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Thoughts for new recruits.

I was reflecting on the class and where it could want to be heading recently, when I realised the question that we get asked frequently when someone is expressing an interest in our lovely boats is - I’m looking at getting an A-Cat, but what type should I go for? It is usually met with the first question from us, and we must assume that they have at least done a little research, and discovered that we have 2 categories within our class, so it’s do you want an Open or a Classic?

Now, this isn’t always an easy thing to answer. People, as ever, are looking for different things from any boat. Some will look for an adrenaline rush, some for the technical and innovative aspects, some for the ability to develop their ‘circus skills, some for close tactical racing with clubmates and some just love to sail a light responsive boat with a great power to weight ratio. Any number of reasons really.

The next question can be a little more sensitive. How old are you? It’s not asked with the aim of being judgemental, discriminatory or ageist. It’s an honest discussion about the physicality, fitness and sailing techniques of the two categories that will determine your choice. Without putting too finer point on it, the last two Open World Champions were both under 30 years old. The last two Classic Champions were both ‘Gentlemen of a Certain Age’, being 53 and 68 years respectively. I will leave it there for now.

The final question would be how much do you want to spend? This is rather like asking how long is a piece of string? Professional or sponsored sailors aside, it’s the age-old paradox: you are young and fit but usually have little money. You are older and less agile but do have some money.

However, all is not lost, for the younger ones at least. A year or so back we did a poll of members, and one question was enquiring their age. From the results we had the age spread of the international fleet. We have older sailors, in some cases over 90 years old at one end giving us all hope, and at the other end we have a few teenager aces. What was then very clear was that most of the fleet fell into the 45-65 age bracket. What you would expect really, from a boat of this type and cost. And the category split was about 56% Classic to 44% Open foilers.

But what we are finding now, is that a few of the older sailors are deciding to sell their foiling boats, and in many cases, moving over to Classics. The reason being that while they are in many cases, competent foiling sailors, the front of the fleet is where the youngsters now tend to be. And because foiling is rather hard physical work this can, in some races, result in them getting DNFs as they can’t complete the race in the allotted times and finishing window achieved by the leaders. In many cases some are biting the bullet, putting their foilers up for sale, and moving over to the Classic where they can get their old racing Mojo back with some close tactical, less enervating, but nevertheless fun racing.

This situation means that there are now coming onto the market several good competitive Open foiling boats, available at affordable prices to those younger sailors who are keen. These boats are capable of winning championships too. Now, if they are considering being seduced by that other groovy foiler, the Moth, they will realise that a decent competitive Open A-Cat can be obtained for less cash. And if it’s the speed they are after, with boat having a similar power to weight ratio as the Moth, just the other month I witnessed an A-Cat in AUS going in excess of 35kts, and that was just for a laugh in training!

‘And what about the Lasses?’ a few of us sometimes ask. It is another interesting question. Many National fleets have one or two women sailing in them, but why so few? It’s a question we ask ourselves. The answer is there is no physical reason why not. Boats get configured to the sailor, they are not one design, so a lighter sailor gets a bendier mast and a flatter sail. Our boats are only 75kg all up, so easy to move about. Maybe women are just less competitive? Yea, right… then explain why the NED and BEL Classic fleets had female National champions, and how an American woman just won a recent regional championship in the Open fleet? But we need more and a few of you must have daughters, sisters or nieces. Get them down and give them a go. Nothing can go wrong, other that they beat you and your mates of course…

In the end it comes down to ‘You pays your money, you takes your choice’. But currently, hopefully now that choice is a bit wider that is has been previously, for all ages and wallets. And for younger sailors looking for an exciting, dynamic, technical, cutting edge class that has a legendary friendly and inclusive atmosphere, these boats have never been more affordable. Plus it’s the boat you are looking for if you don’t want to start every sail from a capsize…