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A-Class European Championships at Circolo Vela Arco - Day 1

by Gordon Upton 12 Sep 2022 21:12 PDT
A-Class European Championships day 1 © Gordon Upton /

The first major European event was bound to be special, following two years of lockdown. It was especially nice that it is being held in Italy, the country that was the first to get Covid in Europe, several weeks before it arrived elsewhere in the continent.

The Circolo Vela Arco was the host club and it was a joint venture between the German and Italian national associations. The CVA club is, of course, no stranger to hosting major events, and it was fresh from holding the Dart Worlds a couple of weeks earlier, so race organizing wise, they are pretty much up to speed.

The Club imposed 100 entries, came from 17 nationalities. The twin fleets within the class - the non foiling Classic and the Open foiling fleet are sailing on the same course but after one finishes their days races, the next designated fleet takes over. Pretty seemless so far. The fleets are swapped as to who sails first each day to maintain fairness and now allow one fleet to get all the best conditions each day. The entries are divided into about 1/3rd Classic to 2/3rd Open based on the entries.

In the practice races, we saw the top Swiss sailor, Sandro Caviezel, capsize and painfully dislocate his shoulder. He was treated in the local A&E department and bravely returned to greet everyone that evening, but his regatta was over before it started, sadly. We all wish him as speedy recovery and he will be sadly missed here.

The wind for the first race day was about 12-13 kts. It was the Classics draw to be out first. Garda winds tend to be pretty predictable in direction and times. They can vary in strength though. The first start was at about 2pm, and followed the familiar Garda pattern. Try to tack right as soon as you can, and keep on until the huge cliffs, then tack to the lay line. Follow the same path downhill. The nearer the cliff, the mode pressure there is. Those who are obsessed with nailing the pin end start, get roundly thrashed as the whole fleet goes right, leaving them with at least the start line's length to make up. Then, as you get nearer the cliff, the sailors start to get a big lift and this gets bigger the nearer you get. They then tack left. However, and nothing in sailing is for free, many, particularly the foilers, may then discover that they have to put in another tack to the right in order to get back into the cliff pressure again. However, on many occasions as they tack back left, they find they massively overstood the lay line and need to foot off to get down to the top mark. Classics don't suffer this problem quite as much because as a result of their slightly slower speed, but with their higher pointing ability, they can then usually lay the mark in one tack and not overstand as often.

This 'Typical Garda' pattern can bring spectacular problems for the committee boat. The fact they all want to go right means that huge queues can develop at the top end of the line, with the accompaniment of the inevitable screaming. It is a great place to learn swear words in various European languages. Imagine trying to maneuver a 5m x 2.3m double bed through a gap without touching any others. Combined with rudders of less than 200mm chord designed for 30kts but giving minimal control at 0.5kts, you get the picture.

The first Classic race was dominated by the new Wunderkid, Mortiz Weis GER 121. He just extended his lead lap after lap with his light weight and effortless downwind trapezing style and had a 2.5min lead at the bottom. Next was a small bunch of riders chasing the little German fox. These consisted of Gustavo Doreste ESP 72, Hugh Macgregor GBR 18 and Owen Cox GBR 72. This was the pattern for the rest of the race. The usual suspects of former World Champion Scott Anderson AUS 31 and 'The Big Swede' Alberto Farnessi SWE 59, whom we expected to be at the front, were very much second row players in this race. And Reigning World No.2 Micky Todd ESP 7, gave himself a huge mountain to climb with his love of the pin and never recovered in that race. In the end, it was Moritz, Gustavo and a totally elated Hugh gaining the top honours in that one.

Race two was a reset for many. The old hands weren't going to be bounced again. Or so they thought. This time Micky was right at the committee boat, loudly explaining, to any encroaching competitors, in his own inimitable style, as to why they should not be near his boat or in front to it. The races started he went right as he cleared the bow of the start boat and stormed up the course, leading at the top mark be a 100m or so. Then came Scotty, Gustavo and Alberto. Mortiz was maybe 12th, and managed to survive being swept off his boat around the back on the spreader leg and hop back on with all the agility of youth. However, in the end he won out, with a 90s lead again. Scott was 2nd and Gustavo 3rd.

Then it was the Open fleet's go. The wind was dropping slightly but had shifted to the right somewhat, but at the start the same mêlée ensued at the committee boat end. Only one boat that I know of got perforated in the now usual pre-start fun. A-Cats are a little delicate if hit on the side, but the bows are like stilettos and can probably puncture steel. Then they were off. The blue boat of multiple World Champ, Mischa Heemskerk NED 7, surged ahead into clear air and right into the upwind foiling groove. He looked really fast. A foot from the water, slightly nose down and totally flat. The fleet tacked for the wall and for 'Hellfire Corner' - so named as it is the tacking and gybing area on the course. It is also a favourite spot for wind foil and wind surfers. Things get very interesting there.

At the top Mischa was leading with another multiple World Champ, Stevie Brewin AUS 4 chasing 50m behind. They both gybed at the spreader, reconfigured for the devil's ride down hill, to more rake, adjust the rudder differential, loose some downhaul, easy mast rotation and drop the traveller a few cm. These guys can do that all within 10 sec. Get that lot wrong, the boat isn't going to go any slower, and you could take off like a Polaris missile, with hilarious crowd pleasing consequences and photo opportunities. The rest chased around in persuit to head back down the way they came up, and to that Hellfire Corner again.

The race finished with Mischa comfortably leading by 50m, but with Stevie, then World Open No.2 Kuba Surowiec POL 41, closely a few meters behind by his Polish clubmate Tymuk Bendyk POL15.

Race two was a similar affair. On moderate and slightly marginal foiling conditions on parts of the course, Mischa blasted home again, but with Tymuk 2nd and Stevie in 3rd. Mischa looks to have rediscovered his form after a layoff to build his house. His physical sailing style suits this lake, so he has laid down a marker for all to follow, as has Moritz in the Classics.

This regatta looks like being fun.

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