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Marine Resource 2016

Gladwell's Line- The fantastic A-Cats

by Richard Gladwell, on 15 Feb 2014
Peter Burling (NZL) leads on Leg 1 of Race 5, A-class catamaran World Championships, Day 3, Takapuna February 13, 2014 © Richard Gladwell
The 2014 A-Class worlds are providing the most stunning racing ever seen in New Zealand.

It has attracted a very classy field with many America’s Cup sailors, many A-Class World Champions, top designers – all sailing in the most spectacular international class world championship. There are at least five Olympic Medalists competing plus one AC72 helmsman and other who sailed in the last America's Cup.

You can see sailors of the caliber of Glenn Ashby, Peter Burling, Blair Tuke, Nathan Outteridge and many more – all sailing right on the edge of control, and frequently stepping over that red line, with the most spectacular crashes.

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The sight is unforgettable of a singlehanded catamaran literally flying on hydrofoils at speeds of 20kts, while top sailors in the world try to go fast but stay in control.

In the video featured on there is a sequence of one of the competitors taking off, completely clear of the water flying through the air for a boat length or two, and then landing on all fours in feline fashion – and just sailing on. Like a downhill jump in the Winter Olympics.

The racing itself is amazing, with major lead changes, as one competitor finds a sweet spot downwind, and makes a huge gain through the fleet to become the new leader, only to have the tables turned on the next leg.

If you thought the last America’s Cup was exciting, this is in another league again.

It something that has never been seen in the sport before, and long may it continue – with 80 boats – it is a very big fleet, and the action is non-stop.

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Each race day we have been catching up with the Kaenon Team – and so far have featured video interviews with Glenn Ashby, Blair Tuke, Peter Burling and Ray Davies who are among the lead group on the points table.

These interviews are great, because of the different backgrounds and perspectives of the four sailors.

Ashby and Davies have probably as much experience as anyone in the world at sailing foiling cats, having sailed the same number of times in the AC72 class and then in the A-Class Nationals and Worlds. Davies described the AC72’s as a stable foiling experience compared the A-Cats.

Tuke and Burling come at it from a different perspective, with their Olympic class experience and success. But they have climbed the foiling mountain, and are both sailing exceptionally.

Mix into that the strong Emirates Team NZ influence with eight of the competitors all working together out of the ETNZ base on a sailing science project, and team building exercise, which lifts their sailing skills. The team members have good support on the water from their team boat and team members. This is the real story of the week on Team New Zealand.

As Ray Davies commented in one of the interviews, that it was great to be able to get back into small boats, and have to sail intuitively again, rather than just look at numbers. The top sailors draw several comparisons between these A-Class and the AC72’s.

Having seen both the America’s Cup up close on the water for two weeks and the A-Class for just three days, the latter is in many ways the better event. These boats are sailed on the edge like nothing that we have seen before, and the sailors’ skills are put to an extreme test.

The lack of coverage of the regatta by most of the local media is quite astonishing given the classy field, the racing spectacle and standard of the competition.

It is difficult to understand why whether or not Emirates Team NZ chose not to race on September 16, 2013, should be so attention grabbing, when there is a far bigger and more relevant America’s Cup story happening on the water at Takapuna.

But that is the difference between those who understand the sport, and those who only look for scandal and clichéd frameworks within which they present 'News'. The local media have really put their credibility on the line this week and have been shown to come up severely wanting. They have sold their readership very short with their very inadequate coverage of this event, and their focus on other now irrelevant matters.

Sure there are two days to go in the regatta – but this is stunning stuff, and even if they do play catch-up this weekend, their readers have missed a sailing experience that words cannot really describe.

This regatta has been exceptionally well run – full credit to the competitors for the ways they have sailed and the spirit in which they have sailed, and for the officials for the way the event has been run on the water and off.

The boat park scenes after the race are just what is needed in the sport, with a great friendly atmosphere as competitors and supporters all mix and sit around talking about the race and their experiences. While there are always winners on the leader board, in this event everyone is a winner for just getting around the course – and meeting the personal challenge of competing in extreme boats, and just getting around the course.

Words can never do justice to this event.

Stay tuned to for all the latest racing news, but this weekend there is only really one story in town – the A-Cats.

Stay up with the latest sailing news, as it happens, on our website

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