Next to hand in his homework is the World Open Vice Champion, the larconic Kiwi Dave Shaw.
- When and why did you first start sailing and in what?
My first sail was on a Hobie 14 with Alan, a friend of my Dad’s. I was 14 and just loved the speed and freedom.
- When did you first become aware of the ‘A’ Class Cat?
Alan gave me his Australis 'A' Cat when I was 18. Well he gave me all the bits he had! I thought it was the fantastic, and promptly spent ages painting it to make it look good. Never again, wasting precious time and paint, when I could have been on the water.
The Australis is a good example of why a class should keep developing. I dug it out to give to my nephew, @Alan Shaw, a few years ago and discovered it weighed at least 140kg, was as stiff as a wet cornflakes box and sailed like a submarine.
Then in 2012 I met @Ken Urquhart on a Cook Strait ferry crossing coming back from the A Cat nationals. He inspired me with tales of sailors in Europe trapezing downwind and keeping up with F18s. I was sold!
Fitness and training.
- What is your current fitness routine, and do you have any special diet?
Pierogi is the food of athletes, and I try to stay fit by sailing, biking and stretching.
- How often do you sail each month?
I aim to get on the water twice a week either wind surfing or sailing. The latest excitement is the new eXploder wind foiler. I absolutely love it and it is easier than it looks.
- Do you have any specific fixed training regime?
After the Australis, I bought my next A Cat to do the 2014 Worlds in New Zealand. At this regatta I met @Jacek Noetzel and @Jacob Kopyłowicz. I trained for hours with the indestructible Jacek, who encouraged me to visit Poland. In 2017 I was able to spend a couple of months training with all the sailors from @Klub Zeglarski UKS Navigo. It has to be the best A Cat yacht club in the world.
Having at least three weeks to be able to focus on sailing before a regatta really pays dividends, especially if you are able to line up against fast sailors.
- Where did you learn your race tactics?
I learnt race tactics by racing, first the Tornado, then Paper Tiger catamaran, and reading any books I could find. More recently I’ve been watching the 49ers and Nacracs on You Tube to pick up tips. The tactics definitely get easier when you are faster.
- Do you practice race tactics in any way whilst training?
Not so much race tactics, as I’m more focused on trying to improve my boat handling and finding more speed. I do keep an eye on the compass though, to see if I can understand if a wind shift has given an advantage.
- Was there a particular technique you found that unlocked something in your sailing?
Totally – buying an eXploder AD3, Fibrefoam mast and Brewin Sail! The main thing is just keep trying to improve your sailing, rather than worrying about having the latest and greatest development.
- Do you have a regular sailing partner and what do they do for your sailing?
@Murry and @Daniel Philpott were my first regular sailing partners for the A Cat and it was thanks to Murray that I was able to import my Vision in 2013. I still look for Murray on the start line going low and fast.
- How active is the A Cat fleet in New Zealand?
There are now four A Cats at Nelson Yacht Club, shout out to @Derrick Harding, @Bruce Mathers and @Rob Bentley, with more to come. In New Zealand we have a fantastic fleet led by our dedicated president @Brent Harsant.
- What do you most enjoy about sailing the ‘A’ Cat?
The balance of the boat, it’s lightweight and easy to launch. Foiling is awesome because it is hard to get right, and it’s pretty clear when you have it right, or wrong.
- What was your best sailing moment? (and if you feel strong enough, your worst!?)
The best sailing moment was racing in the 2017 A Cat Worlds at Sopot in the waves and wind and being super fast downwind. The worst was falling overboard during a tense moment in the 2003 Tornado nationals during a light wind race. We got DNFed for not finishing within the time limit and there were not enough races for a discard. Susan still hasn’t quite forgiven me.
- If something goes wrong in a race, how do you start to deal with it mentally?
Whether things are going right or wrong I try to talk myself through the next step, the next tack or the next mark rounding and focus on that rather than the outcome of the race. Easier said than done!
- What would you sail if ‘A’ Cats were suddenly banned?
- Where is the best place you have ever sailed your ‘A’ Cat?
Lake Benmore with Aoraki/Mount Cook at one end of the lake and Ken and Shirley’s place at the other.
- Who are your sailing heroes and influences?
The 'A' Class is full of sailing legends, and it is awesome to sail amongst Olympic and America’s Cup sailors and learn from them. My first sailing hero was @Rex Sellers Tornado 1984 gold medalist. This fisherman from Nelson taught me that anything is possible. @Bob Preston, @Ernie Cave and @John Leydon are local legends who have always given me good advice, and I have to give a special shout out to @Grant Piggot and @Lindsay Piggot who adopted us during our Tornado sailing days in the UK.
- What single piece of advice could you give to the average ‘A’ Cat sailor?
Go sailing with your mates and your missus as often as you can. It’s all about time on the water.