A-Cat Worlds 2022, Race Day 2
They say it was a hard day today, out on old Galveston bay….( in a Morgan Freeman narrating voice). Because a days racing had been lost due to excessive sea state and higher than advertised winds, Billy Richnow, the Worlds PRO, decided he wanted to run an extra race in each session for the twin divisions. First up, at 10:30 was the Open foiling fleet. The winds were about 12kts from the South East, so the traditional wave chop started up in due course.
At the start, all boats went to the left of the course as to tack right would not prove advantageous in terms of lost time. Half way up, they started to tack across on the layline. The few who tacked earlier then had the starboard advantage as they all closed in on the mark. Young Olympic hopeful Ravi Parent USA 76 had pulled a decent lead and was chased 50 m later by Team USA Sail GP rider Riley Gibbs USA 96. Darren Bundock AUS 88 and Stevie Brewin AUS 4 were in hot pursuit, as were Emmaunal Dode FRA 2, another Olympian, Iago Lopez Marra ESP 97, USA National Champion and local boy, Bruce Mahoney USA 311 and Polish Champion Kuba Surowiec POL 41. It is usual in this class than a breakaway group separated away from the main pack. Their upwind foiling ability is the usual deciding factor. If you can’t master that skill, you are in the next tier now.
Rounding the top mark in these cats, in these choppy and building breeze conditions, is a particular set of skills, skills that must be mastered, if you wish to compete at this top level. It consists of passing the mark and carrying on, albeit at less of an angle upwind. Then you need to configure the boat for the downhill ‘devil’s ride’ that is sailing a foiling A-Cat. Usually, you drop off downhaul, this making the sail more powerful and fuller. Drop the mast rotation to leeward, again increasing the power, but not too much, as the apparent wind speeds will increase as you round, so you don’t want it too full, as that will increase the sail drag. Set your rudders and main foil rake to your downwind modes, and sometimes drop the traveller off a little. This you will do this within the next 50m or ideally less. Then, to avoid spending much time in the ‘Zone of Death’, you will sharply pull the tiller to set the boat on the downwind heading, whilst deftly moving your weight aft to increase the foil angle of attack, but as it starts to lift, the will move forward to counter the ballooning tendency of the boat. You now remember just have to steer and pull mainsheet to constantly keep the boat flat and foiling. All whilst remaining on the trapeze. Simple really isn’t it?
The fleet, in these conditions, tend to carry on along a starboard tack until they reach their layline for the bottom marks. However, this is easier said than done. Judging this point and executing the maneuver is also fraught with danger. You need to slow down the boat, which could be travelling at upto 30 kts, avoid the windward hull dropping, as you are still trapezing remember, otherwise it’s high-speed teabag time and a crown-pleasing crash could ensue. That achieved, come in off the wire, and gybe. Then set up on the other tack. You will probably have already decided which side of the course you want as you rounded the top mark. This will determine which of the twin bottom marks you need to round. Then as you approach these, you’ll need to reconfigure for the uphill leg again and basically reset all the things you unset at the top. Got that? Ok good, now repeat 2 more times.
Riley won the first race and Ravi the second. This division is still way to close to call even after yesterday’s brutality. 5 races run, that’s half of the scheduled races, and we have only 9 points, with Ravi leading on 5, separating the top 4 riders, and Bundy is only 3 points behind those. An error, breakage, capsize etc that would shuffle the pack. Further down the Open fleet, Jacek Noetzel, the Polish father of their A-Cat fleet, is spectacularly consistent on straight 9s. Lars Gluck, a name we last had at a major event at Punta Ala in 20015, and never even sailed as his boat was one of those stuck in a container after the Italian port closed for a 4 day holiday, lies in 11th place. One guy, Robbie Daniel USA 180 sailed through a shoal of tiny fish and emerged with them all over his trampoline. And despite stuffing her boat in twice, once ending up with her straddling the starboard bow in true Texan rodeo style, Cam Farrah remains in the top 15 of this 35 boat fleet with a superb sail in tough conditions.
As the leaders finished their 3rd race, the Classics were released from the beach for their races. By now the wind had got up to 16-17kts. But, this is meat and drink to most of these guys, as the non foiling Classics are way nicer to sail at the ends of the class 5-22 kt envelope. They don’t want to take off like a seagull at every moment.
In this fleet we already have a clear leader, as was expected. Andrew Landenberger AUS 308, Olympic Tornado medalist and the reigning classic World Champ is head an shoulders above the others to be fair. Plus he laps up the fruity conditions with ease, and won another 2 straight bullets as the planned 3rd race was canned by Billy as it became boat breakingly rough on the course.
There are good battles to be seen further down the fleet though. Micky Todd ESP 7 and OH Rogers USA 73 are tied in 2nd after the expat Scot had a poor first race for him finishing 9th. Ken Marshack USA 192 had a good day with a 2nd and 4th, leaving him a point behind. And the World Association President, Charles Bueche SUI 65 ties with the US sailing legend Ben Hall USA 99, despite Charles capsizing on the start line with 6 second to go, and Ben not really in his zone with these winds. Landy’s son, Andreas, or Baby Landy as we call him, missed the first race so has dropped down to 10th.
Capsizes aplenty were had, a mast was broken as the water is only 9 ft deep, so inverting, fortunately something A-Cats tend not to be prone to unless you have a leak in the thing, can have expensive consequences. But in the end, all came hope with limbs intact and everyone had great stories to tell at the Burgers n’Brew party around the club pool.
Did I not mention the pool? Oh the Houston yacht club is posh enough to have it’s own pool. It is well worth a visit! Not jealous at all….Check out the event website at https://www.aclassworlds.com and you can even see my gonzo video walkaround of the place.