All the stars start to align for the Toulon Worlds.
A month and a half out from the 2023 Worlds in Toulon, well over 100 sailors are now signed up for what is now promising to be a classic major event sailed on the Med. Christian Stock reports on what we can expect as some tight title fights could be on the cards.
It promises high-level sport and extremely close results, the A-Class Catamaran World Championship in Toulon, Southern France. For the first time since the interruption of several years due to the Corona pandemic, the number of entries is back up in the usual range of well over a hundred boats, and almost all the top sailors from three continents will be competing. As always in recent years, the A-Cats are divided between two starting fields. In the Open category, 40 Foilers will be competing in Toulon. Foilers lift themselves out of the water thanks to their Z-shaped daggerboards and adjustable raking rudder foils and can then reach enormous boat speeds of over 28 knots.
To date, there are 77 boats entered in the non-foiling Classics. Despite the name, these are by no means old-timers, because in recent years the development of the Classic discipline has also progressed rapidly: deck sweeper sails, large rudder foils, adjustable centreboards and aerodynamic optimisation of rig and platform, also ensure enormous speeds here. However, as only straight or constant curve C-shaped centreboards and non-adjustable rudders are allowed, the Classics are not allowed to lift both hulls completely out of the water at the same time.
Lots of Favourites in the Open Category
Both starting fields are extremely well-staffed and peppered with Olympians and World Champions from various catamaran classes. The top favourite among the foilers from 13 countries is the reigning A-Cat Open World Champion and F18 World Champion Ravi Parent from the USA. He has been training in Europe since June, on his new Redondo edition Exploder AD3, to defend his title and is highly motivated, but will have to face tough competition. The multiple A-Cat and F18 World Champion Mischa Heemskeerk from the Netherlands should be mentioned, who can be in a class of his own, especially in stronger winds. The latter also applies to the Australian former multiple world champion Steve Brewin, who however, also cuts a good figure in medium to high end winds, thanks to his lower body weight, as he proved at the Garda Europeans back in September. So does the young Pole Jakub "Kuba" Surowiec, who narrowly missed out on the World title on the previous occasion in Houston. It is only a matter of time before he stands at the top of the podium.
The extended circle of favourites for first place in the Foilers is also illustrious. Darren Bundock of Australia won an Olympic silver medal in the Tornado and is currently trying to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Marseille on the Nacra 17. Emmanuel Dodé from France, Lamberto Cesari from Italy, Adam Beattie from Australia and the Spaniard Manuel Calavia, should also be on the list. They proved at previous championships that they are a force to be reckoned with. So far, the outstanding top sailor of the last two decades, Glenn Ashby, has not entered. He is concentrating on his new venture of breaking the world speed sailing record for Team New Zealand, having already catapulted the land sailing record into new dimensions last winter.
The two women competing in the Open category can be classified as secret favourites. In the light wind conditions that are not unlikely in Toulon, their lower weight could prove to be a big advantage. The highly talented Cam Farrah from the USA is contesting an Olympic campaign in the Nacra 17 and is correspondingly well trained. Katrin Brunner from Germany has many years of experience in the A-Cat and is long over all wave crests in light winds standing in the harness, when the male competition is still bobbing around.
Who will dominate the Classics?
In the Classic field, currently with its 77 boats from twelve countries, the reigning world champion is also tackling the project of defending the title. Australian Andrew Landenberger not only has an Olympic silver medal in the Tornado class under his belt, but also numerous World and European championships in various classes. But he also faces strong competition. His compatriot Scott Anderson has won a bronze medal in the Tornado and has a few more years of A-Cat experience to show. Spain's Gustavo Doreste is also a former Olympian and extremely experienced. Still young in years but with excellent boat handling and speed is Moritz Weis from Germany, who is only 21 years old, and if winds are at the lighter end, could be unbeatable. In Toulon, he will meet Andreas Landenberger from Australia, who is only slightly older and also lightning fast. A secret favourite not so well known among the A-Cats so far is Emmanuel Le Chapelier from France, who has several silver medals at the World and European Championships in the F16 class to his name.
If there is a strong breeze in the well-protected bay of Toulon, which can certainly be the case with Mistral, the Classics will feature the Italo-Swede Alberto Farnesi, the British Micky Todd, who lives in Spain, and the Scot Hugh Macgregor. When the wind is below eight knots, the notorious light wind foxes come into play. Albert Roturier from France is then almost unstoppable, as is the veteran Woody Cope from the USA. Georg Reutter, Matthias Dietz and Christian Stock are honed by the all too often windless inland areas of southern Germany. Numerous other sailors also fancy their chances: Philippe Muyzers and Michel Warlop from Belgium, Bruno Biedermann and Mathieu Verrier from Switzerland, Lars Bunkenberg from Germany, Wolfgang Klampfer from Austria and Xavier Heurteboust from France.
Whatever the wind conditions in Toulon, one thing is certain: the future world champions of the Foilers and Classics will not have an easy game. It is highly likely that the decision will only be made in the last of the twelve planned races. And who knows, maybe one of the many participants not mentioned here will pull off a surprise coup. Stay tuned!