The second regatta of the A-Class catamaran US winter circuit, the RONSTAN A-Class Midwinter Championship, finished (unfortunately) with the 21 boat fleet sitting on the beach on the third and final day as a persistent 22-24 knot northerly on the race course cancelled racing for the day (A-Class rules have a 22 knot wind maximum). Five races were sailed over the previous two days in winds ranging from 10 – 20 knots. The fleet was postponed on the previous day for 5 hours by high winds and got off the water right as the sun was setting .
Matt Struble from San Diego, CA dominated this regatta with wins in every race. He did the same in the first regatta of this circuit last month. Matt never rounded a weather mark in first but would always be in the top 3 and then just turned on the jets downwind to always be in the lead by the first leeward gate. While a couple of competitors in a couple of races stayed in contact with Matt for the remainder of the race, there were a couple of races where Matt did a horizon job. This fleet was no slouch in talent either with sailors like world champions Morgan Larson and Jeff Linton racing and strong A-Class sailors like Ben Hall, Ben Moon, Brett Moss, Woody Cope, and Jonathan Farrar competing. As Morgan Larson stated at the awards, it was a “schooling” by Matt to the fleet but the positive aspect was Matt was very open with feedback on his rig setup and sailing technique so that most of us felt that we had raised our game at the end of the event.
Here are the top five finishers and their equipment choices (boat/mast/sail):
- Matt Struble – San Diego, CA x-1-1-1-1 (EVO HT/Fiberfoam/Glaser)
- Morgan Larson – Santa Cruz, CA 2-3-x-3-2 (EVO HT/Fiberfoam/Glaser)
- Bob Hodges – Mandeville, LA 3-2-4-5-x (ASG4/Fiberfoam/Glaser)
- Ben Moon – St. Petersburg, FL 4-x-2-6-3 (ASG4/Fiberfoam/Glaser)
- Brett Moss – Miami, FL 7-x-3-4-5 (ASG2/Fiberfoam/Landenberger)
There has not been more design and technique innovation going on in the A-Class since the class saw the introduction of the first wave piercing hull designs over 10 years ago. The use and refinement of curved daggerboards, evolving hull designs, new sail and rig setups, and an exciting new downwind sailing technique are keeping top A-Class sailors fully engaged. For sure it’s a lot of fun.
In the US, the Peter Cogan EVO HT looks to be currently the best all around performer as demonstrated by Struble’s performance and the success this winter of Morgan Larson’s racing debut in the class on the boat. But the potential of other new designs is also looking promising. Ben Hall is actively working on optimizing the three Cogan designed Barracuda boats he has built at Hall Spars in Bristol and what is being learnt will be applied to the next EVO II that Cogan is working to get into production (the platforms will be produced in the UK).
Ben Moon and Bob Hodges did major modifications over the winter to the Glenn Ashby designed ASG3’s they purchased last year. That boat had some performance issues and rather than give up on it, Ben and Bob felt the issues were related to the beam and foil placements and the actual foils used on the boat. The changes they did have made a dramatic positive improvement, significant enough that Glenn himself will probably be making the same changes to his own ASG3 in Australia in the near future. We now call the boat the ASG4. The Italian Bimare V1R has landed in the US and is being sailed by Randy Smyth who is experimenting with some radical rig ideas (last month he tried a sloop rig that was within class rules). Hard to judge the boat at this time but it certainly looks nice and well executed.
You also cannot discount the designs that have been successful in the last few years. In the light to medium air conditions we predominately race in the US, the Marstrom Mk V, the ASG2/Flyer II, Bimare XJ, and the Pete Melvin designed A3 are all very strong performers. Multiple North American champion Lars Guck is rumored to be building the next A3 iteration that will probably have some changes in the hull shape profiles and will certainly have curved daggerboards. US sailors are looking forward to getting one of the highly touted Dutch DNA platforms in the US to see how our own development compares against this new benchmark in A-Class performance which recently dominated the Australian National Championship and has won several European continental championships.
Curved daggerboards are here to stay. It’s safe to say that in 2-3 years, 90% of the fleet should be sailing with them. It appears that light air performance is not negatively impacted and upwind and downwind performance as the breeze builds is certainly improved. The curved boards reduce the righting moment of the platform forcing a more physical and dynamic sailing technique and what has evolved from this is sailors starting to use their trapezes downwind in over 10 knots of breeze. This has driven an evolution to a fuller and more twisted and powerful sail and rig setup. The boat is being sailed downwind faster forward at tighter apparent wind angles but with approximately the same jibing angles so dramatic increases in downwind VMG result.
This progression of performance has prompted a change in the mast design and construction that is resulting in new masts that are stiffer in the minor axis and softer in the major axis. That presents an engineering challenge to the mast builders as the physics of the mast design want the mast to bend just the opposite. The response is creative carbon engineering but caution is needed to be sure the result is strong and reliable. This will be ongoing for the next couple of years. Sail design is also having to progress to match the new mast characteristics and most sailmakers are tweaking existing successful designs with a few exceptions like Australian Steve Brewin who offers the largest head width A-Class sail ever with a very straight leech profile to stay within class limits. The big head designs require careful batten selection and use over the wind range to maximize performance and Steve is considered one of the fastest in the class.
The next and final event of the winter circuit is the Admiral’s Cup to be sailed next month with the fleet again returning to Islamorada.
Thanks to these folks and sponsors who made the RONSTAN Midwinters a very fun regatta.
- Ben Moon and RONSTAN (regatta chairman and main sponsor)
- Warren and Dennis Green, ISLANDER RACING (race management)
- John and Carla Schiefer, COCONUT GROVE SAILS AND CANVAS (venue logistics)
- THE ISLANDER RESORT and staff, Islamorada, FL (venue host)
US A-Class Catamaran Association