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New Developments in A-Class Catamarans

Published on May 25th, 2016

When several of the America’s Cup teams descended on the 2014 A-Class World Championship in New Zealand, they brought with them that kind of professional approach that can leave a development class screaming in pain. But the class has seemingly survived their tinkering, with over 133 entries signed up to vie for the 2016 title. Gordon Upton provides this update…

The 2016 A-Cat World Championship will be held in the picturesque Dutch town of Medemblik, on the Western shore of the IJselmeer, on June 20 to 24. So, what can we expect this time? As a development class limited only by boat weight, length, width, and sail area, things can move on at a pace in the A-Cat world.

It was less than a year ago that Mischa Heemskerk unveiled his latest version of the decksweeper sail, and beat all comers by some margin, including the World Champion Glenn Ashby, at the Dutch Nationals last summer.

But then a few weeks later, Ashby had chopped up one of his sails, made it into a decksweeper and turned up at the 2015 Worlds in Punta Ala to get him back. There were only 4 decksweepers at that event, but all proved their efficiency in all but the really light stuff, where the Southern German lake sailors got up into the points.

But that was in September, and now poor old Ashby just 8 months later must return the perpetual for the 2016 title to be decided.

This year may be a little different as many of the top sailors, who are sailing on the foiling boats, have now all got their decksweepers, both with or without booms. So the playing field becomes a little leveler again.

Also, add into the mix the fact that builders Exploder, DNA, and Vision all have brand new re-designed platforms that have more optimized foiling positions and will allow the boat to foil earlier. Plus, with the Schuerer design having new foil packages too, the whole business goes up another couple of notches.

Rather like the first race of the new season in Formula One. No one is quite sure what is going to happen until the first start.

This year, alongside the usual suspects we will be seeing Darren Bundock, Ashby’s Olympic crewmate and former America’s Cup rival, who may be keen to show him who is top dog and would like to add an A Class Catamaran World Championship to complete his collection of the big four cat classes. He already has his name on the F16, F18 and Tornado trophies.

Heemskerk, of course, will not be happy with runner up again, using all his experience as the chief development pilot of the new DNA F1 to his advantage. Spanish Champion Manuel Calavria will look to build on his solid third place position last year, the first finisher without a decksweeper. As will the Aussie Champ Stevie Brewin, who will be, no doubt, looking for another A-Cat World crown and favours the boom-less sail configuration.

Former Champion American Bruce Mahoney cannot be ruled out, as can the top Polish pair of Tymuteusz Bendyk and Jacek Noetzel, who may also surprise on the podium. On the women’s side, Bundock’s wife, the former Olympian Carolijn Brouwer, will give the lads a very good run for their money.

It will all depend on the usual factors. Being in Holland, the weather cannot be relied upon to play ball. Over the week of racing, we may well see anything from drifters to top end wind speeds. The class rules dictate no racing in less than 5kts or more than 22kts. This makes it particularly interesting for the competitors as, once measured and stamped, they will not be allowed to change sails unless they are damaged and are deemed un-repairable in the time available.

Also, as the IJselmeer is relatively shallow, a short chop can develop in certain wind directions, making boat handling, and particularly foiling in higher winds, spectacular to say the least.

We all wait in anticipation of what is promised to be an exciting championship, and with 133 entries to date, it should be a spectacular event too.

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