AUS Nationals, day 2.
The second day out on Lake Macquarie, and the AUS 2024 A-Class Cat Nationals saw the wind 180 deg to yesterday. The scheduled start time of 11.00 was, for some reason not fully communicated to me, was pushed back to 13.00. No matter, the fleet just sat about and talked more, and it allowed this correspondent to get his reports done earlier, so every cloud, as they say. However, looking back, it did mean that the fleet actually missed out on the hour of the best breeze of the day.
The wind was a good 12-13kts though, and again, the fleet happily and compliantly assembled like the puppies they are. First off were the Open foilers. Their course was some 200m longer to compensate for their increased speed and allowed the fleets to all finish around the same time after the same number of laps. It works very well indeed, as a nice mixed fleet come rolling over the line, with very few stragglers. At the gun, the Open lads shot off, with the top half dropping fast into upwind foiling mode.
Again, the course had an odd wind pattern like yesterday. Bottom left and top right was where the pressure seemed to reside. There was also a lift from the curve of the bay to the left of the start line, which encouraged sailors to stick with that tack after the start, almost until their layline tack, to take them right across the course to the line-up for the top mark gate. As I said yesterday, this National fleet utilises the Sail GP style of top mark gate. This allows them to play much more with the full width of the course right from the top, rather than have to gybe at the spreader if you wanted to go down the right side. Also, none of that Zone of Death as fast cats attempt to do a reaching leg before being allowed to fully power up into their downhill modes. In practice, it’s no different to the bottom gate. Boats crossing just still must give way to starboard as they would on any other part of the course, they just need to have eyes outside the boat, not rocket surgery. I do feel that other fast classes could benefit from this innovation. Yes, it does require slightly better sailing discipline, no sudden tacks to port and into a boat closing in on the other mark, but then you just become better sailors.
At the top mark Adam Beattie, reigning National Champ, leads Ravi Parent, one of the pair of US guest racers at this event, followed by Darren Bundock, Stevie Brewin and Matt Holman. They all go left and run right down to the bottom gate layline before banging across to start another lap. Beattie is really fast. He’s a local lad and puts in much time on these waters. But, to lead former World Champ Ravi is not a fluke. He has boatspeed in spadefuls. The rig setup is spot on and his Brewin sail is perfect.
After two more laps, they cross the line. Speeds of 30-32 knots are now commonplace here. The finish was Adam, Ravi then Matt.
The Classics had a slight delay in their first start, after their top mark needed resetting, but again got off cleanly. The Classics, favoured by ‘the gentlemen of a certain age’ are great fun to sail and tend to be more tactical. By no means slow, they are still the Worlds fastest single handed non foiling cat.
Scotty Anderson, the current World Champ, was the overnight leader and won the first race. But he was closely followed by Bruce Woodward and Andrew Landenberger in short order. This fleet is going to be closely fought.
Race two, was similar to the first, although there was a drop in wind for the first half, causing holes to open up in both fleets. Adam, Ravi and Stevie weas the Open order, meanwhile on the Classics, Scotty was done by his old nemesis Landy who had found his form again beating him into second, with Chris Cairns snapping up third.
Race three was more animated. The wind was back up again. The Foilers were started, but this time Ravi seemed to have been the only one to have spotted a significant windshift at the gun, and just rocketed off at a pace that took the rest by surprise, leaving them all chasing like a pack of hounds after the fox. He then tacked across, possibly earlier than he should have done, but his separation was such that it made little difference.
At the bottom, he led nicely, but Adam had found the afterburner gate and was closing him down. But Ravi kept ahead, made no errors and crossed the line after a last-minute tack for it, winning by about 30m. Third was Matt who sailed another faultless race.
The Classics last race was a good tactical affair again. Nip and tuck, tacking on shifts etc. And coming down to the finish line, it was Matt Johnson at the line. Matt has had a consistent regatta so far, featuring a bad race, then a good race etc. This was on his good race cycle as he just pipped Landy at the line. It was then that the day’s crown-pleaser finale happened.
David MacKenzie was battling with Scotty for the final podium position. As they reached the committee boat, Scotty did what 100 m sprinters do, and lunged for the line, in this case he did a sudden violent bearaway as he crossed the bows of the committee boat. At this point, he became detached from the boat as inertia won out over friction. He shot off the tramp, still attached to the trapeze, but with such force that he pulled the boat over to windward. There was a brief tussle as the windtried to push the mast back vertical, but by now the boat was travelling down the side of the hapless old vintage committee boat at a 45 degree angle of heel to windward, before finally deciding to flop over. Scotty was still involved and, in the water, fixed to the boat, drifting down the side, and valiantly trying to argue that he had finished. However, the PRO pointed out that the finish line was infact at the stern of the vessel, and he was still yet to finish. The World Champion accepted this, and after righting his boat, did his penalty turn and salvaged a valuable point. So we must all now not mention this again, move on please. Just look at the photo sequences, nod wisely and learn from his tragic, all too human error.
In the end, the classic fleet finished Bruce, leading Scotty, and then Chris. Game on again tomorrow afternoon, but with possibly a little less wind.