Mothman sees the light!  In a record turnout for the UK fleet, 24 boats raced over 4 days at Rutland SC in a variety of interesting conditions that tested all.  Foiling Moth World No. 2, Chris Rashley, flew to a convincing 9 race win at the UK ‘A’ Class Catamaran Nationals this weekend to become the 2016 UK National Champion. The fleet had an international feel with an Aussie, a Frenchman and a Spanish based Scottish expat assembled with the other travellers from clubs as dispersed as Plymouth, Whitstable, Thorpe Bay, Weston, Stokes Bay and Grafham.  13 of the home based Rutland fleet made up the rest.

So, racing started on the Friday lunchtime with the first 3 of the scheduled 11 races taking place in variable 11 knot breeze, enough for the experienced foilers to fly their cats downwind.  Chris Rashley is a total newbie to this class. He’d only picked up his Polish Exploder Ad3 some 10 days or so earlier, went straight to the Polish Nationals, picking up a podium place there on the way back to the UK and on to Rutland for this weekend’s event.  But his foiling skills are legendary, as you would expect from a top Mothman, and he comfortably beat the World’s Fastest Sailor, the Aussie Paul Larsen, into 2nd place.  However, down amongst the normal people, the racing was pretty close for the rest of the fleet.  RSC locals Mike Bawden on a 2015 Z board DNA and Phil Neal on the Z10 board equipped Exploder A14 battled with the Expat Micky Todd, who was sailing a hastily borrowed 2012 Scheurer G6 with C boards to very efficient effect finishing in 4th behind Mike and Paul in the first race. 

Race two saw the Race Officer adjust the top mark in the swinging wind and got everyone started.  It was a difficult decision as to which side of the course was the best, as the pressure seemed to be at the edges in the slowly decreasing Westerly wind.  Then at the start of the second lap, the top mark decided to try to join its two downwind colleagues, so drifted off about 50 yards to leeward.  The spreader stayed where it was.  This confused a couple of the leading boats who in their excitement, not realizing it was not a planned course change, just rounded the mark and set off downhill again.  But the following boats realized what had happened as there was no C flag flown with an accompanying repeating horn at the last bottom mark, and continued on upwind to round the spreader.  By the final lap, it had returned to its rightful place again.  The two miscreants then retired after the race as their error was pointed out, leaving Colin Bannister, on his Exploder Ad3 with a good third place.

Race three was a less energetic affair, with the dropping wind giving a distinct advantage to the Classic boats.  Chris still managed to foil though, realizing that the ‘A’ Cat can quite probably foil in lighter winds than the Moth.  Paul also tried to foil but on the last downwind leg gybed and broke his tiller joiner bar, and the resulting Australian industrial language confirmed this to a nearby amused Classic DNA sailor, who realised that he had him beaten in that race at least.  Micky got a 2nd showing there was plenty of life in the older boats yet with Phil Neal in 3rd.

The second day was forecast to be similar, but in the reverse Easterly direction.  The first race of the day (R4) started with a decent trapezing beat up the 1 mile leg, but then it just switched off leaving everyone just looking at each other drifting downwind for 10 minutes.  But then, at the bottom it switched on again so they all zipped back up, but this time it stayed and those going over to the left of the course found the higher pressure.  Chris, Paul then Phil finished in that order on that one with the lead Classic of Micky in 5th.

Race 5 saw the wind at about 13 knots throughout the race, but again at the edges of the course.  The higher winds meant that all the foilers were giving it a go now, some more successfully that others.  Several seemed to forget that VMG is king, and just went for the speed, possibly double that of the Classics.  However, they were only sailing half as deep downwind with the result that they were just whistling across the sterns of the Classics time and time again, like sheepdogs on a walk, but not actually overtaking them.  And the sound of a foiling boat coming off its foils, or ‘Uncloaking’ as I like to think of it, right behind you as it tries to slow down makes one think the thing has simply exploded in a cloud of carbon.  Excitement was witnessed on the finish line as Colin Bannister was going for a foiling finish to try to beat a couple of Classics just ahead.  He lost his footing at a crucial moment, rotated 180 degrees vertically on his trapeze, filling his nose, eyes and ears with water, then continued the rotation again all without capsizing.  A truly impressive display of circus skills. The committee boat was suitably entertained. 

The last race of the day was won by the usual duo with Mike Bawden in 3rd this time after a race cancellation due to a drifting top mark again.

Day 3 was again starting at about 14 kts and due to drop slowly but back to Westerly again.  This time the nice Bank Holiday sunny weather had brought out a few more boats onto the big lake. Phil and Mike continued to battle for 3rd place with Phil winning out in that one.  The higher breeze saw the leading Classic pushed down to 7th. The fact that several of the sailors forgot to read the lap board on the committee boat and stopped after 3 laps before realising and restarting their final lap didn’t help much either.  After the first race, Chris remarked that it was like playing Mario Cart in the PS3, as you had to contend with slow leisure sailors wandering onto and off the course, a flotilla of canoes, sizable fish to be run over, two big bubbly aerators and fishing club boats randomly driving about and suddenly stopping to cast, seemingly oblivious to the Formula One race going on all around them. 

Race 8 went to a similar pattern in a similar wind but Phil forgot to hook on to the trapeze at the bottom mark and capsized putting him down to 11th and Mike got another 3rd behind Chris and Paul. Micky sneaked a 4th.  The last race of the day (R9) ended in a drifter and was finished at the top mark after a lap.  Chris, as usual, was leading, but Classic sailors Micky Todd and Bob Fletcher on his C board DNA got the 2nd and 3rd places that time. 

Day 4’s racing was cancelled due to lack of wind, but the fleet had got 9 good races in.  The conditions provided something for everyone.  For a few this was their first Nationals, such as Ron Price, the designer of the fully foiling two person cat, the Whisper. He had some good races on his converted foiling DNA.  His boards had been positioned much further forward than all the other boats, just behind the front beams and it proved a stable and efficient design experiment.  A few other newcomers to the class also enjoyed racing and all greatly benefitted from advice from the leading lights in the ‘A’ Cats’ friendly and helpful atmosphere.

Hence Chris Rashley 2016 National Champion and Micky Todd is 2016 Classic National Champion.

But it was Chris Rashley’s skill that dominated even Paul Larsen’s supreme technical knowhow.  Having such luminaries coming into this stylish beautiful class in the UK can only help to keep it at the forefront of design and speed, as in 2019 the UK hosts the ‘A’ Class Worlds at Weymouth.

Many thanks to Rutland SC and to Ronstan for supporting the event.  

Photos Helena Darvelid/Sailrocket http://helenaimages.photoshelter.com/

Jodie Bawden - http://www.jnbimages.co.uk