Some kind of rodeo at A-Class Worlds

Published on May 6th, 2022

The plan was for the 2021 A-Class Catamaran World Championship to be held November 7-12 in St Petersburg, Florida. But like so much, the pandemic had other plans, but a shift was made for the 2022 title to be May 1-6 in Houston, TX. Class editor Gordon Upton, merging his British-ness with the local flavor, delivers this final day report:

Houston, TX (May 6, 2022) – After high winds kept the fleet ashore more than desired at the Beacon Group A-Class Catamaran Worlds, there was a Gurd ‘Ole Texas shootout on the bay today to end this rodeo.

In somewhat un-Texan style, the locals, and indeed the meteorologists, had been playing down the weather as probably to be pretty light stuff for the twin A-Cat fleets of the Classic displacement boats and the Open foiling boats.

Sailors had mentally prepared themselves for some very hot and pretty sluggish, (especially the foilers,) drifting about in the high 80°F heat, and the possibility of having to drink one’s own body fluids, should your water bottle drop over the side. But…haha… they lied!

Billy Richnow, the venerable event PRO had planned for the Open class to be out first. He wanted to try to get in at least one race so as to get that fleet back level with the Classics who had sailed 6 races up until then. Enough for an official championship, but not a decent regatta series.

The committee boat, complete with ‘Billy’s Bevy Of Lovelies’, his highly experienced and supremely competent all female race team set out for the race area. Soon radio reports were coming back of 6kt winds on the course. It was looking like Game On.

The scheduled 9AM start time was approaching, so all the boats were allowed onto the beach area to be efficiently herded and corralled, one assumes using yells and lassoes, and into something looking like an organized launching countdown sequence – really, these Houston and Texan metaphors write themselves.

On the way to the race area on Galveston Bay, the wind had started to slowly build. The riders found themselves able to do a little foiling about, much to everyone’s delight, as these boats can be made to foil in about 8kts, if you know your game, and are a bit on the lightweight side.

All the boats had done their compulsory checking in the start boat by sailing across it’s stern and being recorded by the team, something many events could to with emulating. And after maybe a 15 minute postponement, the sequence was started.

Race one was off up a course in 5kts of wind. Not enough for the hotshots to deploy their superpower, which is the Holy Grail of upwind foiling, and all had to go into a low drag displacement mode, which is pretty much Kryptonite to the open foiler.

The Open boats are not as good as the Classics set like this, for the Classic is designed to remain waterborne and hence has far less drag in their foils and rudders, plus a fuller cut rig to boot. Racing directly against a Classic in these conditions is a frustrating business. However, these fleets are separated in this regatta, so the frustration may be lessened slightly.

The top mark was reached by most of the fleet staying on the left of the course. The ones who went right seemed to lose out somewhat. But the good sailors are the good sailors, as they say, although by now the wind had increased to trapezing speeds, so 7+ kts in the A-Cat.

First round was the reigning US Champ, and local boy Bruce Mahoney (USA 311), closely followed by Tornado and general sailing legend Darren Bundock (AUS 88). Next was the championship leader US Nacra 17 team member Ravi Parent (USA 76), who’s jockey-like stature suited the conditions perfectly.

Chasing a couple of boat lengths behind came the Polish Champ Kuba Surowiec (POL 41), who thrives in this light stuff. However, the current 2nd place rider, the Team USA SailGP and Olympic N17 sailor, Riley Gibbs (USA 96), was further back in the following pack

The first downwind leg had enough wind to allow the leaders to get on their foils, so really started to draw away. All was great with the World, at last. However, while rounding the bottom mark, it was bang into a massive wind hole.

The rest of the fleet then caught back up, much in the way someone stopping at the top of an escalator finds themselves suddenly overcome with people arriving from behind, these front runners experience a similar thing. The fleet then split into right and left sides.

It became a total mental workout task now. Is there pressure over there? No, possibly more over that part. Chess on water ensued. But race time limits were pressing and the PRO made the decision to finish the race at the next mark, so an upwind finish it was to be as the fleet drifted, wafted etc up the course in 5kts, the class minimum.

Coming up towards the finish, the leader Kuba was coming from the right side. All looked good until the boats who elected to go left had found a little bit more. The breeze shifted right slightly, Kuba, ahead of Ravi, was desperate to cover him, and knowing that tacking a 5m, 2.3m cat platform in light airs is a real super delicate trick.

It’s easy to lose way and destroy the sail airflow as you need to flick the thing onto the other tack – you get one shot at that level. Seeing the left siders coming across just ahead, and not able to lay the mark, he had no choice.

Fortunately he nailed it and kept Ravi behind him, crossing the line in 3rd, behind the wily old US A-Cat veterans Bob Hodges (USA 230) and Lars Guck (USA 330). Ravi slipped back into 6th, and to compound his miseries, hooked himself on the anchor line of the mark boat.

Race 2 started after the fleet drifted back to the start. After a 15 min delay, the wind returned, the course was shifted, and go was pressed. Upwind mark, after most went left again, Bruce rounded in pole. Local knowledge paying off again. Ravi then rounded, just ahead of Kuba. This was a championship that was going to the wire.

The wind was up and down, foiling and not foiling, it was properly challenging stuff. Bruce pulled away and got the bullet. Next was through Kuba, who had managed to get past Ravi on the last upwind by picking the correct way up on the left side as Ravi when right. However, a single place ahead would not be enough to do it for Kuba; he ideally needed a boat or two between them.

Race 3 was the championship decider in true movie third-act stuff and Riley had dropped out of contention with his lower finishing positions. It is superb, and rare, when two such talented young sailors get to fight out the whole thing in the very last race. Kuba needed a win and ideally a boat between them. Ravi on 13pts, Kuba 14.

The wind was rising along with the tension. Go for 3 laps. First lap most went to the left. Bundy decided it was his time to show there is still life in the old dog yet and not worrying about the rest. He led the whole race.

Left side, right side, they did them all, but the left seemed to pay better. Bundy led, Kuba second on the last lap. But at the finish, it was Ravi who had followed Bundy over the line, with Kuba some 20m behind. Ravi Parent (above) became the thoroughly deserved new Open division A-Class World Champion for 2022.

The Classic fleet was a less fraught affair. Billy wanted to give them 2 more races, and the wind was co-operating. Andrew Landenberger (AUS 308) was the runaway winner yet again, coming into the last race with 6 straight bullets. Micky Todd (ESP 7) was also a solid second. Only 3rd was being contested between Andreas (Baby Landy) Landenberger (AUS 300), Ken Marshack (USA 192), and OK Rogers (USA 73).

Landy celebrated his last race with a massive port flyer on the start as a nice wind shift to the right made it too impolite to refuse. And three fine 3rd places cemented his son’s podium position in this division.

There endeth the regatta. The race committee managed get 8 races ran even after 2 lost days blown out. However, that gave sailors a chance to recover, repair, look at space stuff or go and shoot things. It was considered to be yet another memorable Championship, and certainly, with regard to the Open fleet, the closest fought that anyone could remember for a long time.

Houston had delivered all that was asked, and considering this regatta was only conceived back in November, a remarkable achievement. Shore crews, rescue crews, medics, all the Houston Yacht Club staff, Billy and the race committee all need to be mentioned in dispatches.

The Jury, who were only kept busy on rare occasions, and never on any actual race issues. And, as ever in such things, there’s usually a highly competent person placed at the canter to oversee. Debbie Cardenas was that HYC person with the big skills. She was the regatta chair, seeing it all through in fine style.

Also thanks must also go to the sponsors of the event. This is easily the biggest headache for any organizer, how do we pay for all this lot? Huge thanks go to the Beacon Group Consulting, who underwrote the whole thing. Mahoney Projects, and Bruce who was the quiet man working away in the corners and getting stuff squared away.

LaPorte Texas, the local dock authority, who helped with support and finance. Ingenious Brewing and Fox Breweries who made us all free beer. And finally the support from the sailing trade; Zhik, Ronstan, Total Boat and Robline who supplied daily prizes and helped out with the foodie nights enjoyed by all.

And finally to the ‘Screaming Texas Frontman’, Bob Webbon, the USACA President, the man who probably had more sleepless night than anyone else. Thanks you, Bob, we salute you sir!
Now where did that lizard go?

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