dinsdag 29 december 2015

The 2015 A Class Year Review by Gordon Upton

The 2015 A Class Year Review
The first event of 2015 was the Australian Nats at Lake Coolharaba on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.  In a range of conditions Brad Collet became the first National Champion of 2015 on an Exploder (J board), but Graeme Parker’s superbly sailed DNA (C) boat showed that the non-foilers were not quite dead yet, coming in 2nd, with Stephen Brayshaw 3rd on his Exploder (JZ).
Hot on the heels of this event was the US Winter Annual at Islamora, Florida.  In an event featuring a full range of winds and in the choppy conditions, foiling boats simply could not get a foothold and the event was won by Woody Cope on his Nikita (C).  Then, in March at the 2015 Ronstan Midwinter Championships in Key Largo, Woody was only narrowly beaten by Texan Bruce Mahoney, on his DNA (Z), who won on countback.

March also saw the Brazilian Nationals at Guarapiranga lake, Sao Paulo.  A small but enthusiastic group, here, a wide range of different designs and of all ages, competed together and Alex Welter came out on top to become their National Champion.
A few European fleets, such as the Polish lads, who must have been drinking the Vodka purely for its antifreeze qualities, had sailed all winter.  But by April, most of the other Northern European fleets started taking to the water again in anger and begin to get to grips with their latest new designs. Both the DNA and Exploder had been delivering new season boats featuring optimization ‘tweaks’ and new features developed over the winter months.  Beams moved a few mm, foils reshaped again, hull bumps and strakes added/removed etc.  Not to mention the odd new sail shapes still in some people’s minds.
May had many domestic events and also the French, Austrian and North American Nationals.  Sailed this year at Club Nautique Berrois, near Marseilles, the Franch Nats only managed to get three races sailed as the Mistral decided to come out to play and the resulting 30kt winds meant canning the remaining next day’s racing. The event was won by expat Scot and Spanish resident Micky Todd on his Scheurer G7 (J). He secured first place after a redress due to a flag mix-up in race 1, narrowly beating Luc Catineau and Jean Louis Le Coq, both sailing C board classics, meaning that Luc is the current French National Champ.
At Rohrspitz on the Bodensee lake, famed for having little wind – it was and still is where the Zeppelins are made after all – another small but enthusiastic fleet of Austrian sailors held their Nationals.  All 3 podium positions were, as expected,  C board boats.  Wolfgang Klampfer became Champion, Jurgen Koch 2nd and Hans Schiedfele in 3rd.
The NA Nats was at Panama City, Florida.  After sailing 10 races over 4 days, Matt Struble, on an Exploder (J), managed 7 bullets over the 2 of the DNA (Z) sailed by Bruce Mahoney to take his crown.  Bailey White was 3rd on the Exploder (J) and the DNA (C) board boat of Woody Cope was 4th in a fleet of 41.
The now traditional European Spring Cup event at Arco Del Garda was at the end of May.  Many used this event as part of their training schedule for the Worlds and to see how they rated against potential rivals.  Besides, it’s such a spectacular venue with potentially good winds, if you could manage to go, it would seem rude not to!  But this year the wind decided to mess with everyone’s heads and over the 4 race days it ranged from 20kts right down to ‘having to be towed in’.  Thilo Keller, on his Arrow (C), on day one led Jakub Surowiec and Bob Baier both on the Exploder (JZ).  The next 3 races on the following day were won in style by Mischa Heemskerk on the Holland Composites DNA (Z). But good finishes by Jacek Noetzel on the Exploder (JZ) put him into 1st place over Thilo by Saturday night.  The remaining 3 races over the next two days saw Thilo regain his pole position with 3 bullets.  Jakub was 2nd and Swiss Ace Sergio Vela sailing the Scheurer G7 (J) finished 3rd.  Mischa’s boat went tech, preventing him sailing again in the regatta.    The top Italian, and thus Italian National champion, was Sandro Cavallari in 6th on his Schuerer G7 (J).
With a day or so to get there, the German Nats took place in June at the beautiful Achensee lake in Austria.  Some 260km north of Garda, it resulted in a good turnout from those sailors able to do both events in the same trip.  It was won by Bob Baier who had tactically swapped onto a Nikita (C) knowing that light winds were a distinct possibility and became the German Champion as a result.  Helmut Stumhofer on the Scheurer G7 (J) was 2nd after match racing Thilo Keller into 3rd.
July was a quiet one for National Championships, but many domestic fleets saw events and much training for those planning to attend the Worlds.
In August, the Polish, Swiss, Danish and Dutch Nationals all took place in rapid succession.  In a hard fought Polish Nats, the ‘King of Salmon’ Jakub Surowiec pipped Jacek Noetzel in their 22 boat strong championship with Marcin Badzoi in 3rd, all on their Exploders (JZ) in a testing variety of winds.
A total absence of wind prevented Swiss Nats from being sailed, so they all just went up mountains to eat holey cheese and chocolate instead.  There are probably worst places to be stuck in such a situation though.
In Denmark, German sailor Guido Schulte won on his DNA (C) in the 2011 Worlds venue at Kaløvig.  In another wind affected event where racing was only for the one day, the Danish lad Peter Boldsen finished 2nd on his DNA (Z) and thus crowned Danish Champion, with another C board boat, this time the Vision of Lars Schrøder in 3rd.
But the main August event was the Dutch Nats at Hellevoetsluis.  For many, seen as a warm up for the Worlds.  A strong fleet of 31 boats was entered including former WC Mischa Heemskerk and current WC Glenn Ashby, plus a host of other Dutch hotshots.  The first race was won by that famous bright yellow C Board DNA of Jaap Straakenbroek in light winds, but then after a break, Glenn scored his only bullet on his DNA (Z).  Next day, the wind had kicked in and Mischa, using his newly designed decksweeper sail on his DNA (Z), for the first time in anger, scored 5 straight bullets by some margin over Glenn in 2nd to become Dutch National Champion.  Sjoerd Hoekstra on his DNA (Z) was 3rd.
September was the month for the main event – the World Championships at Punta Ala, Italy.  Over 170 boats had registered for this event, making it by far the largest Worlds ever, and a great promotion for the class.  It was billed as the Mischa/Glenn show as many were keen to see what would happen at this event after the Dutch results.  However, Glenn had gone away for the two weeks and chopped about his favourite sail to convert it into a decksweeper using spare bits lying about.  He was provided with the boom fittings by his Holland Composites team, so turned up with a boat just like Mischa’s.
The fleet was split and for the first two days it was random fleet selection, but with the two champions in opposing fleets.  The wind was variable, but eventually played ball to allow 4 races to decide the final fleet allocations of a Gold and Silver fleets. Both scored 4 straight wins, so it was game on for the championships when they met for the first time on the water in race 5.  Mischa looked very fast in his races and his aggressive, dynamic sailing style made him look more so.  Glenn on the other hand just looks incredibly smooth and balanced, making almost imperceivable adjustments that belie his true speed.  The net result was that in the end Mischa simply couldn’t hold onto Glenn who scored straight wins in every race, with the margin getting greater each race.  So, Glenn Ashby was World Champion for his 9th time, Misha 2nd, Manuel Calavia Exploder (JZ) 3rd, Steve Brewin Exploder (JZ) 4th and Jason Waterhouse Exploder (JZ) 5th.
At the WGM held at the event, the proposal to remove Rule 8 was rejected by a majority of one vote meaning that top inserted foils are here to stay for the foreseeable future, but the proposal to allow radios for emergencies to be carried was passed.
Also in late September were the UK and Spanish Nationals.  Held in the unpronounceably named town of Pwllheli in North Wales in the blazing late September sunshine, the British Nats featured light winds and a few dolphins for the 18 strong fleet event, and was won by Chris Field on his DNA (Z), with Bob Fletcher’s DNA (C) 2nd and Dave Williams’ DNA (Z) 3rd.  In Spain at Garraf near Barcelona, Manuel Calavia on his Exploder (JZ) won convincingly over Micky Todd 2nd and Luis Martinez 3rd in yet another Championship blighted by poor wind conditions.
So, what have we learned this year?
The two most influential things seen in 2015 were the arrival of the Decksweeper sail and the continuation of Rule 8.  There are good growing fleets worldwide, particularly in Poland and the UK, where sailors are joining the class at a healthy rate from other classes, bringing in the odd new technique and development.  Our main manufacturers continue to keep us all supplied with the state of the art designs and continue to push the boundaries of this most elegant of cat classes.
The reports of the death of the C board, and non-foiling designs, look rather premature in the light of the results we have seen, which can only be considered a good thing, as this is where most of the newcomers entering into the class for the first time will come.  And as can be seen in the wind and water conditions we have had this year, a competently sailed ‘Classic low-rider’ will happily beat a ‘Foiler’ on many occasions.  Also many Associations are now running dual score sheets and producing two sets of results if requested.  It’s not exactly rocket science after all.
I wish you all the very best for 2016 and it starts all over again at Lake Macquarie in Australia on Monday Jan 4th!
Have a good one folks!

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