SimonN gives us a detailed analysis of the superstar sailor-filled Aussie A-Cat Nationals running this week in Lake Cootharaba. There have been a few changes since he penned this last week, so check the thread for the latest news.
The Australian A Class Nationals began on Lake Cootharaba in Queensland on 2nd January. About 60 boats are expected but what makes these championships particularly interesting is the talent coming out to play, a mix of the existing A Class sailors, the new A Class sailors from the world of the America’s Cup and the world class cat sailors who are looking for AC jobs. Here are some of the runners and riders.
For the last 10 years, almost every major A Class event has been a battle between 2 people, Glenn Ashby and Stevie Brewin. Stevie is the only person who has been able to live with Glenn on a consistent basis, although Glenn holds the upper hand by quiet some way. The other thing that makes the battle interesting is that they are both sailmakers who seem to use different design philosophies in their sails. Of late, many would say that Stevie’s sails might be a bit quicker but Glenn continues to make up for that with his skill and experience. Having said that, this will be the first time that we will see the 2 different rigs since the worlds and I expect that both have come on a bit (I know Stevie’s has). Both will be sailing on DNA’s and it will be interesting to see if either have found a small edge in set up of foils and race preparation.
I believe that the biggest challenge to these 2 will come from other world class cat sailors hoping to show off their talent. Top of this list must be Darren Bundock who has been training hard with the "NSW Posse". At the last hit out, Darren might have even found an edge upwind on Stevie but Stevie was superior downhill where his experience counted. Darren is using the same rig as Stevie. I personally think if anybody is going to break the stranglehold the "Big 2" have, it will be Darren.
Then there is Mitch Booth, who, besides his vast cat experience, is also a past A Class World Champion, even if it was some time ago. I don’t know who he has been training with or any details of his rig, so cannot really comment on his potential. Also in this group is the British Olympian, Will Howden who is better known as a crew. He has been training with Glenn and early reports were of him being off the pace. However, who knows how he is now going some weeks later.
Then you have the battle of the AC helms, represented at the very least by James Spithill and Dean Barker. Of course, this battle should be won by James, who has been sailing A’s for some time. The real issue is just how far up the fleet he can finish. I am not sure how much training he has done but for me, it is hard to believe that he will be a contender for the big prize. Dean is another matter. He is on a learning mission and I am sure has little real ambition other than that.
Then, of course, you have the established A Class sailors. Of these, Landy is probably the man to watch. It seems he is always there or thereabouts, but has he really upped his game enough to challenge the big 2? He has often been "the best of the rest" but can he bridge the gap? There are also a whole host of sailors who have been trying to bridge the gap in recent years and names to watch out for include Collett, Parker and Brewer. It will be interesting to see how Jack "The Punchman" Benson goes after his impressive 3rd in the worlds, although the suspicion is that he won’t have his favoured light winds to help him.
I am sure I have left a whole heap of names out of the mix and for that I am sorry. In some cases it is because I don’t think they are in the mix but in others, it is simply because I don’t know enough so please don’t beat me up for missing your favorite runner.
As to who will win, my heart says Stevie (as I train with him) but my brain says that Glenn is favorite. I think these 2 will have just too much experience for everybody else. The dark horse is Darren, but I suspect he will be fighting for 3rd with Landy and maybe a couple of others.
As for myself, I would love to report that I am a real threat, but it isn’t true. I am only just reaching the point of getting my head out of the boat and need to spend far too much time concentrating on driving. In addition, I will almost certainly be heading to the racecourse with a boat set up that really isn’t proven. I have learnt what doesn’t work so I hope I am close to what does. If I am lucky, the training I have done with the NSW Posse will mean I do better than I think, but I am expecting my worst championship result for many a year. I wonder if a target in the top 20 is expecting too much…
Pic from ‘janj70’