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A Cat Worlds, day 1

Following a lovely champaign sailing week’s run up to a major championship, it’s obvious now, to anyone with any wind connection and recent experience, that the actual race week will inevitably be one where total near windless conditions shall inevitably prevail. There’s probably a law or something describing the phenomena. It’s like there’s only so much wind available, and if you’ve used it all up playing in it, then that’s your own fault. Like a sort of wind version of that immersion heater you had as a kid, that your dad switches off before you have a bath, so it suddenly goes all cold after so long and ruins the bathtime.

That was day one of the A-cat World Championships at the Yacht Club De Toulon, on the stylish Cote D’Azure. There are probably worse places to be floating about like a bunch of hot ducks though.

Race officer Corrine Aubert had made the call to delay the start until the afternoon as a breeze should have arrived by then. 13:30 was the time set for the sequence start. The wind was about 9-13kts, Southerly as the gun went. The 80 boats of the Classic non-foiling fleet all started cleanly, slicing through the ridiculously Azure blue waters of Toulon Bay with the ease and elegance that it seems only the A-Cat can do when going upwind. Gradually the boats started tacking off to the right until a twin fleet emerged, with one or two undecided up the centre. At the top mark, it was the right sailors that gained and when the others joined into the layline, many were ahead of them in the orderly stream of boats around the top mark and the spreader. Veteran A-Can Ace Scotty Anderson, Exploder AD3 AUS 31, led the around. He was being chased by Manuel Vaccari, Schurer G6 ITA 5. Marco Radman ITA 55, Mathias Dietz GER 3 and Gustavo Doreste ESP 72.

Two more laps followed as the wind swung right and then right again, necessitating the installation of a new top mark. Those who chose the middle were probably best served as their gains and losses would be less pronounced. The small tactical battles were played out throughout the fleet. The Classic version of this boat is perfectly suited to this type of close quarter tactical stuff. The Southern German lake sailors are pretty much the masters of this light breeze chess, and one can look at a result sheet from a large event and sometimes work out the wind merely from the results.

At the finish, Scotty mad managed to hold off the strong challenge from Manuel enough to get over the line for his bullet. A little further back, Gustavo and Marco were match racing, all down the last leg. In fact this allowed Mathias to catch up, and with 100m out, I think they suddenly realised his threat as the stopped their tactical games and accepted their positions of Gustavo in 3rd, Marco 4th and Mathias 5th.

Race two nearly got underway until a massive shift hit the already considerably biased line within the last minute, and the PRO decided to cancel that start. This was fortunate as several boats has bunched up around the stern of the committee boat, with considerable screaming emanating from Micky Todd, ESP 5, who had been pushed out and found himself the wrong side of the committee boat. Serves him right really for changing his tactics, as he’s usually found right at the other end of the line.

The next start was clean and all swished away upwind. This time Manual was first at the top, closely followed by Gustavo, then Mathias. Scotty had got himself stuck on a second row of boats at the start and had to fight through several ahead to get towards his desired position. The 3 laps continued in a similar vein. The wind was sufficient to Trapeze upwind, which is always nice on an A-Cat, indicating its usually at least 8 knots on the nose. In one lap, the middle of the fleet suddenly found that an earlier sailor had speared one remote control bottom mark and ran off with it. Several were already committed to that mark, so has to hunt him down in order to round it as he was unable to reverse off it because as soon as he tried, the motor unit, seeking it’s original position, just drove the thing back up his hull! GBR sailor Hugh Macgregor GBR18, was one befitting from this, and gained several places by suddenly switching his chosen mark to the other side after seeing the ensuing and amusing drama.

However, the battle at the front was hotting up. The likable veteran German Champion Mathias was doing what he knows best, as there were his conditions. He hunted down the European Classic Champ, Gustavo, on the last downwind and was closing in on Manuel, but the finish line just saved him, giving him his first bullet too. Scotty had also passed Gustavo for a good 3rd place.

So at the close of play of the day in the Classics it was Manuel lying in 1st, Scotty 2nd, Matthias 3rd, Marco 4th and Gustavo in 5th. Much is left to play for. Reigning multiple Champion, Andrew Landenberger has a mare of a day and languishes in 16th. Two more races are planned for tomorrow.

Over on the Open fleet, they had to float around in the heat after being released from the beach in expectation that the Classics would have finished, but it was not to be. In the end they got a start in, and they all went up wind in their floating mode, which is noticeably slower than the Classic boats, owing to their larger foil areas and flatter rigs just slowing them down. Again it was a left and right thing, with the left proving the better, and Bailey White, USA 320 rounding in the lead, closely followed by another GER Lake sailor light wind specialist, the elfin Katina Brunner, battling Swiss Champ Robin Maeder. But then the race was abandoned as the wind had dropped to illegal class limits, so all went home, sadly dragging their teddies behind them.

This was the opening day of the 2023 A-Cat Worlds. The Race officer did her best and managed 2 races at least. It resumes, probably in a similar vein tomorrow, but it’s looking quite tactical this year.