A-Cat Nats – Final day

By Gordon Upton (thanks for your great reports during this regatta – Steve)

The final day of a regatta can be a strange one.  Sometimes, it all comes down to the last race as in the Toulon Worlds, and sometimes the last downwind leg of that race too, as we saw in Houston.  On other occasions, the frontrunner is already decided and can afford to not even race as the discard would take care of the points gained for a DNR.  Today was such an event.  Both Scotty Anderson and Adam Beattie had the championship sewn up probably 2 races ago.  So, some choose not to race and give someone else their chance of a bullet. Others race because someone foolishly had a bottle of Rum riding on them winning the final race.

The Australian 2024 National Championships ended in such a fashion after a great week of racing at the South Lake Macquarie Amateur Sailing Club. Again, the usual ‘not usually like this here at this time of year’ was commonly heard.  A couple of Easterly wind days, and a few more Northerly.  Ranging from 6 to 17 kts, so something for everyone.

The last race for each fleet got away with few problems.  Open fleet first, up to their top gate, all went up the left side, as was the usual route now, given the left gained by the shoreline, then chose the left mark to go downhill.  Leading on the first lap was Matt Homan on his DNA F1X, and he was going well indeed.  However, the 3 lap race gave time for the others to catch him.  Ravi Parent, one of the guest US sailors, was the first to chase him down by clever use of the wind shifts, but then came Adam Beattie and Darren Bundock.  Bundy seems to specialise in peaking right at the end of an event. On the last downwind leg, he outpaced Ravi halfway down the leg and shot over the line, then made a wheelie to impress the nearby spectators in their little fishing ‘Tinny’.  Ravi crossed from the other tack 15 sec later followed by Adam in 3rd, losing his rum-run bet. He was later seen with a bottle of Bunderberg and a sheepish look about him.  Matt looked good for 4th, until he suddenly headed off in another direction, oblivious of the need to finish the race first.  Then he remembered what he was supposed to be doing, and sharply tacking back again, diving for the line to save the position from a fast-approaching Dave Brewer.  He put it down to too much sun.

Another victim of sun was Hamish Sinclaire.  He was having his usual mid fleet fun, when on the run into the finish, his boat just simply tripped over, apparently.  No real problem, until you factor in that the local magpies, cheeky sods at the best of times, had pecked great holes in the foam plug at his masthead.  The mast filled with water, and the boat turned turtle until the head touched the bottom, anchoring it in place inverted.  Hamish, it is fair to say is a larger gentleman, was seen in various unusual and experimental positions trying to get the thing upright.  Eventually with the rescue boat’s various attempts, it came up. Hamish then clambered aboard, somewhat more elegantly than I was expecting, and happily sailed home, none the worse for the experience. Bundy’s comments about it sometimes being a little ‘sharky’ at times proved false this time.

The Classic fleet race saw more battling.  Positions changed, leads lost, and all had a great time, judging from the silly grins many sported at times. The 13knt wind was perfect for many, and with Scotty sitting the race out, each lap seemed to see a different leader, Matt Johnson was their first ‘guest leader’ reaching the top marks first,  But in the end, it was a very smiley Bruce Woodward who got the bullet, with Richie Howells and Dave McKenzie also in the race podium positions.     

So, what have we learned from this week?

The AUS association has been using the gate top mark system for a few years now, and most commonly seen in the SailGP races, rather than the top mark and spreader system.  It allows both sides of the course to be utilised and exploited equally, rather than just having most boats stream over to the left side.  It seems to work very well, probably because the fleet is well disciplined.  After all, it works fine at the bottom of the course, where the boats are closing faster, so why not at the top?  How well it would work in some other fleets, where sailing skills and sailing rule discipline/knowledge is not at the highest, would remain to be seen.  In fleets where banging on hulls and screaming seem to hold sway, rather than good old ‘I’m sat on the right, so I’m in the right’, it could be rather different, but using actual sailing rules, correctly observed, they would cope adequately with the scheme. If the marks are separated by a decent distance properly, and the sailor doesn’t suddenly decide they like the look of that starboard mark more as the get near the port one and bang in a tack onto port at the last minute without looking around first, sailing 101 if you will, then it works.  Sailing is a sport for intelligent people after all.   I suggest a few other A-Cat fleets to give it an experimental try for a while in fleet racing and then larger events.  You could find it becomes addictive.  But just make sure ALL the sailors know about it and read the Sis.

It is fair to say, that AUS A-Cat sailors are possibly the most travelled sailors across land in the World.  One sailor, Paul Raymond, had an epic 4 day, 4962 km trip.  That’s further than driving from London to Ankara!  The Open champion has to drive almost 2500 km to get home!  You need to be keen to do those distances, and maybe that’s why the sailors are so good.  From what I observed, the standard of sailing, even amongst those who consider themselves the poorer sailors, is pretty exceptional in this 48 boat fleet.  Only one major collision, and to be fair, that was from two sailors who should have known better.  Few capsizes, but of those who did, two multiple World Champions were included.  The friendly atmosphere and class camaraderie were here in spades. Advice freely given, ego and entitlement left at home.  A simple sausage sizzle and a bottle of beer works wonders.

Back home now, they are forecasting snow I believe, so Britain will be in chaos yet again. I must say I have enormously enjoyed my trip down under. The sailing has been superb level stuff.   The friendly casual egalitarian nature of many of the folk I met will live with me for a long while. Huge thanks to Stevie Brewin and his family hospitality, Adam Beattie and his dad Darryl my boat driver, Bundy, Doctor Paul, their New Association President Ian Michie, and all the volunteers of the South Lake Macquarie Amateur Sailing Club.

Still didn’t see a shark BTW.      

Click HERE for full results

Gordon Upton A-Cat.org

More images at https://www.guppypix.com/p156483696

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