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Lockdown Interviews - Horst Kopp, AUS

One of the joys of this class is that we can have a huge age range within our National Associations.  We all have our Association beloved Grandfathers, so our next interviewee is an honorary AUS Association life member, the 80 year old 'A' Cat veteran Horst Kopp.


  • When and why did you first start sailing and in what?

I built my first boat and started sailing in 1963. The Quickcat come in a kit form, plywood hulls, wooden mast / boom, cane battens, plywood deck,  hiking board and was designed by Charlie Cunningham. Note: hiking boards are still acceptable in our modern A class constitutions. With his son Lindsay they designed many different cats, including the C class cat and winning the Little American cup. My friend Helmut and myself decided to build a boat. We argued, who would be the skipper, so Helmut built an  XY 16, fiberglass hulls with a ply deck, aireo foiled plywood front beam and boxed wooden rear beams and swivelling hiking board.  I build the Quickcat, manly on my kitchen table. Working at Johns & Waygood we an ample supply to S.S. offcuts and I managed to have a glory box full of custom made fittings, most of them Fico / Ronston copies. We launched our cats at B.Y S and after our first sail we ask to join the club. Reply: “Sorry we are closed”. “But we build our own boats”. “Oh, please meet the Commodore and join the club”. I remained a member for 33 years. I was very impressed that a fellow member offered to be my minder and help with any club / boat issues.


  • When did you first become aware of the ‘A’ Class Cat?

They had the first A class worlds in Sorrento in 1963. I was a visitor only , but noticed a modified XY 16 ( beam widened to 8 feet ) by Graham Candy, sail KA 3, Note: Graham, a lawyer, insisted all his life that he was the perpetual owner of no 3, even it is now changed to AUS 3. I believe that number has still not been issued.


  • Where and at what age did you first get a sail on one.

In 1970 I was 30 years old and built with my first Australis KA 5, later KA55.  I was the Australis President and notice that other cat designs /other sail logos had the same KA 5 on the start line. I called a meeting of 6 different cat owners and convinced them to join the A class open divisions and I issued new consecutive sail numbers, hence my new KA 55. In 1968 I went to Darwin for the Cat challenge regatta. I notice an imported American Tornado with a mesh tramp. I contacted Flower Adams Sail in Sydney and they imported the first cloth, which I then used on my Australis and put it on display at the Melbourne boat show. After that most new cat designs changed over from plywood, sail cloth or fish net. Beware: going fishing on a mesh tramp catches all the fish scales and smelly. Note: Peter Lane in his 16 foot Graduate won the A class Nat’s. After winning the first heat in the next Nat’s some idiot stole his rudders and center boards and he never sailed again.


Fitness and training.

  • What is your current fitness routine, and do you have any special diet?

Poppy, my red / white Border Collie insist on 2 walks a day, plus Priscilla’s TLC cooking, My motto: less food and more exercise.

  • How often do you sail each month?

In the summer sailing season I sail every Saturday, plus most of the Australian Worlds, Nat’s, States & club races.

  • Do you have any specific fixed training regime?

Not really, but I was still on my roof last week rebuilding my TV aerial and repair broken roofing panels (~ 10 times in one week up a the long ladder ). My old neighbours are not happy! 

  • Where did you learn your race tactics?

Watching / learn from my competitors and sometime swapping boats

  • Do you practice race tactics in any way whilst training?

Not really, except ensuring every component works before the race

  • Do you concentrate on specific areas when training?

I keep looking at my tell tales, adjust the luff, traveller and play catch up. Catch up with non foiling A’s only , except in a drifter then I can sometimes beat an A class foiler. MB was not happy!

  • Was there a particular technique you found that unlocked something in your sailing?

High level of preventive pre-race maintenance plus 3 points: concentrate, concentrate, concentrate. Note: when I had a major T-bone collisions and my lee hull was cut in half, Glen advised me to turn my body / head up to 180 degrees to see your competitors coming. Sorry Glen, I tried, but I can only do 110 degrees!

  • Do you have a regular sailing partner and what do they do for your sailing?

Yes, my son Michael and my old McYC A class friends have all retired. Pity!



  • What do you most enjoy about sailing the ‘A’ Cat?

Competition, concentrate, fresh air and a beer later on from our million dollar view McYC deck.

  • What was your best sailing moment? (and if you feel strong enough, your worst!?)

Winning the 1987 world master at BYS against 27 other masters. Note: in this world invitation race we had 27 sailors (out of 90) leaving the beach in 22knots. Before the start a 43knots southerly buster come thru, so they cancelled the race, but all boats made it safely hard on the wind to the shore. In the first heat I got shot by a competitor. I turned around and yelled: “why are you shooting at me”. His new carbon fiber mast had exploded with a single rifle shot sound !!! Lucky, don’t understand Italian! My worst: 1. for our 2020 Worlds I fitted a new 5 mm Dynema mainsheet strop and it broke in the first race and that day I DNF,DNS,DNS. 2. In one down leg near the gate I notice a very large feathered half round ball (cumulonimbus cloud) in the sky. I let off the mainsheet, traveler, luff, tiller over the rear beam and myself hanging on. I still nose dived so severely that my whole boat submerged in a ~ 45 degrees angle. S….t. But it came up and the mast was not broken. I was so fired up that I got the boat up by just walking onto the tramp! I was hyperventilating and DNF. First time in 55 years of competitive sailing I finished last overall. Note: In the previous Harvey Bay nat’s we had the same sharp edge ball in the sky and on their downwind leg the first 7 boats in the invitation race all broke their masts.  Simon had to wait 2 ½ hours before the tow in. I was in the middle of the gate. The boat in front tipped over, silly bugger. The one behind me start yelling and also tipped over. I turned around and sailed up wind into the sky ball direction and survived!

  • If something goes wrong in a race, how do you start to deal with it mentally?

Fix it with my emergency repair kit : sharp  pocket knife, short ropes, shackle key, spare shackles 


General interest

  • What would you sail if ‘A’ Cats were suddenly banned?

Ignore the ban, subject that our McYC still accepts my membership.

  • What improvements do you feel could be made to the boats currently and which direction do you think the two divisions should be heading?

I converted from straight boards to C boards; it now feels faster on a reaching leg. I strongly believe our 2 division should continue as is, with new minor design changes acceptable. We should never stop progress.

  • Who are your sailing heroes and influences?

Charley and Lindsay Cunningham. Smartest engineer I ever worked for in 65 years. Lindsey made innovated designs for the C class boats. I was seconded at Johns & Waygood to build his fittings over a 3 month period. Charley / Lindsay told us as lighter the boat, as faster it will go!  And of course our famous Glen Ashby. Question: How many other sports have a 10 time World champion on record?

  • What single piece of advice could you give to the average ‘A’ Cat sailor?

Lots of practice and preventive maintenance before all major regattas. Learn from your failures. Lindsay had a pocket note book on board and recorded all the possible required changes on the spot.