Please select your home edition
Edition
Zhik Yachting Range

‘A’ Class cats and the BACCA on display at the RYA Dinghy Show

by Gordon Upton on 5 Mar 2014
The BACCA Boys: L to R. Paul Shaw, Chris Field, Jamie Walker, Phil Neal, Jamie Rankin, Colin Bannister, Struan Wallace, Gordon Upton. Dave Lowe, Steve Sawford. BACCA
The first weekend in March saw the London Dinghy Show take place at Alexandra Palace. For the third year running, the British ‘A’ Class Catamaran Association (BACCA) have displayed the latest version of this exquisitely elegant machine in what is essentially the Formula One of small boat sailing. ‘A’ cat sailors consider foiling moths to be more in the Moto GP area, judging from their cornering techniques and frequent crashes!

This year’s show was no different. The very latest edition of the legendary DNA arrived, factory fresh via the Eurotunnel, to the UK on the previous Thursday night. It was to be this year’s mount for the current British and former European champion Chris Field. The boat was so new and time was so pressing that Chris was found running about the DNA factory in search of a trampoline and the correct DNA mast while the DNA guys glued in the hatch rings and screwed on various other fixings. Then a short drive to their sales agent, Sailcentre, where he collected together the other various components, blocks, ropes etc. plus another second hand DNA thrown on top, to save on delivery costs back to the UK.

2012 World Champion Mescha Heemskerke provided his new sail. As is usual with the ‘A’ class, this sail had been tailored specifically to the mast. It was also tailored to Chris’ weight and being a tallish chap, although a little shorter than Mischa, he can handle a fuller sail and carry more power. With the sail, it is capable of being taken from very full to a virtual flat sheet in seconds using the boat’s super-efficient 16;1 downhaul and 9;1 cascading mainsheet. This also helps to depower the 75kg machine when needed.

The drive back allowed reflection on the new boat’s design and the older DNA placed inverted on top provided an excellent comparison.

The new DNA is an optimised version of the World Championship winning boat of Glenn Ashby and co. The beams have been moved forward 55mm and the foil slot is some 100mm further forward in the hull. The main difference to earlier DNAs is that the foil slot is now much nearer the outside of the hull where it exits at the bottom. This allows a modification to be made to the J board, where a kink is added in the area where it emerges from the hull. This means that added stability can be gained by the additional area of the repositioned board, whilst still keeping to the 750mm minimum distance to the centerline. As a result, the boat is a better foiler and still legal within the existing rules. Chris has developed a control line system to allow simultaneous rake adjustment of both foils whilst on the trapeze, so he can stay out on the wire as he bears away at the top mark thus keeping speed up and going onto the foils.

At the back there are the standard DNA longer rudders with winglets. This is an area that the DNA team are looking to optimise over the next few months. Asymmetric T foils look to be the favourite way to go at the moment. The rudder profile changes as you go deeper. Essentially, the balanced section at the top, where there is a 30mm area in front of the hinge axis, tapers away towards the bottom. This gives a reduced rudder effect as it rides higher in the water, something that is required as speed increases when on foils.


The J board design also looks the way forward too. The DNA ones have a small amount of glass fibre, just two or three layers, in the centre to provide a little flexibility. This helps to dampen the motion caused when in wavy conditions and stabilise the ride. They seem to think that even if rule 8.2 is removed, allowing bottom inserted boards, the J Board is still the best for optimum all round performance. L boards are good downhill, but provide too much drag uphill to make up for it, unless they are retracted on the windward hull. And something that increases the workload on a singlehanded boat is not a good thing.

Now, there must be a reason for ETNZ and Glenn Ashby to choose the ‘A’ class cat, above anything else, to race and train on. The boat is a development class. It is seeing some exciting action at the moment and foiling is the new black. ‘A’ cat sailors everywhere should be immensely flattered to have the world’s very best performance sailors choose this boat to play with. Foiling is still in the early stages yet, as Mischa only showed us all he could foil in anger less than a year ago at the Europeans in Barcelona.


The guys manning the BACCA stand were surprised to find then many show visitors seemed to have been following the recent World Championships and the current developments that have been taking place within the class, given particular impetus now following the Americas Cup. ‘Will you be allowed to foil?’ was the most frequent question heard. ‘YES!’ was the unanimous reply from the BACCA members and to the obvious delight of the enquirer.

This is where the new ‘A’ class sailors will come from, people who want to fly. It was pointed out that the boats are already flying now under the current rules and unless a measure is taken, as is wanted by a couple of other national associations who essentially want to ‘declaw’ the boat and make all boats into ‘Penguins*’, foiling boats must be the way forward for this development class to go. New boats out of the box are able to do it and older boats are all potential candidates for conversion kits allowing anyone who fancies a go to try. Visitors were then introduced to Chris and Mischa, for the opinions and advice of guys who actually do it for real. The foils can gain you about 200 - 300m on a downwind leg, as it allows a little more speed - maybe 10-15%, not the bowel watering high speeds that people on the web will tell you about, but they allow deeper angles to be sailed too.

In the UK, the ‘A’ class cat had a reputation for being expensive and delicate. It even says so in a few catamaran sailing manuals so it must be true. However, over the last few years, the BACCA has seen a considerable increase in numbers and interest. Stronger all carbon machines that can generally take pretty much any conditions up to 25kts. Many have sailed in more and coupled with efficiently de-powerable rigs, they have opened people’s eyes to them. With second hand boats around to be had from £3000, it is not all that expensive to start on either, although the one at the show does cost some £25k new and you must fetch it yourself.

The BACCA, over recent years, have been an evangelical bunch, pushing the profile of the ‘A’ class in the UK by having an active band of travelling sailors who turn up at cat open meetings all over the UK bringing their love and joy in this elegant machine. Sailors of such things as Tornadoes and Hurricanes and who have crew issues, are starting to realise there is life still left. British ‘A’ class sailors also now regularly invade Europe, with trips this year planned to Garda in late May, the French Nationals, the Europeans, the German Nationals and the ever popular Dutch Nationals. And, with Mischa coming over to train and compete in the British Nationals at Rutland Water in late September, we hope to see a few overseas guys visiting these shores and also sampling the delicacies of the area that is world famous for it’s pork pies and Stilton cheeses!

* The Penguin is a flightless seabird BTW.

RS Sailing 660x82C-Tech Emirates TNZSelden 660x82

Related Articles

GC32 Orezza Corsica Cup - .film Racing star of the penultimate day
Calvi was not making it easy for race officials on the penultimate day of the GC32 Orezza Corsica Cup. Calvi was not making it easy for race officials on the penultimate day of the GC32 Orezza Corsica Cup. With the wind blowing 20+ knots in the morning and into the afternoon on the Bay of Calvi, the foiling catamarans were kept ashore until 1530. Their arrival on the race course then coincided with the wind simply vanishing. Fortunately patience paid off and finally a light westerly wind filled in
Posted on 16 Sep
Zhik Kiama coat for winter watersports – Waterproof inside and out
Zhik’sKiama® Coat is designed for keeping warm in cold and wet conditions, especially when you are already wet. The waterproof, breathable lightweight shell on the inside, as well as the outer, means the jacket can go on over damp shore jackets and wet sailing gear, preventing chilling between races or when rigging and de-rigging in a cold boat park.
Posted on 11 Sep
Britons Saxton and Dabson in action at Nacra 17 World Championship
Great Britain’s Ben Saxton and Katie Dabson pipped Spanish rivals at full speed across the finish line From the closest and most exciting finish to a World Championship Medal Race in the Olympic history of the multihull class, Great Britain’s Ben Saxton and Katie Dabson pipped Spanish rivals Fernando Echavarri and Tara Pacheco, foiling at full speed across the finish line to win the 2017 Nacra 17 World Championship title on the French waters of the Baie d’Aigues Mortes by La Grande Motte.
Posted on 11 Sep
Nacra 17 Worlds - Italians lead packed leaderboard after Day 3
The Italian tricolour flying highest over La Grande Motte in the South of France after Day 1 of gold fleet racing It is not Le Tricolore but the Il Tricolor, the Italian tricolour flying highest over La Grande Motte in the South of France after the first day of gold fleet racing at the Nacra 17 World Championships. As the intensity of the first day of gold fleet Finals racing took full effect, compounded by there being only one way to go off the high octane start lines, several top seeds made mistakes
Posted on 8 Sep
Nacra 17 Worlds - Americans penalised so GBR leads
American duo Riley Gibbs and Louisa Chafee lead the race after the first three qualifying races were contested in light As if to answer the question whether the younger generation can make a big impression at these first ever foiling championships, foiling kiteboarder and 49er racer Gibbs, 21, paired with Rio Olympian Chafee, 25, had opened with an opening second and two first places from their 24 strong Blue fleet group and were credited with the provisional early lead of the championship.
Posted on 5 Sep
Nacra 17 World Championship - Brave new world
The Nacra 17 class steps into a brave new world Tuesday as the first world Championship for the mixed sex Olympic catama The Nacra 17 class steps into a brave new world Tuesday as the first world Championship for the mixed sex Olympic catamaran in its new 'flying' foiling configuration starts on the Mediterranean's Baie d'Aigues Mortes off La Grande Motte in the south of France.
Posted on 5 Sep
Int A-Class - Australia's Brewin wins third world title in Poland
Steven Brewin from Australia is the new World Champion for A-class Steven Brewin from Australia is the new World Champion for A-class, Tymoteusz Bendyk from Poland is on second place and the third place belongs to current Champion of Poland – Jakub Surowiec. New Zealand's Dave Shaw finished fourth overall. There were 125 sailors from 18 countries who took part in the competition and during the five days there were eight races.
Posted on 5 Sep
World Sailing Presidential update – August 2017
A World Sailing working group has been working on the development of a World Sailing Event Strategy document In just a few days' time, the World Sailing Board will convene in Madrid, Spain. The meeting comes at a timely point, with many important items on the agenda.
Posted on 1 Sep
Maxi Edmond de Rothschild – Debut flights
She is leading the way in a new generation of flying offshore trimarans and her debut flights were eagerly anticipated The fruit of nearly three years of work, the study and build combined, the 32-metre giant fitted out by Ariane and Benjamin de Rothschild epitomises the daring and entrepreneurial spirit continuously demonstrated by her owners.
Posted on 31 Aug
2018 Extreme Sailing Series ready for take-off
The calendar and venues will allow the teams increased access to boats and facilitate larger racing areas The Series will continue to build on the trend of the past four years that has seen the average size of racecourses grow, while maintaining the proximity of the foiling action to the shore.
Posted on 31 Aug