John Casey gives us his wrap up report from the Little AC. Note that you can find the guide to every minute of video coverage, highlight reels, and interviews right here, and check back tomorrow for the The Rev Petey’s final HD highlight reel and the final Clean report from this awesome event.
On Saturday, Canaan (Fred Eaton/Magnus Clarke) and Alpha (Glenn Ashby/James Spithil) faced off to end the battle they have raged all week. Canaan got the best of Alpha, winning both match races today in a light northerly breeze on Narragansett Bay under clear blue skies, ending the series at 3-1. Even though Alpha won every start of the series, Canaan used their wing sailing skills and incredible platform, designed by Steve Killing Yacht Design, to get out of every hole Alpha put them in. At the awards ceremony, Eaton pointed out that his team hadn’t won a single start in two straight Little America’s Cup championships, but they followed their game plan of getting no prestart penalties, relying on running away and using their seemingly impossible acceleration to get out of bad spots. Fred and Magnus were really impressed with how they could not speed away from Glenn and James in the prestart, so they had to make all the right decisions to stay clear.
Even with one boat running constantly for its life, the prestarts were full of dial-ups, close crosses, boats going from backwards to forwards in seconds, and great cat-and-mouse episodes. Eaton later pointed out "wait until two real match racers lock up in these boats!" In two days of commentating for OTWA at the Detroit Cup, I saw maybe a half dozen passes in one-design Ultimate 20s, yet two of the four match races for the Little AC title saw four lead changes in four legs, and this was in two designs with huge variations in performance. But at the end, the vastly superior power and downwind speed of the Canaan platform in the light to moderate air of the match racing finals sealed the deal, and sent the Little AC title back to the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, and they are likely to defend it in Weymouth in two or three years’ time. When things in wing world will be much, much different.
Could you imagine this type of racing in 70+ foot catamarans? Well, there were a ton of designers and engineers present at the I4C who are indeed imagining it. With Morelli and Melvin taking the lead, there is quite a bit to be done writing the rule. Other designers, including VPLP (designers of many of the fastest multihulls in the world) are poised to draw an incredible piece of sailing art to win back the America’s Cup. With the next AC competing on cats, will we finally see some trickle down effect with cats being more accepted at yacht clubs? Well, if the fact that this Little AC was, according to the NYYC Commodore, the first ever multihull regatta for the storied club is any indication, the times they are a changin’.
Here’s a note that John Williams wrote on the Catsailor forums the other day after speaking to Pete Melvin. "He said there were lots of AC people in attendance…it is much more than a rumour that the next AC will be on multihulls; it is a fact. "They" are working out the details of the new catamaran box rule. I was very happy to hear that the design race is still an important part of the equation – Pete said we might see, for example, some bizarre and innovative crossbeam arrangements. The take-away for me was that the boats will not look the same at all, which I feel is more in the tradition of Cap’n Nat’s goal of building the fastest boat. I’d hoped to get more time with Pete to ask other questions while he seemed jet-lagged and willing, but it was time to go sailing! He spent the day with Matt Struble, Jay and Pease Glaser, Craig Yandow and Bill Westland in an A-cat tuning session.
Funniest part of the discussion – Pete was very amused that so many nay-sayers were in attendance at the LAC. He said they’d woken up to the reality of the future of the AC and realized they wouldn’t have jobs anymore unless they caught the train already leaving the station. He was chuckling at the assertion by some "johnny-come-lately" firms that say, "Oh, yes… we can design a multihull!"
Once again, a huge thanks to all the OTWA supporters for this great event. You still have a day or two to hit up Layline with a 10% discount on anything on their site if you use the coupon code "LittleAC" at checkout. Other sponsors include HBI Boats, Gunboat, Pure Yachting (makers of super light and stiff carbon RIBs), Hall Spars (Ben Hall was present at the I4C and has plenty of experience building wings), Fred Eaton and Magnus Clarke and the International C-Class Association, U.S. A-Class Catamaran Association, Ashby Sails, Red Gear Racing, Ion Earth who supplied real time tracking, and Sailfly, who supplied us Petey’s favorite vest.
And as a bonus to this report, here’s defending champion wing trimmer Magnus Clarke showing us just which string you pull to turn on the afterburners, and how you trim a wing.