A-class event Hellecat 27-28th of July - Rutger Krijger reports.
A rather depressing weather forecast after a week with temperatures of up to 40 degrees and good winds did not enthuse everyone and made several sailors decide to stay at home for this year’s third Dutch A-class event at the flat water foiling Valhalla in Hellevoetsluis.
But a large turnout of Belgian, French, German and Tszech(!!) competitors made for a good fleet of 20 competitors, with 8 classics and 12 foilers. Those who remained at home seemed to be right when the NW wind died from 8kts to next to nothing in the first race, which was led by the classic sailors Piet Saarberg, Philippe Muijzers and Caroline van Beelen before being abandoned at the second windward mark. But after an hour ashore the wind returned from the SW and the decision by the race committee was made to go back afloat. It proved to be a very good decision as the wind increased from 10-12kts in the first race up to gusts of 18-20 knots in the fourth race of the day, providing great foiling conditions.
Vladislav showed some very good speed, also Charles Hainneville who only sailed his exploder for the first time the day before the regatta was doing very well up the front of the fleet, showing great foiling skills, also upwind! His flying phantom experience must for sure come in handy getting to grips with the A-cat! F18 ace Patrick Demesmaeker was doing very well upwind, but lost out a bit on the gusty downwind legs.
The second race was particularly tight at the top with the first 4 sailors finishing within several boatlengths of each other doing speeds into the 20s, great fun! Vladislav sailed a perfect 3rd race, leading from start to finish. Caroline van Beelen did very well in the first 3 races to lead the classic fleet but also many of the foilers on her Nikita. No mean feat with her 55kg. After the 3rd race she decided A-cat sailing isn’t the best way to recover from a flu and decided to go home. The 4th and last race of the day gave the biggest winds, with gusts up to 18-20kts, giving some challenging foiling rides. Coming ashore Hellecat proved to be the great host it always is, with some great food provided by the organization.
After a night of rain the sailors were welcomed by grey skies in the morning, but also a lovely 7-9kt breeze for the first race on Sunday. The upwind mark was pretty close to the windward shore with lighter airs, providing a bit of a trap for those foiling into the lighter airs on starboard gybe, and not being able to get back onto the foils again after their gybe. Those who gybed earliest at the windward mark came out best at the gate.
For the next 4 races the wind picked up a little but remained gusty, with 8-12kts of breeze. Choosing your lanes was critical, especially downwind. John de Vries was showing some very good upwind speed on Sunday, coming into the top 3 at the windward mark in all of the races. unfortunately the mandatory helmet rule left him without results for the day. John made no issue on this decision, he will be back showing his potential next time!
Great to see this weekend was the improvement of Oliver Gagliani, used to crewing f18’s, he picked up his new exploder only a few days before the event. Not having helmed for a long time, and not having foiled ever before, it was fantastic to see him do some steady foiling runs in the last couple of races, it was even better seeing him having a great time in the process! It’s a true testimony of the user friendliness of the current boats that it’s literally possible to unpack your boat for the first time without foiling experience and be foiling within several hours!
In the end the classic podium was made up of Walter Gonzalez in 3rd, Eric Meert in 2nd and Philippe Muijzers in 1st place. The overall podium consisted of Charles Hainneville in 3rd in his first ever A-cat regatta, Vladislav Ptnasnik who drove over 11 hours one way(!!) to compete in 2nd, and myself in 1st.
Hellecat and the Haringvliet waters once again proved to be a great host and a great location with 9(1/2) races in two days. 4/5 races a day is what always is being targeted by the very competent race committee of Hellecat. In the last 3 A-cat regattas this year they managed to have 28(1/2) races in 6 days! The races are short, approx. 25 minutes for the first boat, but with these short races it is no problem to have the foiling and classic boats race within one fleet as the time delta’s are not so big. The flat waters and almost always decent breeze, together with easy getting off and back onto the beach make Hellecat a perfect place with very few off days.
September 13, 14, 15 the Dutch A-cat nationals will be organised at Hellecat, come on over and try it out!