by Bob Griffits
A-Cats away today. A record fleet of 73 competitors has entered the 2011 Australian Championships for the International A Class Catamarans, to be sailed on Lake Cootharaba, just inland from the Queensland Sunshine Coast.
Glenn Ashby setting up for A-Cat Nationals - in Queensland. Lots of water and very little beach but an excellent fleet and good racing expected.
After several weeks of torrential rain, the clouds are lighter, and the winds have moderated from 25 plus knots that have prevailed over the last week.
The normally brackish water of the tea tree stained water of the lake, is decidely at the fresh end of the scale, and is approximately one metre high than usual with the rainwater run off which has submeged the beach rigging areas.
The strong Australian fleet has been supplemented by an influx of sailors from a number of the America's Cup teams, including Dean Barker, the skipper of Team New Zealand, Noel Drennan and Philippe Presti from Team Oracle, and Will Howden from Team Origin
Unfortunately, James Spithill was a late scratching, so the the Dean Barker/James Spithill clash of the America's Cup skippers will not eventuate.
Glenn Ashby, Spithill's team mate in the recent International C Class Catamaran World Championship ('The Little America's Cup') and seven times World A Class Champion should be able to capable substitute.
The Invitation race was sailed today in light to moderate, and somewhat shifty conditions. The start was a very intense affair, particularly so, given that it was a practice race, with three general recalls before discipline was imposed with a black flag. It was certainly a good pratice race for the starter, and given the size, quality and competiveness of this fleet, it is likely that the black flag will be feature of this series.
The racing started in six to eight knots of south east breeze ,which held for the first windward leg before fading during the first downwind leg down to three or four knots with the fleet now consumed by the 'mild thing'
The wind picked up again on the second uphill tract, and held to allow the 'wild thing' during the second downwind . Steve Bradshaw sailing a new 'DNA' design boat lead around the last leeward mark rounding with Chris Cairns, Glenn Ashby, and Steve Brewin in close pursuit.
The wind shifted significantly to the left at this point, disadvantaging Bradshaw and Cairns who had held on a bit too long on the port tack, allowing Steve Brewin, and the regatta favourite Glenn Ashby into the lead.
Steve Brewin prevailed to trigger the finishers gun, followed by Glenn Ashby, and Steve Bradshaw.
The forecast of the week of 10 to 15 knot winds for the week should provide for excellent sailing conditions.
Practice Race - Final Positions:
1. Steve Brewin (DNA)
2. Glenn Ashby (DNA)
3. Steve Brayshaw (DNA)
4. Scott Anderson (Geltek )
5. Chris Cairns (The Tool)
6. Graham Parker (DNA)
7. Will Howden (DNA)
8. Darren Bundock (DNA)
9. Ron Howell (Geltek)
10. Dean Barker DNA)