Snakes and ladders in day 1 of the AUS Nationals
At day one of the Australian A-Cat National Championships, on the waters of South Lake Macquarie Amateur Sailing Club, NSW, the cream of the Australian fleet assembled. 46 boats, over half of the National Fleet, were joined by two US guests. The draw for the Americans, Mike Christiansen, US No.3, and Ravi Parent, 2022 World A-Cat and F-18 Champion, was a chance to compete in the most competitive National fleet in the World. The fleet currently boasts a host of multiple World Champions, Olympic medallists and even an America’s Cup skipper.
Today, the old mantra of ‘You should know, it’s not usually like this here!’ was clearly heard. The ENE wind was there, then it wasn’t. Big holes were to be found and stitched together by the really unlucky. Or a game of sailing snakes and ladders took place.
Race one got underway with little fuss. The A-Cat fleet has been described to me in the past, by one Olympic RO, as easily the most disciplined in the world and recalls are a rarity. The wind was a decent 10 knots, allowing the more capable sailors of the 20 boat Open fleet to get foiling from the off. 6 mins later it was the 27 boat Classic fleet, although tragedy struck one sailor at the 5 min 55 sec mark as his mainsheet clew attachment gave up, tea bagging him in, capsizing his boat to windward. The hapless unnamed International A-Class Measurement chief was left wallowing as he watched the rest sail away.
However, at the top marks, all was not well. The Open fleet upon arrival, suddenly found themselves somewhat becalmed on their downwind leg, and remained so as the Classics arrived at their top marks, which were set some 200m shorter in order to correct for the speed differential of the respective disciplines. At this point a conjoined fleet continued downwind to the bottom marks, and the Classics rather revelled in the fact that for a change, they had the upper hand speedwise due to their less draggy foils and slipperier hull shapes.
At the bottom, most chose the right mark and started their weary way uphill again, with a few dissenting souls loudly claiming the 5 knot class wind minimum had been breached and the race should be cancelled. Half was up the second beat, the wind filled in again, and most got trapezing again. At the finish, it was reigning World Champ, Scotty Anderson, just ahead of Chris Cairns with Bruce Woodward back in third. The Open fleet was led by the reigning National Champion Adam Beattie, with Darren Bundock and Ravi Parent.
Race two was a more traditional affair. Pretty much 10 kts throughout the race. Much foiling and wild thinging kept all sailors happy. This time it was Ravi winning the Open, Adam following and Bundy third. Scotty won again in the Classics, Andrew Landenberger came in second with Bruce in another consistent third.
Race three started out so well too. Off the line, foiling for the Opens or flat out trapezing in the Classics, off the left hand side of the course. This was where the wind had been shown to be best. Adam led Bundy and chased by Ravi all up the far lefthand side. The rest followed, but remained slightly more central. Then the weird thing happened. The leading 5 boats in the Open fleet found some more wind over to the top right of the course and headed there. They all rounded the left hand gate mark (this AUS fleet sail with a gate at both ends of the course, similar to the sail GP courses, and find it gives more tactical scope to use both course sides equally). The headed downwind again, keeping to the left side, passing all the upcoming boats in both fleets, who suddenly seem to have stopped in a huge hole. The result was that these 5 all come downhill at least 10 mins ahead of the leading boats from the following pack. But eventually the wind returned and both fleets lapped the course as one old fashioned A-Cat fleet. At the finish, again it was Adam, Matt Homan and Stevie Brewin. Classics were another bullet for Scotty, Richard Howells second and Bruce again third.
All great fun though. Sailing that never gets boring was today’s lesson and more tomorrow.