A-Class Catamaran Australian Championships day 2.
The sky is blue; the water is mud brown but sailing conditions on Lake Cootharaba. 400 km south of Rockhampton (the centre of the Queensland floods) were perfect for day 2 of the Australian A Cat Nationals.
The America’s Cup sailors are rushing to come to grips with multihulls and it seems some are doing this extremely well while for others the learning curve is almost a vertical wall.
15 knots of breeze kicked in as the boats were starting to leave the now slightly enlarged beach (the flood level is continuing to drop) and there was a mad rush to change to heavier weather battens.
After a hiccup in race 2 in the series yesterday, the A Cat fleet returned to normal today. The six times world champion Glenn Ashby added two more impressive wins for an overall 1,8,1,1 score card. The eighth came from a capsize and recovery.
The first race of the day was underway after one general recall. On the second start the sailors were more respectful and PRO Stacey Brown sent them away.
Dean Barker started just above the pin, with Darren Bundock and Steve Brewin showing the best speed upwind. Barker rounded the top mark with a good lead from Ashby, with Brewin third.
Barker who is certainly impressive upwind was overtaken by Brewin downwind, no shame in that, as Brewin had also sailed through Ashby, who was now third.
However on the second beat, Ashby and Barker were on the right side of a shift and Brewin fell back.
Ashby rounded the top mark for the second time in the lead and sailed away for a win, while Brewin with his superior technique sailed through Barker. Darren Bundock crossed the line fourth ahead of Andrew Landenberger.
The wind had dropped slightly and the brown caps had disappeared, it was probably 12 knots for the start of the second race.
This time King Glenn made no mistake. Having lurked with intent above the pin, he came in with a perfectly timed start with really good speed and was never headed.
Again Barker did well on the beats and Brewin did best on the runs.
Ashby won again from Brewin, still languishing in 16th place overall waiting to wash off his 72 point OCS as soon as the drops come in. Third again was Dean Barker with Landenberger a consistent fourth ahead of Darren Bundock.
Overall it’s Ashby with 11 points from three wins and a capsize, Landenberger on 14 points is equal second with Bundock and. Barker is fourth with 16 points.
Brad Collett is sixth, Scott Anderson seventh, and the CSIRO Chairman and Yellow Pages solid win sailor Simon McKeon will be pleased with his 17th.
Looking further down the ‘newbie and oldbie’s list’ -Murray Phillpot is 28th ahead of Nitro Drennan 29th, Philippe Presti 36th, Stu Bethany 48th, Mitch Booth 51st after missing today’s races. Andy Fethers is 62nd.
Dockside Ashby was smiling ' well at least I managed to stay on the boat today. Its much closer out there than the results show. Steve is definitely the fastest guy down wind and Dean is going very well upwind, but really any of the top five or six guys can go on from here'
Certainly the stand out performance of this regatta is Dean Barker.
Not unexpected really when you consider that the Kiwi skipper sails around 250 days of the year and he is proving that a good sailor is a good sailor or cream rises to the top.
There will be a big grin from Team New Zealand syndicate manager Grant Dalton, as this rapid proof that his monohull helmsman is on multihull pace will certainly tick one of the boxes as Team New Zealand does its America’s Cup 2013 due diligence and hits the fund raising road.
Now the question to be answered on the muddy waters of Lake Cootharaba is can Dean Barker improve his downwind technique watching the Team New Zealand multihull coach Glenn Ashby sufficiently over the next five races to start taking races off Ashby and Brewin?
Ashby says simply 'There is some serious talent here. Conditions are likely to lighten over the next few days, Its been a bit of a left hand track so far, but either side could be paying from here on, so this event is wide open still.'
Its interesting to speculate just how James Spithill from the US Oracle camp would have gone this week.
His first burst at the A Class catamarans was at the 2009 A Cat Worlds on Lake Macquarie out of the Belmont 16 foot Skiff Club and he came an impressive sixth and he had a bigger multihull win in Valencia last February.
And today, Sail-World will be at Belmont when the Moth Australian titles start and where more serious talent, in the form of Nathan Outteridge the dual 49er World Champion and Tom Slingsby, ISAF Sailor of the Year, triple Laser World Champion and Etchells World Champion continue their tilts as other classes.