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A-Class Cat Worlds return! Top foiling cat sailors gather in Houston, Texas

by Gordon Upton 17 Apr 09:32 PDT 25 April - 6 May 2022
Bruce gets loose © Gordon Upton /

Next weekend sees the start of the first post Covid 'A' Cat Worlds, with its associated Admiral's Cup warm-up event, since all national and world lockdowns.

Much has changed over the last few years. People leave the class for one reason or another, and others join, even sometimes bringing with them new perspectives and ideas. So finally, two years after that sunny, cloudy, foggy, windy, calm, warm, cool event at the Weymouth 2019, and it's completed full series of 10 races, run in every class legal condition possible, we finally meet up again... in sunny Ol' Texas USA! So, the fleet move on from Fish and Chips and that innocuous looking cloudy cider that sneaks up on you after the 3rd pint, rendering you unable to speak, to 40kg steaks, genuine burritos and tequila, with worms in, that will dissolve carbon fibre.

The enforced cancellation of the St Petersburg, Florida championships in both 2020 and 2021 came as a not unexpected blow. But then a window of opportunity opened last November to allow a USA based World Championships to be hastily arranged. The Houston Yacht Club agreed to host, and the organising team knuckled down and have done a great job rapid organising the regatta. Now 18 overseas sailors are coming, plus a bunch of Canadians (Are they classed as foreigners to US sailors? One never knows in these things!) So, a total registered number of 72 sailors.

So, let's take a look at some of the runners and riders, and who to watch out for in our twin World Championship division fleets.

Classic Fleet
Reigning Champion - Andrew Landenberger AUS

The double World Champion is coming back to defend his title, and to be fair, the double Olympic Tornado medallist looks to be the strong favourite again in this fleet of 31 entries to date. However, things happen, and there will be others not too far behind keen to pounce.

Not least is his own son, Andrew AUS, and he could well be a Classic Champion in waiting. Then there is the legendary sailing veteran, Ben Hall USA, also looks to be on great form currently too. He is living proof that it is indeed hard to keep an old dog down, as recent events show the septuagenarian is very much up there.

Ex-Pat Scot, Micky Todd ESP, may also be in the top runners after his success in the French open last November. Some other US home-grown luminaries chasing could be Woody Cope, Bob Orr, OH Rogers and Bob Webbon. All have done well in recent regional events. What we can predict that the mid fleet battles will be close as ever though, with little rivalries throughout the fleet emerging. The racing is likely to be close, not only in terms of results but also physically, and that is why the Classic fleet is such fun to sail in.

Open Fleet
Reigning Champion - Mischa Heemskerk NED

This fleet looks somewhat harder to call now. Several of the top riders are on form currently, so it could well be a close fight for the podium. In April/May, Houston is a pretty high wind venue usually, so those who excel in the fruity stuff could be in their zone. It’s also less than 10m deep in the sailing area too, which means a pretty good chop can build up. Not a problem for Classics, but foiling could be an exciting watch, and for those who can foil uphill? Well, that will be the decider for many. We could easily see a two fleet split in this division as the top 10 or upwind foilers will pull rapidly ahead of the rest of the sailors within this 42 boat fleet. The three time and current World Champ, Mischa Heemskerk NED, is now unable to travel to defend his crown as he’s reaching a crucial time in his new house build. So we could well have a new name on the trophy.

There look to be several who could take the crown. Multiple World Champ Stevie Brewin AUS, together with his training partner, America's Cup sailor Darren Bundock AUS played nip and tuck right up to the last race at the AUS Nationals, so will both have their eye on the prize. Having the event at the end of their season will be helpful too.

Kuba Surowiec POL, fresh back from his Transatlantic exploits on the 'I Love Poland' Volvo 70 monohull, is another strong challenger. Kuba has beaten Mischa in their last few meetings together and is very much on top form. Iago Lopez Marra, the Spanish Olympic 49er sailor, is also going well too, although this will be his properly first big 'A' Cat event, but maybe one to watch.

Another POL legend that could be up there, in the top 10 at least, could be Jacek Noetzel. He is the father of Polish 'A' Cats and has championed the class at his Sopot club for many years.

Flying the French flag, Emmanuel Dode FRA could also be towards the top finishers too. Home advantage lies with US Nat Champ and local boy, Bruce Mahoney USA. He can be very fast when he's in the zone and knows the local conditions perfectly, so we can't rule him out for a top 5 finish. Others could include US Nacra 17 Sailing Team's Ravi Parent USA and maybe even Sergio Mehl ARG, who if he can be consistent, can be very fast.

And for the ladies, the young female Wunderkind and US Olympic development program team member, the 22 year old Cam Farrah, and she should certainly give many of the lads a run for their money.

Boat-wise, well, it will be very much Exploder and DNA again. Although the US has a strong culture of homebuilt designs and we look forward to seeing how well some of these can do against the 'factory teams'. However, as hull and foil designs have stabilized in the last few years, new sail shapes arrive at these events, and different rigging and control systems abound. Someone will undoubtedly come up with a faster system for something, although it now tends to be 'aggregation of small gains' that makes the difference. The ones with the roundest wheels will be fastest, but still important to remember, it's the one can do the corners best that will be the eventual winner.

We all look forward to seeing the opening salvoes, possibly unveiled, although not always the case, in the Admiral's Cup warm up regatta starting on the April 25th. Then the main event is go for Main Engine Start on May 1st.

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