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Worlds Day 2

Following the disappointment of Sunday, where the Open foiling fleet at the A-Class Catamaran Worlds had to sit out in the Bay Du Toulon, and then just get one upwind leg before being cancelled, today was a welcome change. A foilable 9-12 knot Southerly breeze started up at about lunchtime and all the Foilers took to the sea from the Yacht Club Du Toulon’s launching beach, heading out to the race area about a mile or so offshore.

To compensate, and to get an equal number of races per fleet, three races were scheduled for the Open Foiler fleet and two more for the Classic non-foilers, with the Open on first. Corinne, the Race Officer, quickly has the things in play. The R/C marks zoomed to their allotted co-ordinates at the course ends and a long start line, with a port bias was set up. All got off cleanly. This tends to happen in this fleet, and in fact in most cat classes, as the penalty for an OCS is an eyewatering delay allowing the whole fleet past before you can go around the end. Dipping is simply not an option in these boats due to their speed. And speed is that the A-Cat has in spades, especially upwind. Few bother oats can match this lightweight machine in that flat out uphill mode. And now most in this Open category and foil upwind too, speeds in excess of 20 knots are perfectly achievable even in a moderate breeze.

The A-Cat Worlds has the fleets split into Classic and Open categories. This year with about 40 or so Open category and 80 or so of the Classic non foiling variety. Much of that greater number is made up from French boats, which is very much a Classic boat fleet.

Line set and there off cleanly as usual. In these 8-9 knot winds, not all the sailors are able to foil upwind. This is a very practiced technique, but if you can, and not lose too much upwind angle for too long in trying to get fast enough for the foils to lift, your speed effectively doubles. The fleet started to split, with about half opting for continuing their starboard tack, the others, sensing a little more pressure on the right, tacked when able and clear of other boats. At the top, we saw which group was the winner in that tactical battle. It turned out that right was better this time.

Three-time World Champ, Mischa Heemskerk NED 7, was leading, followed by the young Polish Champ, Kuba Surowiec POL 41. However, they decided, that the left was better on the downhill section, plus, the loses made by coming off the foils and gybing would wipe out any potential gains in these marginal foiling winds. Thus, the course patter became a rhombus shape, and so it tended to remain throughout the day for the Open folk. Bottom mark was 1 NM away and reached within 5 mins or so when fully foiling. The top sailors will start configuring the boat for the upwind leg about 100m from the mark. To be fair, the sail settings are not that much different downwind to upwind in these. Maybe a little downhaul adjustment, mast rotation, although some have an automated mast rotation line linked to their downhaul so pulling it on also rotates their 15cm deep wingmast to give a flatter shape and different twist on the 150sq.ft. rigs. The main tweaks will be the foil angles, main foils altered in rake, so when the upwind load arrives you remain planted. Rudder differential also dialled in for the same reasons. Get that all right, from the wire, whilst travelling towards the mark at 20+knots and you’ll go around smoothly and flat. That is if your also remember to transfer your weight forward at the exact right moment of the turn, otherwise a lovely crowd pleasing wheely can and will happen, which means lost speed and maybe a boat length or two to your surrounding deadly championship rivals.
Mischa went around as though he were on rails, followed 50m later by Kuba doing the same, both heading to the course right again. Multiple Olympic medallist and former America’s Cup helm, Darren Bundock AUS 88, was the next around in the same fashion. But the speed differential between these front runners and the tail enders, even after just one lap, was a whole leg. Triple World Champ, Stevie Brewin AUS 4, Former Euro Champ, Manuel Calavia ESP 11, and reigning Aussie Champ, Adam Beattie AUS 14 were the next packet, some 100m later. And after the 3 laps, some 32 mins later, that was their finishing positions too.

The second and third races were very similar, except the racing was held up while the French Minesweeper, the Croix Du Sud, sailed nonchalantly past. At the delayed start, most sailors who opted for the committee boat end went right pretty from the off now. The wind was veering around a little, as forecast, and the top mark was moved at an opportune time after lap one. The races all finished with a combination of those top 6 sailors, and a gap has opened slightly from the rest of the fleet. Misha though, looked unstoppable today. The second-place finisher was never nearer than 15 secs behind. As for the rest of the fleet, epic battles were fought, and most crossed the line with big grins, including the SailGP tactician, Cam Farrah USA 426. She ended the day in the top half of the fleet too, and considering the level of this bunch is no mean feat.

Next into the ring were the Classic boats. These guys are the masters of close tactical racing in this class. In the foilers, you need to pick a lane and try to stay in it. In the Classics, it’s proper nip and tuck, side to side stuff. That’s why it is the most popular category, you can keep your fancy circus skills, they all say, this is where it’s at!

Yesterday’s light airs stuff finished with former World Champ and Olympian, Scott Anderson AUS 31, battling it out with Manual Vaccari ITA 5, and Mathias Dietz GER 3, both big light wind experts, with reigning Euro Champ, Gustavo Doreste ESP 72 mixing it up. Both races started in a similar vein to the Open fleet. Having the benefit of watching the last race from the side lines, the fleet knew their game plan pretty early on. The split was again from the start. A good third went right. At the top, they were by and large correct, and the port tack boats had to filter into the layline sailors and lost a few places as a result.

The first race went handsomely to Gustavo, be sailed a blinder finishing ahead of the reigning World Champ, Andrew Landenberger AUS 308. Landy had a total mare of a day yesterday and was very happy to be back to the top of the fleet again after what, for him, were disappointing 14th and 20th finishes, albeit in an 80 boat fleet. Third in that race was the young German sailor Moritz Wiess GER 121. He was unstoppable in the lighter stuff at the Euros on Garda back in September, leaving the veteran Scotty shaking his head and shrugging, so was hoping for much here.

The last race was a tactical triumph for that popular German A-Cat veteran, Matthias. He’d has a poor first race and was 6th or so at the first mark. However, as each lap progressed, he seemed to tick off the numbers inexorably. At the last lap top mark, he was third, behind Gustavo. At the finish he’d done the Euro champ, much to Gustavo’s bemusement, and finished not much behind Scotty. A magnificent sail.

At close of play, it was a great day on the water for many. Sun and azure water, what was not to like?