Hurricane Sandy might be a thing of a past but its effect still lingers for Australian A-Class sailors, preventing their boats from being shipped on time for the A-Class Southern Championships, which is part of Royal Geelong Yacht Club’s Festival of Sails.
Hurricane Sandy influenced the weather pattern at the recent A-Cat World Championships held last month in Florida Keys, United States, by cutting the series in half. The weather effects might be long gone, but the impact for some Australian A-Class sailors is far reaching.
Preparation for the A-Class Southern Championships, to be held in conjunction with Royal Geelong Yacht Club’s Festival of Sails, has been put back due to Hurricane Sandy and the subsequent late departure of the ship carrying nine catamarans from Florida back to Melbourne.
The ship finally sailed on November 5th from Miami to the Panama Canal, where the boats were transferred to a different vessel for the final second leg.
Australian A-Class President, Ian Johnson, has been in touch with the shipping company, but expects it will be another week until he knows whether the container ship is on schedule. Originally due early December, the ship is now expected to dock in Melbourne on the 20th, right before many freight staff go on Christmas holidays.
'If we can’t unload the boats in the short window before Christmas it could be another couple of weeks until we can get access to them,' said Johnson.
'Not being able to check the boats over after such a long transport or train during the Christmas break isn’t an ideal situation, however those affected are highly experienced, which lessens the disruption somewhat.'
The Festival of Sails runs from January 24 to 28 and the A-Class Southern Championships will be the premier event held in the southern states in the run up to the class’ nationals in Darwin mid-2013.
Johnson anticipates between 15 and 30 A-Class cats will be racing on Corio Bay at the event in late January, where the offshore breezes and flat seas are perfect for showcasing the potential of the fastest small catamaran in the world.
'We like being part of the Festival of Sails because it gives us the chance to expose our boats to the wider sailing community,' said Johnson. 'It’s always been a well-run regatta; we’ve had two or three national titles at Geelong as part of the Festival'.
The class has extended an invitation to the reigning world champion, Mischa Heemskerk, and hopes that if the Dutchman agrees to contest the Southern Championships that will inspire more Australian A-cat sailors to make their way to Geelong for the four-day Australia Day long weekend regatta
Born in the early 1960s, A-Class catamarans are open designs with a maximum length, width and sail area and minimum weight.
The scaled down version of the AC45 and AC72 attracted a new following once the decision was made to move from monohulls to multihulls in the America’s Cup. Keelboat sailors and designers turned to the class, which has 50 years’ of development to draw on, for testing new design technology with a view to adopting the best for the AC45 and AC72.
The A-Class is a popular choice worldwide and regular competitors include Olympic medalists and world champions in several other classes.
At this year’s Australian national championship, conducted by Wangi Amateur Sailing Club, runner-up to Glenn Ashby was one of Australia’s Olympic poster boys, Nathan Outteridge. Showing the ilk of the class, the A-list line up at the nationals extended from Outteridge to Tom Slingsby, John Kostecki, Darren Bundock and James Spithill, most of those taking a break from their pressing America’s Cup commitments.
There were 117 starters at Florida in October for the heavy air world title, which was won by Mischa Heemskerk from the Netherlands. With one of the strongest A-Class fleets in the world, it was no surprise that Australia dominated the top ten, finishing second, third and fourth, seventh and ninth when final points from the five races sailed from the 10 scheduled were tallied.
The A-Class Southern Championship is just one championship being conducted under the 2013 Festival of Sails umbrella. Regatta race management, under the watchful eye of Principle Race Office Denis Thompson, will also conduct national titles for IRC keelboats and the Melges 24s, and the Victorian state title for the SB20s.