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14 November 2007, 09:35 am
Flying Start For A-Cat Worlds
Defending champion Glenn ASHBY
Defending champion Glenn ASHBY

Ronstan A-Cat World Championship 2007
Islamorada, Florida, USA

The Ronstan A-Cat Worlds got off to a rip-roaring start in Islamorada, USA, with near-perfect conditions and two excellent races on the opening day.
The conditions were great for racing for the A-Cats on Monday. Temps in the upper 70's with the breeze starting out at about 065 at 12-15 knots. The racing area was about 1.5nm offshore and the seas were quite choppy. Sailing inside the reef you don't get all the ocean swell, but there surely was some leftover slop to contend with. The wind was setting up 2-3' short period chop setting up pretty much out of the direction of the wind. But, there was some influence by both the leftover ocean swell coming in from farther right as well as a 0.4 knot current running in the same direction as the wind.

The steady wind and downwind setting current provided a surprise for the first start - All Clear! Nobody was OCS. Glenn ASHBY (AUS) and Lars GUCK (USA) had it dialled in from the start and took first and second. With a six-leg race, the fleet had an opportunity to spread out as well as consolidate in many places. Some folks liked the right side, some the left. In the end it came down to who sailed their boat the fastest.

The second start came off without much of a hitch also. Two boats were OCS and didn't exonerate. The first beat in this race showed the top boats all competing for the best roundings. It was amazingly competitive at the weather mark with boats coming in on the port layline and tacking (and stopping for a moment) only to be passed by three or four boats screaming in on starboard. Tremendously exciting!

Moving on the second race and on the second beat the pin boat began to notice a slight right shift (from 065 to 070 or 075) and kept the Race Committee (RC) appraised of this. Normally, even for a Worlds, the RC won't make a course change for a minor (ie, 5 degree) shift, but will keep their eyes peeled for a shifting trend. Well the trend continued from the original 065 to 080 and was identified at the leeward end of the course. The windward end unfortunately was still reading 060. The fleet rounded the weather mark for the second time and headed downwind.

Once the shift to 080 arrived at the weather boat and was communicated to the gate boat to set up for a course change, the competitors were charging down on the leeward gate. The Gate boat signalled the change (to 080) just as the first boats were approaching the leeward gate. The new marks to windward were already set (Orange for the change, Yellow for the primary marks), and the change was signalled ("C" Flag, green flag, new heading on a white board, and repetitive sound signals). Unfortunately, the first couple of boats didn't pick up on this change in time and they sailed the next windward leg to the old mark. The weather mark boat (which had just set the new weather marks) was picking up the old marks (the Yellow ones) as the leaders were approaching on the layline for the old marks. Realizing their error, they tacked over and headed (already overstood) to the new Orange marks. The significance of this is that after returning to shore, these leaders filed a Request for Redress. The International Jury found in favour of the competitors that the Race Committee was late in signalling the Change of Course. Two Competitors - Scotty ANDERSON (AUS) and Murray PHILLPOTT (NZL) - were granted redress for this race.

Overall, this was a great day for racing A-Cats. The wind was on the high side of medium and the seas and chop were challenging but easily manageable. After two races, it's becoming apparent who the top competitors are. But, there is still a lot or room at the top for those who sail well, have good platforms and know how to sail them, and luck breaks their way.

Conditions for Tuesday through Thursday look like they will be lighter. But in any five-day regatta, you have to expect that at least one day will be perfect for you, one day will completely stink, and the rest you will just have to manage as best you can. Fifteen knots on Monday was great sailing. Eight to ten knots for day two may bring different sailors up in the standings. Who knows???

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