black flag

"The revolution will probably be televised. But I don’t have a TV and I’m not gonna watch.” – Greg Ginn

John Casey from Magic Marine gives us the goods from the huge 105-boat EuroCat in Carnac, France, in a fleet that continues to see development galore, with the best jumping to the next big thing almost every year. Title inspiration from Black Flag, the greatest US punk band ever, and get the full quote here.

Dubbed the ‘Mini Worlds,’ the Eurocat sailed off the craggy rock shores of Carnac, France took place over the weekend with conditions from 5 kts to 0 on Friday and 15+ chilly knots on Sunday. All 105 F18 entries started on the same line with many black flags from teams pushing each other hard for clear air, which is key to stay in the front of the pack.
The hardest hit from the black flag collection was last year’s runner up Darren Bundock (AUS) sailing with Jeroen Van Leeuwen (NED) on the rock solid Australian High Performance Catamaran C2. They had an impressive score line except for the black flags. This is a new team and they have plenty of F18 championships to their names so their result won’t affect them at all.  

Defending Eurocat champs Mischa Heemskerk and Baastian Tentij (NED) sailing their brand new Cirrus R collected a black flag on the first day, but that didn’t keep them from climbing through the pack to earn the championship once again. Mischa explains the fight with Bundock and van Leeuwen, “After Darren (Bundock) was first and we were second on the first race of the last day, we knew the stage was set. We were fully fighting with Bundy moving through the fleet chasing each other, both coming back from 15th to 2nd and 3rd in the next race!” In the next race Heemskerk knew Bundock was black flagged, “We were surprised to see him in the spot he was. He was pinching and looked more agitated than he normally is so we felt we were putting pressure on him. He is an amazing sailor and we are always happy to sail with him and the black flag was really unfortunate for them.”

Heemskerk explained a little more on how they gained the speed to win, “The boat and design concept are brand new and we put in many hours getting the boat perfect in the month leading up to racing. The factory is first class, helping us in all hours of the night. We only had one real regatta before (Carnac) to get the settings right. The week before the event we had training sessions with Bundock, Coen de Koning (previous world champion) and the world champs Backes and Jarlegan. The daggerboards for the Cirrus R are very long and we devised a system to raise and lower them from the trapeze which helped our progression.

With the boards down we felt like we had plenty of power, but the boat wasn’t moving fast. Once we lined up with our training partners were able to get the settings right. Even while racing we were learning how to sail the boat properly.”  Their score line was evidence of this as they went from 5th in the first race to pulling the win out under pressure in the end by winning the last two races. He concluded by saying, “We feel the boat has a lot more potential.”

Speaking of the new design, it has rocker at the bow and a beveled aft section under the rear beam, “The new boat is very stiff and is a completely new design philosophy, like two America’s Cup (IACC) hulls put together. Wide stern means the sides of the boat can be flat and as soon as you fly a hull it has an asymmetric print in the water which provides lift for the hull. The buoyancy of the  two hulls are such that when it is sailed flat the bow and stern are out of water to reduce wetted surface instead of increasing waterline length,” Explained Heemskerk.  

The other boat debuted at Eurocat was the Phantom by Sail Innovation which led the 105 boat fleet after the first three races. The helm, Olivier Backes, had this to say after the first day, “Feelings were pretty good. Only after a few hours sailing the boat we managed to take the lead on the first day which was really cool!”  However, the Phantom had a few structural issues after the long distance race on Saturday and opted to stay on land during the final blustery day. The designer of the Phantom, Martin Fischer, who was at the event, told us, “I was of course very disappointed when Olivier and Arnaud were forced to abandon on the last day due to structural problems with the boat. Nevertheless, the first results were very promising and we’ll be back soon.” Backes and Jarlegan did not win Eurocat last year either and they won the F18 World Championship, so they are definitely not discouraged. As the Cirrus R and Phantom both sail with Sail Innovation sails, the two new boats will be doing testing together leading up to worlds.

The Nacra MKII had good results as well, with Coen de Koning and Thijs Visser capturing the second spot and Nacra CEO Gunnar Larsen finishing third, rounding out Dutch dominance of the podium places. The hulls of the MKII are from the Nacra Infusion, but it has longer and thinner daggerboards as well as sail upgrades. Heemskerk was impressed with Larsen’s placing, “Gunnar Larsen seems to have figured out the new sailplan fast. I’m not surprised since he is the most naturally talented sailor on the team. Coen is a more technical sailor and he is always pushing at the very front of the fleet.”

The top Hobie Wildcat was sailed by Moana Viereaux and Petit Roman (FRA) in the fifth spot, who continue to improve. With Heemskerk abandoning the Wildcat to jump into the Cirrus, and Mitch Booth and J.C. Mourniac working on America’s Cup projects, the factory Hobie team is virtually nonexistent and thin. We’ll see if they make some moves to improve their scores and race cred, or if they are content to sell more rotomolded boats and paddle fin kayaks where the money’s at.

The big guns sailed the Raid on Saturday as well, with the widened Marstrom 20 “Vampire" coming out on top to take the overall win.

So the stage is set for F18 Worlds, with many of the top teams sailing new boats, but they remain very close to each other. I think it is safe to say that sailors still make the biggest difference.

For the full results of racing head here.  Photos from PIerrick Contin, with plenty more at www.pierrickcontin.fr