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Worlds day 3

It was a tricky day out on the beautiful Rade Du Toulon yesterday, in day 3 of the A-Cat Worlds. At many events, regardless of how good the club or organisation is, the wind always has its own agenda. So it was in Toulon. Sailors waited around, lounging on trampolines, in campers and outside the café, all awaiting that squadron scramble bell when the red and white stripy flag was suddenly lowered and replaced with a fleets on the water flag.

With a twin fleet, it was the turn of the Open sailors to get going. Corrine, the PRO wanted to get the fleets onto an equal footing as regards races sailed, so 2 more needed for the Open foilers and one more for the Classics to square it away as these sorts of people like. Off they all dutifully went, navigating the tricky entrance to the breakwater that protects the particular cove where Yacht Club Du Toulon is situated, on the Eastern end of the town’s lovely shore.

It was a slow sail out the the committee boat though, as it was only around 5-6 knots blowing from the South, although more was promised they said. Course set, flags flown, horns blown and the 40 or so boats set off. There is a peninsula, just as in Weymouth with Portland, called Saint-Mandrier-sur-Mer. This seems to have a slight venturi effect in Southerly breezes and tends to produce more pressure on that side. At the gun almost immediately, the fleet split in two, with the right side being favoured as tends to be the way here. Those who had clear water tacked off. Others were trapped by windward sailors who persisted in remaining on the Starboard tack regardless, maybe thinking they were doing a great job covering someone. The wisest trapped ones decided to take an early hit, slow down to allow the other boat to overtake, then bang right knowing the gains there could well be worth it.

Race one got off, and they all did the traditional fleet split. At the top, Kuba Surowiec POL 41, was blasting away. Lower down the fleet, the rest could only watch in envy. He was chased down though, and the former Euro Champ, Manuel Calavia ESP 11, was the one giving the best chase and was sailing a blinding race, along with the reigning Open champ, Ravi Parent USA 76. Then triple World Champ Stevie Brewin turned up the wick and caught up Ravi in the marginal conditions. At the line, Kuba had stretched his lead nicely to a good 30 seconds. However, as he rounded the stern of the Committee boat, he spotted his number on the OCS board, one can only emphasise with his disappointment. But, every cloud they say, Manuel was delighted to see he had the bullet, Stevie in second and Darren Bundock AUS 88 was third. Another good finisher of note was Cam Farrah, who arrived in 10th in a great blow for girl-power in this hot fleet!

At the top mark it was World No 2, Kuba again, having decided to put the OCS out of his mind. The reigning Open champ, Ravi and that Olympic/America’s Cup ledged, Bundy chased behind. These guys had all gone to the right. The wind was not really enough for consistent upwind foiling, so at best, a sort of skimming mode proved the fastest VMG technique. Interestingly a few of the other quick sailors, including the current fleet leader, Mischa Heemskerk NED7, were still languishing halfway down the fleet. On the first downwind, most carried on to the left before gybing across to the gate layline. All the fleet then sailed into a lull, so quickly switched to their deep downhill modes. On the Open version of the A-Cat, this is a highly depressing mode for them all. They are now slower that the Classics if they were sailing in a mixed fleet, by virtue of their big draggy foils. In fact as they left the harbour, a string of Oppies were being towed out at the same time and they probably wondered if they would be faster downhill too.

Then a weird thing happened. Mid fleet, one boat suddenly manages to spring up onto the foils. The boat was a DNA F1x, sailed by the designer PJ Dwarshuis NED 28. This boat has a flatter underwater shape, and can, with skill, be coaxed onto the foils at a lower wind speed than most others. PJ then just ate up the fleet, travelling easily three times their speed. It was a joy to see, especially as it was the popular PJ on the sticks. At the bottom, he was a good 20 seconds ahead of Kuba. He managed to hold onto that lead, and in fact even increase it away from the Polish rocketman and the rest to finish a good way in the lead, much to his huge, and the committee boat crew’s jubilation. Kuba ran in a bemused second, with Bundy in third.

The next race was again a tactical battlefield. The wind had risen maybe to 7-8 knots, so all the boats were foiling now, at least downwind. Again, it was the right side where the pressure was upwind, and a rhombus shape tended to be sailed on the windward/leeward course. At the finish, Bundy decided now would be a good time to break his consistent row of thirds, with a nice bullet instead. Kuba arrived second, and Mischa recovered form to come third.

After those races and the interesting finishes, the Open leaderboard has been blown wide open. Misha, was looking unassailable in the lead. But now he shared it with Kuba on 12 points each, the Polish lad’s OCS dropped him from the potential leading place. Next is Bundy on 13, maybe it’s his year this time? Much to play for, the nest races promise more wind.

It was then time for the Classics fleet. 80 boats set off into the sunset, an lovely evening for a leisurely sail. But this was the World Championships and leisurely isn’t what it’s about. Classics can go well in these light end conditions, but it does require probably more experience than in any other conditions. At thew top of this fleet we see that in spadefuls. Former World champ and Olympian, Scott Anderson AUS31, may not be a pumped-up youngster anymore (Sorry Scotty!) but he a master tactically and used all his sailing nous to win this race. Another ‘gentleman of a certain age’, European champ, Gustavo Doreste ESP72, got a hard fought second over the comparative youngster, Marco Radman ITA 55. This is why the older guys continue to sail this lovely boat. They can still beat the young bucks at their own game – and it restores to older gents a nice warm feeling for a just moment again at least.

Gordon Upton