Houston, we have T minus 39 days and counting to launch...
... until the 2022 ‘A’ Class Worlds Championships kick off. Fewer, if you include the Admiral’s Cup appetizer event.
This is the first post COVID ‘A’ Cat Worlds and National and World lockdowns have taken its terrible toll on people, and on events. Much has changed over the last few years. People leave the class for one reason or another, and others join, even sometimes bringing with them new perspectives and ideas. So finally, two years after that sunny, cloudy, foggy, windy, calm, warm, cool event at the Weymouth 2019, and it’s completed full series of 10 races, run in every class legal condition possible, we finally meet up again… in sunny Ol' Texas USA! So, the fleet will leave Fish and Chips in newspaper, roast beef and that innocuous looking cloudy cider that sneaks up on you after the 3rd pint, rendering you unable to speak, and we replace them with 40kg steaks, genuine burritos and tequila, with worms in, that will dissolve carbon fibre.
It was indeed a heartbreaking decision that first the 2020, and then the 2021 and finally the 2022 Florida events had to be scrapped after so much hard graft in organising had been put in by the Florida team. And that was to have been it. But, an opportunity then arose and was grasped by the USACA President, Bob Weddon, together with Bruce Mahoney and their hastily assembled team, realising that a US based Worlds could just about be salvaged and squeezed in. They were prepared to put in the work, and time was somewhat short. But they look to have done it! Houston Yacht Club agreed to host, and have done a great job on the hosting and operating side, and even going as far as enlisting a host of local members to put up overseas competitors for free and thus to encourage more foreign participation. This has looked to have worked, as we have 18 overseas sailors now coming, plus a bunch of Canadians (Are they classed as foreigners to US sailors? One never knows in these things!).
So, let's take a look at some of the runners and riders, and who to watch out for in our two World Championship fleets.
Reigning Champion – Andrew Landenberger AUS
The double World Champion is coming back to defend his title, and to be fair, Landy looks to be the strong favourite again, in this fleet of 31 entries to date. However, things happen, and there will be others not too far behind keen to pounce, not least is his own son, Andrew AUS, and he could well be a Classic Champion in waiting. Then there is the legendary veteran, Ben Hall USA, also looks to be on great form currently too. He is living proof that it’s indeed hard to keep an old dog down, as recent events show him right up there. Micky Todd ESP, may also be in the top runners after his success in the FRA open last November. Some other home-grown luminaries chasing could be Woody Cope, Bob Orr, OH Rogers and Bob Webbon. All have done well in recent regional events. What we can predict that the mid fleet battles will be close as ever though, with little rivalries throughout the fleet emerging. The racing is likely to be close, not only in terms of results but also physically, and that is why the Classic fleet is such fun to sail in.
Reigning Champion – Mischa Heemskerk NED
This fleet looks somewhat harder to call now. Several of the top riders are on form currently, so it could well be a close fight for the podium. Houston is not a high wind venue, so those who excel in the fruity stuff will have to find something else in their armories. It’s pretty flat too, by and large, and those who can foil uphill? Well, that will be the decider for many. We could easily see a two fleet split in this division as the top 10 or upwind foilers will pull rapidly ahead of the rest of the sailors within this 42 boat fleet. The three time and current World Champ, Mischa, may well have his work cut out here. He will have to draw on all his skills, and a measure of luck, to stay ahead of this strong Open field. There look to be several who could take the crown this year. Multiple World Champ Stevie Brewin AUS, together with his training partner, Darren Bundock AUS played nip and tuck right up to the last race at the AUS Nationals so will both have their eye on the prize. Having the event at the end of their season will be helpful too. Kuba Surowiec POL, fresh back from his Transatlantic exploits on the ‘I Love Poland’ Volvo 70 monohull, is another strong challenger. Kuba has beaten Mischa in their last few meetings together and is very much on top form. Iago Lopez Marra ESP, the Spanish Olympic 49er sailor, is also going well too, although this will be his properly first big ‘A’ Cat event, but maybe one to watch. Another POL legend who could be up there, in the top 10 at least, could be Jacek Noetzel. He is the father of Polish ‘A’ Cats and has championed the class at his Sopot club. Flying the French flag, Emmanuel Dode FRA could also be towards the top finishers too. Home advantage lies with US Nat Champ and local boy, Bruce Mahoney USA. He can be very fast when he’s in the zone and knows the local conditions perfectly, so we can’t rule him out for a top 5 finish. Others could include US Sailing Nacra 17 Team’s Ravi Parent USA and maybe even Sergio Mehl ARG, who if he can be consistent, is also very fast. And for the ladies, the young female Wunderkind, in the form of the 22 year old Cam Farrah, should certainly give many of the lads a run for their money. Although, it’s a great pity she is the only girl competing. Get some mates Cam!
Boatwise, well, it will be very much Exploder and DNA again. Although the US has a strong culture of homebuilt designs and we look forward to seeing how well some of these can do against the ‘factory teams’. However, as hull and foil designs have stabilized in the last few years, new sail shapes arrive at these events, and different rigging and control systems abound. Someone will undoubtedly come up with a faster system for something, although it now tends to be ‘aggregation of small gains’ that makes the difference.
The ones with the roundest wheels will be fastest, but still remember, that’s it’s the ones who do the corners best that will be the eventual winners.
We all look forward to seeing the opening salvoes, probably unveiled, although not always the case, in the Admirals Cup warm up starting on the April 25th. Then the main event is go for Main Engine Start on May 1st.