Orange Power A Cat Australian titles 2011- Lake Cootharaba, Queensland. A record A –Class catamaran Australian Championship fleet of 73 of the single handed development class catamarans.
The sailing world is suddenly focussing on multihulls, with the 34th AC in San Francisco sailed in 72 footers and the pre-event circuit to be in 45 footers and the 2016 Olympics likely to see the Cats back, there is a lot of multihull action.
The A Cat class is booming world-wide and 'down under' is no exception.
Now we come to the Australian titles. It is certainly the strongest ever with an exciting bunch of ‘newbies’ - America’s Cup Dean Barker helmsman of Emirates Team New Zealand, a number of team members from Artemis, William Howden Great Britain Tornado Sailor and Extreme 40 specialist, Tornado dual Olympic Silver medallist Darren Bundock and seven times Tornado World Champion and back to join the A Class Mitch Booth, who as a featherweight youth won the 1993 A Cat World titles at this very same venue.
Queensland is awash with an area the size of France and Germany under water, but its not been as tough on the Sunshine coast just north of Brisbane.
A couple of days ago the extreme rain had the Lake right to the road. With the brown water levels dropping sailors now have a small area of beach for the A Class to reside for the Nationals event and that will expand if the sunny days continue.
Under blue skies sailing starting with 10 knots. Racing commenced at 1.00pm and the first race was started with a clear start (after three general recalls in Sunday's practice race).
The first race started clearly at the first attempt, with most of the acknowledged top skippers away at the pin end of the line.
Glenn Ashby, Seven times World A Class champion, and newly appointed coach to Team New Zealand, started fast and was in the top group at the top mark, made major gains down the first run, took the lead on the second beat and sailed away for an excellent win.
Behind Ashby, a small group fought hard and there were a lot of lead changes.
Darren Bundock, has an excellent start, headed left and found the shift, did well up the beats, but suffered down the runs but he surprised himself, sailing in his first ever A Cat race rounded the final windward mark behind Ashby, pursued closely by Andrew Landenberger and Steve Brewin.
Brewin, like Ashby has the technique and speed down wind and he quickly sailed through the novice Bundock and Landenberger to finish second overall, pushing Bundock to third , Landenberger to fourth, with the Queenslander Brad Collett taking out fifth position.
Dean Barker was a surprise; new to multihull racing has given notice that he is a fast learner, finishing a very credible six place.
The sky was still blue but the wind had built to 14 knots for the start of the second race.
First up a general recall. Principal Race Officer Stacey Brown after the multiple general recalls at the start of yesterday's practice race, did not hesitate, out came the black flag for the second attempt.
The A Cat King Glenn Ashby was soon flying. He might be short and chunky, hardly the best body shape for a trapeze event, but he makes up for it getting much much lower than any other sailor and he took another early lead.
But then a surprise, an atypical and costly error, he slipped whilst jibe setting and capsized when completing the rounding of the offset mark. He broke the tiller extension and was forced to hike the third beat holding on remarkably to finish 12th.
Bundock who had been sailing 20 metres behind his Tornado team mate, ducked around the crash site.
He said later’ I thought at the time, well that gives us mortals at least a little time before he just sails away from us.’
Again it was Bundock and Landenberger fighting for the lead. Landenberger sailed through on the last run to win. Brewin too mowed down Bundock to finish second across the line.
Dockside it was discovered Brewin had been on course side at the gin and he was disqualified.
This left Bundock with the second position, Brad Collett finishing third, Dean Barker fourth and the veteran A class competitor Scott Anderson in fifth position, who was probably wishing he not been helping Bundy in recent weeks get up to speed.
Ashby is as expected the form favourite, despite his untidiness in the second race. Steve Brewin, with two seconds across the finishing line, is just what everyone would expect from the perennial bridesmaid but the early disqualification will mean more conservative starts and in this tight fleet that means fighting for a lane and clear air.
Landenberger, Bundock, and Collett look like they will be in contention in every race. Dean Barker is the A Cat find of the year. An extraordinarily good effort from a monohull sailor and he can be expected to improve rapidly during the week.
Dockside came the analysis: Darren Bundock - ‘Pretty good for a new kid, I could not be more pleased. Mind you very easy conditions so we did not get found out.' Two really good starts, bit of a left hand track, got round the top mark in top three or four.
‘I have really good speed upwind, I think it’s a similar technique to other classes like f18 and tornado - feels the same, really missing the spinnaker to drag me down wind, and I seemed to be easy meat there.
Dean Barker Emirates Team New Zealand - ‘It was a great feeling in the second race to lead to the first top mark. We had some great sailing today and I am happy with a sixth and a fifth I still have a lot to learn and am looking forward to the rest of the week.’
William Howden Great Britain – ‘This was a fun day on my first A Class regatta. Perfect racing conditions today with good breeze. It is certainly going to be a good week of racing.
Glenn Ashby – ‘Great day of sailing with fantastic conditions. I’m certainly a bit frustrated with myself with slipping off the boat whilst gybing from the wire. A long way to go and some great sailing ahead!’
A hint of realism from Darren Bundock – ‘We might have had our places in the sun, we will see Steve and Glenn come through and the other 71 of us are here to keep them honest and fight for the scraps. ‘