind fleet, the result could well have been different and Bundy, a good light wind sailor, may have been up there.
This year, unusually, the two main builders of A Cats had produced brand new designs, not just variations of earlier boats. The Holland Composites DNA F1, with it’s black clearcoated carbon finish and stealth boat looks was the most recognizable. The concentration on airflow over and under the tramp have been the biggest improvements for them. However, the new Exploder AD3, whilst a more conventional looking boat seems to have a superb foil system, making it much more stable that it’s predecessors and will get on the foils at least a knot earlier. The two boats, both sporting the decksweeper sail rig, are remarkably close on the course. Gone were last year’s 10+ minute leads by the winners. 1 to 2 mins is now the norm. Foiling conditions, in the allowable winds were pretty good. No big waves or gusty shifts to wipe out the sailor.
The non foiling ‘Classic’ designs scored well in the light stuff. The Southern German and some Swiss lake sailors regularly scored in the top 5 when conditions suited. Mixing both foil types seems to present no problems anyone could see. There was screaming and shouting at the bottom marks by both foiling and non foiling sailors alike. Any collisions all happened to be slow speed affairs, as both categories are fully aware of the others performance, and sail accordingly. The requirement to wear helmets for foiling boats in the sailing instructions was complied with, albeit grudgingly by a few competitors. However, had the winds been higher, more towards the upper end of the class maximum of 22 kts, I think few would have said anything. It is important that, as a class, the A Cat fleet is seen to embrace personal protection before National Sailing regulators impose possibly restrictive rules as has been attempted in France.
But the event was a success, and all the participants enjoyed being there. Dutch Class President, Jan Groot, did a superb job of virtually single handedly organizing the whole event. And also to Contender Sailcloth, Holland Composites, Van Beelen Ropes and Magic Marine.