Univela Trophy 2021 in Campione del Garda
The long anticipated event at Garda drew many of the top European sailors. Christian Stock reports.
It could be felt everywhere among the sailors: the enormous joy and relief at finally being able to resume a halfway normal international regatta operation after two deprived Corona seasons. 55 boats from 9 countries had entered for the Univela Trophy in Campione, 46 of them foilers and 9 classics. The regatta thus turned out to be the largest A-Cat regatta that could be held worldwide in 2021. The Univela team was initially concerned about whether they could accommodate so many boats on the not-too-large club grounds. But the challenge was well met. Even the docking and launching off at the somewhat tricky slip ramp worked out without any problems in the end.
Not only the number of participants, but also the quality of the field was impressive. Apart from the Spanish, Danish and British sailors, actually all European top sailors were at the start, including the reigning World Champion Mischa Heemskerk from the Netherlands. The big question was: Could the Pole Jakub "Kuba" Surowiec on his Exploder again win the duel against Mischa with his DNA, as he did just a few weeks ago at the Dutch Championship? Kuba has had an extremely successful season, becoming German and Polish champion, among others, and is currently the measure of all things among European A-Cat sailors. He is about 20 years younger than Mischa and considerably lighter, but this does not prevent him from an outstanding performance in strong winds. Moreover, he sails professionally all year round, while Mischa has to pursue other professional commitments in the meantime.
To make a long story short: Kuba also sailed like a young God on Lake Garda. Five bullets and a second place as a discard speak a clear language. Mischa, however, was the only one who could halfway stand up to him. He and Kuba sailed mostly far ahead of the main field, which they owed mainly to their excellent boat speed when foiling upwind. Although a good dozen other sailors were able to foil upwind too, no one else can do it as elegantly and efficiently as Kuba and Mischa. The boats are not the reason: The entire front half of the field competed with the latest top equipment. At the moment, it's all about fine-tuning the foils and the rudder adjustment - and the decisive nuances in boat handling.
Tactically, Lake Garda at Campione is quite simple: Whoever gets to the rock face first is ahead at the windward mark in 90 percent of all cases. Mischa and Kuba always started close to the starting vessel and were among the first to tack in every race. Finding the windward mark, however, proved difficult. Univela uses small robot buoys that can be placed at the desired location by GPS and small propeller drives. A great thing in view of the enormous water depths on Lake Garda, but the visibility of the buoys is miserable. Hardly any sailor has ever hit the layline correctly. Changing Ora winds between four and 18 knots also made it necessary to switch quickly between the different modes of A-Cat sailing. Overall, however, Lake Garda delivered what everyone had hoped for: great sailing conditions in a magnificent mountain setting.
The Classic fleet, which was small in number but strong in sailing, also saw a generational change. The only 19-year-old Moritz Weis from Lake Schluchsee in Germany was able to win his first 'real' A-Cat regatta ahead of grandmaster Micky Todd. Moritz not only sailed tactically very well-considered and low-risk, but above all convinced with outstanding boat speed. With his brand new Exploder AD3 with C-boards, big rudder foils and decksweeper sail he can hardly be beaten as soon as more than 6 knots of wind are blowing.
Ashore, as usual, there was much discussion about the upcoming development steps of the A-Cat. PJ Dwarshuis presented a rig with two pairs of spreaders; adjustable top shrouds allow him to bend the mast forward in true skiff-style and trim the sail completely flat. "But that doesn't do anything good except when riding out a storm," he admitted himself. The tech geeks see more potential in inflatable wing sails, electric adjustment systems for the foils, or even a midships pulpit for the sailors that is perfectly disguised aerodynamically. If the windward foils generate enough righting moment, there's no need for a trapeze, so the assumption goes. But before such audacious ideas are implemented, many a rule change is needed.
Next year the European Championship will also take place at the end of September at Lake Garda, hosted by the Club in Arco and the German Class Association. All sailors are already looking forward to it. Will the Australian and American Top Guns be able to come? May the Corona virus not prevent it.
Event Website with results and photos: https://www.campioneunivela.it/en/regattas/2021/univela-trophy-a-cat/