A day for the Classics at a lively Rutland Water 'A' Cat TT.

On a weekend of textbook catamaran sailing weather, the Rutland ‘A’ Class TT took place on the 13th – 14th May.   A stiff 13-16 knot breeze kept blowing pretty much the same each day and the broken cloud that developed certainly helped the feel good factor in the boat park.   14 boats raced, with 5 of them being visitors.  

Racing from within the fast handicap fleet start, the ‘A’ cats all got away cleanly in every race.  Dave Lowe (RSC) on his DNA , a non-foiling ‘lowrider’ or Classic as they are now termed, (To distinguish them from the newer Foiling versions) immediately showed pace and led race one, tussling with Mike Bawden (RSC) on his Foiling DNA and being stalked by ‘A’ cat newby, Nick Barnes (Brightlingsea) on his old Bim.  Phil Neal (RSC), on his foiling Exploder A14 in finished 4th and Struan Wallace (TBYC) 5th on his Foiling Exploder Ad3.  A few boats blew over, one of them being Gordon Upton (RSC) when, during a gust and sailing downwind, he slithered inelegantly headfirst down the tramp of his DNA Classic and the boat fell over.  Note to self – more Sexwax on the trampoline next time.

Race two started after about 45 mins delay as the PRO reset the course first one way, then the next.  The competitors were starting to get rather cold after their exertions in race one and floating about like ducks didn’t help.  But then they were into the sequence.  And…with 21secs to go, he cancelled the start, for another course reset.  How we laughed! 10 mins later we finally got away.  This time Gordon, who nailed the pin end, led the pack for the first two laps before the inexorable hunting down by Dave, still going like a monster.  The edges of the course seemed to be where the best wind was, and both sides produced good lifts for those who exploited them.  It started to gust a little stronger and Mike Bawden snapped his tiller, so game over for him for that weekend, leaving Dave to beat Gordon by 100m.  Phil Neal finished 3rd. 

Race three was in a similar vein, and most had realized that the key was to avoid the middle of the course.   Dave, Phil, Gordon, Nick and a good race for Jamie Walker (RSC) on his old Classic Bim in 5th, much to his delight.

Following a rainy night, the next day started with the wind more in the North West, meaning a course being set into the start of the North leg of Rutland Water.  Local knowledge of the place reveals that, again, the wind would be at the edges again.  So, the fleet set off into the increasingly gusty 13-15kt wind.  Reaching the top mark, they discovered that it seemed to be in a bit of a shadow, and probably as a result of a wind shift, they needed to beat up to the spreader mark too.   Downhill, the fleet took advantage of the numerous gusts arriving and the leaders, Dave particularly, decided to go right across to the South shore before gybing for the bottom marks.  A good tactic, as he led the race from then on until Phil, in a foiling frenzy, overtook him for the bullet.  Gordon was 3rd, Nick 4th and Neal Klabe (GWSC) in a close 5th spot.

The fifth race finally commenced after another delay for a 20 degree left shift.  This put the top mark at the start of the Southern leg of Rutland Water, so the previous day’s tactics were employed again.  This time, Dave took the bullet, Phil 2nd and Neal snatched a 3rd from Gordon on the last downwind leg.

The final race was much the same, except that Dave pulled his boat on top of himself in a tack to avoid Struan.  Then a little later Gordon, hoping to tack onto port, bang on the lay line for the top mark and cross ahead of him. But he tacked right into a hole and forced the starboard Struan to avoid him.  Sailing on, Gordon did his penalty turns and simultaneously put a curse on the Scotsman for correctly applying Rule 10.  Moments later, as Struan tacked at the top mark, his buoyancy aid became inextricably fixed to his port trapeze wire leaving him sailing around in tight circles, lying prone on the port hull, whilst he disentangled the thing, hemorrhaging places.  Gordon found himself back in 2nd place again, behind Phil at the start of the last downwind leg.    Then Nick silently made his move and sailed wide right, into a few choice gusts and got the 2nd position.  Gordon 3rd, and Dave, who somehow lost his contect lens somewhere in his eyeball,  recovered to 4th ahead of the hapless Struan.

A little further down the fleet, Ian Blease-Dudley (Brenig SC), another newbie, Peter Boxer (Clacton), Matt Bottfield (RSC) and Lester Barr (RSC) all traded places and all hugely enjoyed the experience.

Having to cope with Hurricane 5.9s belting down on port towards the bottom marks, with all their laundry flapping, as the leading A Cats sailed up the reciprocal course on starboard, could be the thing of nightmares.  So, discretion in not enforcing your rights would save you collecting one of these 190kg trucks between your hulls, with a closing speed of some 35 kts!  Avoiding the Dart 18s was another added bonus.  These were on a shorter course set along the same track, but as they sail a radically different downwind legs to the ‘A’s, this occasionally gave you the same feeling as if a bunch of deer were suddenly running across the road ahead of your speeding car, as they seemed to travel in clumps (or whatever the collective noun for Darts is!)

Whilst not yet survival conditions, the gusty conditions tended to negate the foiling boats advantages as caution became the best policy.  Plus, this was also a chance for the ‘Larger Gentlemen’ to shine in the higher winds.   But in all, it was agreed it was a superb weekends sailing in pretty full on conditions.  Many consider it to be like two and a half hours full circuit training, whilst being occasionally hit with a cricket bat …it was that much fun!

Many thanks to Rutland Sailing Club.

Photos - www.jnbimages.co.uk