By Gordon Upton
Day three, out on the lake, was when the place finally delivered what the locals were used to. The Australian A-Cat Nationals saw Easterly breezes, at about 13-14 knots and, coupled with a blue sky arriving on que, it was Aussie Sparkling Wine sailing at last. Coming into the day, the Race Officer had already achieved a championship, with 6 races completed. He was by now, nicely on track to complete a full series of 12 races, where the much desired second discards would arrive.
The Classic fleet, the ‘Lowriders’ or non-foiling boats were currently led by Bruce Woodward, current World Champion and former Olympian Scott Andersen and Chris Cairns, with another Multiple champion and Olympic medallist, Andrew Landenberger snapping at their heels like one of his cattle dogs with only a few point separating them. Over on the Open foiling fleet, things were a little more clear cut. Local hero Adam Beattie was sweeping all before him in a stunning display of speed out on the course. US guest sailor, the 2022 Class World Champ, Ravi Parent, was chasing valiantly in the series, but to no avail. In third was the multiple World champion, Olympic Medallist and America’s Cup sailor, Darren Bundock. Another local lad, multiple class World Champ, Stevie Brewin was a close 4th, such is the strength of this fleet.
The racing started at 2pm with the now established pattern of the Open fleet, of some 20 boats, off first. They had a different set of top marks, about 300m upwind of the Classics marks. The course, in this wind, tends to be rather ‘Gardalike’. Up one way, and back down the same was as you went up. In this case, it is stay on the left side, get a bit of a lift as the wind bends around a promontory, and across to the top gate marks. Go through that and choose the left mark to retrace your steps. Simple. Just stop on the dry side and you are sorted.
The first race went to the usual playbook of these championships. Bundy started well and fast. His steady, stable and effortless style makes him very fast uphill. He was chased around the top mark by Ravi and Adam. However, Adam then seems to deploy his new found superpower, Ravi does whatever Ravi does and at the bottom, it’s Ravi, in close quarters with Adam. The rest of the fleet enjoy the battle for the remainder. These were all 2 lap races today, so their next lap was just from the top mark down to the finish. Adam won, Stevie had worked his way up to 2nd and Bundy in 3rd.
Such was the consistency of the wind, their second race ran along the same lines. Again, Adam arrived in the lead about the start of lap 2 and held it. Bundy turned up 2nd with Ravi in 3rd.
Race 3 got the only general recall of the event. In the media boat we could hear the race committee saying that it was about to be a general, as a whole bunch were really keen to start, but got ahead of themselves. Two horns, and the flag went up. Little secret here – now, for a Sailing Photographer these are the best thing you could hope for! It’s like free photos! The fleet takes a while to realise, so, many are still in full on race mode when you can just blast across ahead of them all, getting close head on racing shots from the ‘wrong side’. And no-one can tell the shot was from a false start! We should have more.
On the restart, it looked to be the same race pattern again, only young Ravi had different ideas. At the finish, he was neck and neck with Adam, both full foiling flat out downwind to the line, and doing over 30 knots. They’d both need a gybe at to get across the line, as a wind shift had made their angles change. Ravi had the leeward line, but Adam was slightly ahead. 20m separation they blasted down. 50m from the line, both came in off the wire and performed perfectly synchronised gybes, but the lower track gave Ravi the 20m he needed to keep Adam out at the line. Bundy was next ahead of Matt Holman, who beat Brad Collett. Next came Stevie Brewin. Blasting down to the line, as the others did, he the seemed to perform as sort of screeching right rolling turn at his gybe point, in the manner of an aircraft. We all though he had got away with it, but as the port hull dropped, the sail flicked over taking the boat, and the three-time World Champ with it. However, such was the gap between him and the next sailor, that he’d got it back up before losing a place.
The Classic sailors had no less fun. These boats are a delight to sail in these conditions. They usually end up in little bunches of boats all battling each other in a series of mini races. Quite a few mid fleet racers are usually only separated by one or two points, making each victory sweeter. The conditions were not too much for anyone, but enough to make it exciting and any mistake got punished, but I don’t recall seeing a single retirement all day. I mean, why would you want it to stop. The front fleet battle was between the two of the Classic Titans in the class. Scotty Anderson and Landy have been battling for decades. It most recently culminated last year in Toulon at the World Championships, where Scotty became Champion for the second time again after his last title back in 1986. Today, Landy won their battles with 2 wins to one, but he still trails on points after a bad first day. Richie Howells had a good consistent day, with 3 thirds, but remains in 4th as Bruce Woodward clings onto 3rd, 3 points ahead.
Today was a silly grin day. Everyone was happy to simply have been out racing in those conditions and in this venue. Tomorrow they get 2 races in similar conditions, if not a few knots more breeze too, and a final one Friday.
Click HERE for full results
Gordon Upton A-Cat.org
More images at https://www.guppypix.com/p156483696