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A-Class Catamaran interview with legend Ben Hall

by Suzie Domagala 11 Apr 02:12 PDT
The Admiral himself - Ben Hall at the A Cat Admiral's Cup 2022 © Gordon Upton / www.guppypix.com

On the heels of the wildly successful Admiral's Cup in A-Class Catamarans at Pensacola Yacht Club on April 5-7, it only seems fitting to conduct an interview with none other than Ben Hall, otherwise known as "The Admiral". Ben, having sailed A-Class Catamarans since 1996 has owned a whopping 39 A-Class Cats, three of which being foiling boats.

I hear that you're referred to as The Admiral and the Admiral's Cup regatta is named after you. Can you tell me more about the history of the Admiral's Cup?

We started the Admiral's Cup in 2009 right here in my back yard in Southern Florida and were successful with having a 25-boat fleet that first year. We had a 35-boat fleet the 2nd year, and after that we started moving it around and the regatta became a precursor to mid-winters and national events as you see today. We have had a good variety of winners, with the class being very competitive. Every year during the awards ceremony, competitors enjoyed mudslide drinks and the event was solidified.

How did you get involved in A-Class Cats?

I started sailing in the A-Class in 1996 in Bristol, Rhode Island. This was shortly after the America's Cup in 1995 and foiling was really taking off. From that, a small fleet of A-Cats emerged following fleet development efforts. I've since been to 13 world championships and have built a great group of international friends.

I've owned 39 A-Class Cats, my first being wooden and three of them foilers. I made two of those three myself. I love the foiling technology, but I also love the close competition of the classic fleet. In most conditions, you'll see the classic fleet trading positions numerous times throughout a regatta because of how evenly matched many of the sailors are. You can easily get finishes with five boats finishing in 20 seconds while the foilers can finish a leg apart. It's really close racing!

Do you attribute the fact that you've owned 39 boats to the fact that the boat is developmental, or is there more to it than that?

I would say that the primary reason for having so many boats has been associated with fleet and class development. I'm a bit of a tinkerer and enjoy working on them to modify the boats to make them better, then sell them to move on to the next challenge. I also enjoy helping other guys modify their boats, getting them up to speed, converting foilers to classic boats, changing trunks, and that kind of stuff. Boat preparation is huge and part of the allure is to prep and tinker with the boats such as the running rigging, working on the blades, etc.

The A-Class fleet is pretty unique with urban legend being that there are few to no protests, sailors helping one another on and off the water, and general comradery. What do you attribute that to?

It's not a Pro or Olympic class, however everyone here is a great sailor. We all help each other and are pretty careful on the racecourse since a collision can be catastrophic. At the end of the day, there is always someone to help you out and the class is consistently there for each other. I would say it's an eclectic group, but stable with folks like OH Rogers, Bruce Mahoney, Chris Brown, and many more.

About the A-Class Catamaran: The A-Class Catamaran is the fastest single-handed catamaran in production. A-class cats weigh 75kg all up and rely heavily on novel materials, such as carbon fiber, consistently riding the edge of technology and performance. For more information, please navigate to www.usaca.info.

The A-Class North American Championships are scheduled April 9 - 13, 2024 at Pensacola Yacht Club, known as "The Souths Finest Yacht Club". Pensacola Bay, with its white sandy beaches has been heralded by the American Magic Team as one of the finest foiling locations in North America. For more information, please navigate to pensacolayachtclub.org.

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