As European sailors shiver under an icy onslaught, and reflect longingly on all those great sailing days of the summer, we must spare a thought for those plucky Aussies, readying themselves in the heat and doing all that training in their bathlike warm, shark infested seas for the coming year. We take a look back at 2017, a year which, as ever, saw some significant developments within the class.
The year started, as it usually does with the AUS Nationals. The 2017 AUS Nats were on Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, in the Australian deep South, and hosted by the McCrea Yacht Club.
It was common knowledge that Stevie Brewin (Exploder AD3) had been training hard with his training partner Darren Bundock (Exploder AD3) earlier in their season and it was here that the training started paying off. In a nine race series, sailed in a variety of winds, Brewin slowly eased ahead of Bundy, who nearly managed a fight back towards the end of the series, helped by Stevie’s rudder falling off in race 7, but luck was with him, as he had enough time to sail back in during race 8, jump on Daniel Philpott’s boat, which just happened to be set up identically, and be back out for the 9th race. So Stevie Brewin retained his crown, Darren Bundock 2nd and Brad Collett in 3rd.
This was the first time that the new Exploder AD3 set up with the new board positions were properly raced in anger and as a result, upwind foiling really started to work.
2017 was quite a year for the Kiwis. They won a bit of sailing silverware here and there. The NZL Nationals was held at the Nelson YC, on the North coast of South Island. In lovely, if windy conditions,the larconic Dave Shaw (Exploder AD3) triumphed after an 11th place in race one, but with straight bullets the other 10 races. This boy needs watching. 2nd was Bruce Curson (Zilla Mk2) and 3rd was Steve Ashley (Fossil).
A bit of a gap in national events happened until early June, as the usual May FRA Nationals had now been rescheduled for November. The Spring Cup at Arco on Lake Garda was a late but good season opener. In some rather fruity conditions, and with a very strong fleet, Misha Heemskerk (DNA F1) was taken out in the first race on day one by a collision resulting in a DNF. ITA Olympic Nacra 17 sailor Vittorio Bissario (Exploder AD3) and the Polish ace Kuba Surowiec (Exploder AD3) made the most of this, battling with each other in the strong winds. Day 2 saw Mischa back, but finished 2nd to Kuba. Mischa got the bullet on day 3, but that DNF had killed his series. Kuba was 1st, Vittorio 2nd and a happy ARG Sergio Mehl (DNA F1) in 3rd.
Mid June saw the DEN Nationals at Rugsted, to the North of Copenhagen. This is always a tri-nation affair, with GER and SWE sailors joining in to share their open sandwiches and Carlsberg. This year,the wind was something for everyone, with a light day. Pontus Johnsson actually sailed over from Sweden that morning to win the first race. However, Thomas Paasch (Nikita), Guido Schulte (Exploder AD3) and Tom Bøjland (Exploder AD3) ruled the day after negotiating the seaweed strewn course. The second day had more wind and was dominated by Thomas. Pontus lost his mast over the side, but managed to find it again, and with a few borrowed parts, sailed off home again for Sweden. The Danish podium was therefore Thomas Paasch, Peter Boldsen (DNA) and Tom Bøjland.
Phil Muyzers (Vision) became the Belgian National Champion in a choppy and windy weekend in July. Sailed on the North Sea, at the Royal Belgian Yacht Club in Knokke, FRA sailors Emmanuel Dodé (DNA F1) and Hervé Ledue (Askell) swept in to take the 1st and 2nd podium places in a small but keen fleet of 10 boats.
At the end of July, Lake Bracciano was the venue for the Italian Nationals. In an 8 race weekend, where the local lake breeze blew with a lovely 10-16kts, Gianluigi Ugolini the Italian number 2 in their Nacra 17 team, became the Italian Champion, after starting sailing his Exploder A16 just one month earlier. He finished second behind a surprised and delighted Michael Modelhammer (AUT) on his new DNA F1. Helmut Stumhofer (GER) was in 3rd place. This event concluded the 2018 Italian season and a few crews began their training for the Worlds.
It’s always a good idea to hold the National championships of the World Championship host country just before the Worlds, it ensures a great turnout, as useful input of cash for the association, and provides excellent match fitness training for the visitors. The Polish resort of Sopot was the venue and it didn’t disappoint. Kuba Suroweic was still on form after his win at Garda, but close on his heels was Tymuk Bendyk and the pair traded blows thoroughout the 5 race series, but it was Manuel Calavria who was showing hot form and got the top regatta finish in the end. Jacek Noetzel was 4th overall on an Exploder AD3 exclusive podium. This event gave everyone a good incite into what the Worlds may hold.
This year was the most competitive World championships for a few years, following the Glenn Ashby and then Mischa Heemskerk dominated events. The Sopot venue was known to throw a few curved balls in respect of the weather and this year was true to form. The late August week had everything from races in minimum 5kt conditions with thunderstorms, right up to 19-20 kts full on blast conditions in big seas, so it was a true test of a champion. In the end, Stevie Brewin’s winning form hadn’t slipped, although he was being chased hard by Kuba, Tymuk, and Manuel could have just done it, had it not been for an OCS in an early race. Mischa’s crown was also lost early on, after he sailed an extra lap in error following a bottom mark capsize. Bundy looked strong in the 4 qualification races, but couldn’t maintain it into the Gold races. In the end, Stevie Brewin became 2018 World Champion, mastering all the conditions with superb sailing. Tymuk, was making hay in his favourite high winds, but dropped disastrously on the light wind Thursday, still came in second and Kuba third. Kiwi Dave sailed into a good forth place, all on their home-grown Exploder AD3s.
The following weekend, in early September, the UK Nationals took place at Stokes Bay SC, on the Solent, opposite the Isle of White.
A fleet of 14 boats took part in the three days of racing at both ends of the ‘A’ Cat envelope. The first day was a drifter in minimum conditions and full sun, the final day was in a building breeze getting up to 25kt in the gusts. Only the Ex Olympic top gun Adam May (Exploder AD3) could maintain foiling for the whole course, and became British Foiling Champion, Dave Roberts (DNA 2015) and Grant Piggott (Exploder AD3) also on the podium. The Classic Champion was Ben Mancini (Flyer) with Gordon Upton (DNA 2012) in second.
In mid September, the Spanish held their Nationals at Puerto Sherry, Cadiz. In a fleet of 25 boats, split about 50/50 between Foilers and Classics. Over their three days, on some choppy water and with winds up to 25kts on the Saturday and down to 6 kts on the final day, Santi Nieto (Exploder AD3) dominated the Foilers and Micky Todd (Schurer G7) was king of the Classics. However, the dates were rather too close to the Worlds for the other Spanish hotshots such as Manuel Calavia and Anton Paz to fight again.
The same weekend had the Swiss Nationals held at Bevaix on the Neuchatel Lake in the North West of the country. Brothers Sandro and Daniel Caviziel (Scheurer G7) showed the way in all 5 races held with Sandro getting straight bullets on his aerodynamically tweaked G7.
A week later the Hellicat club at Hellevoetsluis was the stage for the Dutch Nats. With one moderate and a couple of light wind days, Coen De Konig (DNA F1) was able to master the variable conditions to beat PJ Darshuis (DNA F1) and Jaap Staakenbroek (Vision) for the podium. Some great sailing by Caroline Van Beelen (Nikita) crowned her as Queen of the Dutch Classics, and winning line honours in two races.
GER & AUT
Late in September the German and Austrian Nationals took place in…..Italy. 58 boats raced at Campione on Lake Garda, in moderate conditions ideal for foiling. Kuba and Tymuk fought each other again, this time with Kuba coming out on top with an impressive 7/8 bullets over the 3 days racing. Michael Modelhammer was in third, and became AUT National Champion with Alex Miester in 6th being crowned the GER Champion.
The action moved to San Diego Bay early in October for the US Nationals. His bruises healing from his Worlds experiences, Mischa was in attendance for the 4 day 11 race series. Other sailors drove thousands of miles to enter the races too. In some great foiling conditions, Mischa proved too strong for Bruce Mahoney (DNA F1) to hold on to and scored 9 bullets on his lovely blue F1. A little down the field the close fought battle for the Classic title was won by Craig Yandow (Struble).
The last Championships of the year was the French and held at Maubuisson, the venue for the 2014 Euros in Southwest France. Over their Armistice weekend, the 4 day event, attended by some 49 boats from 4 countries, was characterised by very light or non existent winds. The first day had some moderate breeze and each race had a different winner. Day two didn’t happen, and day three saw Emmanuel Dode (DNA F1) win the Foiling class national championships in the tactical battle of wind finding, beating Jean-Luis Le Coq (Exploder AD3) and the GER light wind expert Mathias Dietz (Exploder AD3). Just behind them on the water were the Classics of Micky Todd and Albert Roturier, making Albert was the French Classic Champ after day 4 was also cancelled.
Looking back, 2017 was a season of yet more developments. The Decksweeper sail is here to stay on foiling boats. Discussions are on-going as to how the mast heights might reduce, as the centre of effort needs shifting down and sail shapes are changing yet again. Platform design seems to have stabilised for now. The two most popular new designs, the DNA F1 and the Exploder AD3, look to have made foiling much more stable and predictable, both having longer moments due to the boards moving further forwards. The aero packages are now taken as read as regards sealed tramps ect. However, people stuffing water bottles into their diamond wires may render these gains rather futile! The next step will be to work on the drag reduction of the sailors, who’s flappy clothing can’t help either – no comments or suggestions on your editor’s drag coefficient please!
It was also the year that upwind foiling became a thing. We have seen a few hot new recruits from other classes join our ranks too as a result.
At the AGM in August, the class voted to officially adopt the non-foiling Classic design as an official variant within the ‘A’ class association and World Sailing has endorsed this. It means that events can now have both foiling and classic types racing together and the results would be split out at the end. This will be used as a trial process at the 2018 Worlds with official adoption at the 2019 Weymouth Worlds. There will then be official Classic and Foiling World Champions.
The class splitting into two official divisions has been seen by many as a very positive move. Most associations are now more than happy to hold dual races and championships. This is actually having the effect of bringing back some formerly disillusioned non-foiling sailors into our fold. And there is an interesting side effect of this. A few big names from our past are talking of changing from their foiling boats and taking up the classic boats again, as they can see some closer racing starting again as a result.
We all wait with great interest to see what 2018 will bring. No doubt there will be more exciting developments in our class, as things never stand still. The class is still growing well in many counties, with new sailors taking on the challenge that this beast brings. We look forward to the Euros at Warnemunde in July and to Hervey Bay in November. And we wish you all the very best for 2018 – It can only end brilliantly!
Photos. Gordon Upton, Laurens Morel, Phillipe Dervieux