Stormy start at A-Class Worlds

Published on May 1st, 2022

Houston, TX (May 1, 2022) – The Beacon Group 2022 A Class World Championships started with a bang today, as a large thunderstorm tracked into Galveston Bay from the South. The first Open Division race was finishing when the lightning struck a nearby water tower. This was the trigger to the race committee to send everyone scurrying ashore. But not before the exciting first race of the Worlds was run.

Thirty-five Open foiling ‘A’ Cats lined up for the start and all got away cleanly. The top mark was set 1.4 miles away to the South East. The water of this part of Galveston bay is only about 10ft deep, and this results in a short vicious chop developing in any sort of wind. Today was no exception.

Initially, the going was pretty gentle as the wind was 6-7 kts, thus forcing these flying boats into a ‘low-rider’ displacement mode. In this condition, the sailors really envy the classic riders, who would just effortlessly pull away from them in these conditions with their much lower drag undercarriage.

About 10 minutes later the lead boat of former French champion, Emmanuel Dode (FRA2), had reached the top mark, closely chased by young US Olympic squad sailor Ravi Parent (USA 76), who’s jockey-like stature perfectly suited these conditions. The wind at the top was maybe 8 kts but still marginal.

This is a very strong fleet. There are several sailors of some considerable note here: National champions, former class World champions, past and current Olympians, including medalists, SailGP sailors and an America’s Cup winner included. The boats filed around the top, in pursuit of the leading pair.

All then went into their low drag downwind mode, usually consisting with sitting forward of the front beam to pull the stern out, and getting as much twist into the sail as possible. Then, after a good 15-16 boats had rounded the mark, it happened.

Some way down the fleet, rare for him to be fare, was the young Polish Champion Kuba Surowiec. He had just rounded the top mark, and was flying a hull much higher than any of the others. He then jumped on the wire, and as the hull dropped down he pumped and jerked the whole boat and teased the windward hull up out of the water just before the windward one dropped back in.

This was all he needed, as the drag fell away, his speed increased dramatically, and, steering a higher line, simply rode on this magic carpet past all the front runners still dragging their low downwind moded boats along.

As he passed them, going 3-times their speed, they suddenly realized what he had done to them, and you saw several abruptly change direction as they frantically tried to get on their foils too. He rounded the bottom mark, maybe 500m ahead of the rest. It was magnificent to witness, as of such things champions are made.

Back at the top, he was a good 3 minutes ahead, Parent was next, leading the top breakaway pack of the next 6 or so determined to get back into the fight. The left of the course looked to be slightly favored and most went that way. By now, the wind had kicked in to 12-13kts, and it wasn’t long before that famous old Galveston bay chop showed up.

By the start of the last lap, they were eating into Surowiec’s lead a little, and on the last downwind leg of the 3 lap race, Team USA SailGP crewman Riley Gibbs (USA 96), had got to within striking distance as Surowiec had gone to the right at some point, whereas Gibbs stayed left. At the finish, Surowiec, coming in from the right crossed about 30m ahead of Gibbs blasting down from the left, to get his first 2022 World Championship points.

America’s Cup legend Darren Bundock (AUS 88) crossed the line in 3rd, about 100m behind, ahead of Dode in a good 4th and Spanish Olympic Nacra sailor Iago Lopez Marra (ESP 97) rounding out the top 5. All the while the clouds were building ominously to the East, and then that lighting struck the tower. However, the Race officer, a hugely experienced character named Billy Richnow, let the race run out before ushering his chickens back into the coop.

After an hour of downpour and some bangs, it abated and they were all released back to the course. Again, he got R2 away cleanly and the fleet set off for the top. The delay had allowed the predicted sea breeze to arrive, so it was a nice 12kt upwind leg. Or at least would have been had it not been for this brutal 2ft short amplitude chop.

But an ‘A’ Cat is designed to cope – they don’t call them ‘Wave Piercing Bows’ for nothing, these upside down hull shapes. However, less fun for the chase boats and RIBs though. This time the top riders where more evenly matched as Surowiec’s superpower was now available to all. They blasted though the 3 laps with first Parent, then Surowiec leading. But finally at the gun it was Ravi who got his first bullet of the Championships, Surowiec second with former multiple class World Champ, Stevie Brewin (AUS 4) got 3rd. Lopez in 4th and Gibbs in 5th.

Next up were the Classics. Much less sketchy in these condition as they must have one hull in the water, so non-foiling. This fleet also contains a few National Champs, Olympic medalists etc, and the reigning World Champ in the shape of Andrew Landenberger (AUS 308). This is the ‘A’ Cat that normal mortals would usually sail. The close and competitive racing is ensures it’s continuing international appeal, as the circus skill required and continuous near death experiences of the Open Division make it an attractive alternative for the older sailor.

The PRO got their 2 races off without incident, although on the second start a boat capsized onto another one, removing both from the game as the gun went. Almost from the off, it became the Landy show, as most had expected. This multiple World champion and Olympic medalist is pretty much unstoppable in this fleet, really leaving the rest to battle for the other positions. His son and protégé Andy Landenberger (AUS 300) has inherited the racing DNA, and battled with expat Scot and Spanish Champion Micky Todd (ESP 7).

The wind had increased to 14kts, but these boats can lap it up in these conditions. At the gun, Landy got his first 2 bullets, Todd his 2nds. Baby Landy came in 3rd and 4th. However, he was dropped a place after being protested by the race committee for sailing through the line as the previous race was still finishing, the naughty boy.

Hence the opening day was done. Racers can lick their wounds, breakages repaired. The free beer, supplied by a pair of kind sponsors, Fox Brewery and Ingenious Brewing, needed to be drunk too.

Day 2 will be a rather tougher affair though, so much so, that as it’s a little fruity out there today, all racing has been canned for the day. But don’t switch the channel.

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Source: Gordon Upton

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