A-Catter Bob Hodges checks in from the A-Class Midwinters and his new ride.
This past weekend the Ronstan A-Class Midwinters were sailed out of Davis Island Yacht Club with 28 boats registered to race and 24 actually making it to the starting line. In the fleet were four of DNA A-Cats. Ben Moon and Bruce Mahoney were sailing their DNA’s in their second event after last month’s Islamorada Coconut Grove Sails Classic/Intergalactics, while Chris Brown and I were racing our new DNAs for the first time. All four of us were using the Glaser Den Ben sail design, the same that Ben sailed so well on at last summer’s Worlds in Denmark. Ben and Bruce were sailing with new Fiberfoam masts and Chris and I were using the latest Hall masts. Both of these masts appear to be very similar when tested using the Landenberger bend test. Ben Hall made some changes after the WC and we are confident he is on par, bendwise, with the latest Saarberg and Fiberfoam masts.
Moon had a freak accident disaster on the day before racing. He had come in from sailing and the breeze was a gusty 15-18 knots. As he was trying to get his boat staged to his beach dolly, a gust caught it and tipped it over to the beach, which is on a rise. Ben’s new mast broke when it hit the sand and he was forced to switch back to his rig that he used last year – a Fiberfoam Medium and a Glaser Lars1. Good news is the break was relatively clean on the mast and it can be repaired fairly easily.
Racing for Day 1 was cancelled with the breeze hovering in the low 20s, blowing against a lee shore seawall in shallow water; conditions that were unsafe for much of the fleet. On Day 2, we got in five races in conditions that followed a cold front. – a gusty 8-14 knots with 30-40 degree oscillations. You had to sail with your head very out of the boat, and at the end of the day, Ben and Bruce had won all five races with Ben leading Bruce by 2 points. I trailed in a relatively distant 3rd. I was a slight bit off Ben’s and Bruce’s pace upwind and downwind but in general was pretty happy with the performance of the boat and the rig, given this was the first time I had sailed it around other A-Cats. Even though I was in third overall, I was only one point ahead of a 3 way tie for fourth between Jeff Linton, Woody Cope, and Tracy Oliver so it was going to be a fun battle on the last day of racing.
For the third and final day of racing, the breeze was from the NE at 15-20 knots with a short chop. Ben won the first race and Bruce won the 2nd race with Ben winning the overall by 2 points over Bruce. I had a pretty good day with two thirds and felt like I was much more competitive against Ben and Bruce staying in much better contact with them in each race as I got a better feel for the boat and rig. Woody Cope finished with two 4th’s for the day to take 4th overall, and Jeff Linton finished 5th overall. Tracy Oliver had an unfortunate capsize before the first race that broke his mast. Chris Brown finished both races but on the way in to the beach, the rivets on his spreader bracket failed and his new mast broke above the diamonds, bummer! He did finish 7th overall and he was very pleased with the performance of his new DNA.
Obviously I feel like the DNA is living up to its reputation as the ‘boat to beat’ in the highly competitive A-Cat development game. I did carry a Speed Puck on the boat for all of the races and after downloading the GPS tracks for each race, I found the most interesting fact to be that the DNA and new rig doesn’t seem any faster upwind than I was last year with my modified ASG3. Downwind is a different story though – the new boat has an ultra-forgiving that makes it easier to sail fast with good depth for very good VMG. While the boatspeed looks very close between the two boats, the jibing angles with the DNA seem to be consistently better than with the ASG3. Is this the rig or the boat? It is probably a combination, so it could be interesting to put the new rig on the ASG3 and see how it goes; which I hope to do very soon. The DNA and other boats with similar volume distribution feel easier to get downwind in chop in heavy air.
One last note: Ben Moon was quite quick on the DNA with a standard Fiberfoam Medium and Lars1, quick enough to win the event. Both Ben and Bruce are excellent sailors and you would think the newer rig on Bruce’s boat would have had an edge. In races 1 and 2, the breeze was up a bit and the water was pretty flat so I don’t think Ben was at any disadvantage. In races 3, 4, and 5, there were more holes and Ben felt that Bruce had the better speed downwind. On the last day, the flatter Lars1 might have been a bit better upwind and downwind. Upwind, I was pleased that I was able to flatten the Den Ben to the point where I felt I was very close to Ben and Bruce upwind. Downwind I felt like I was very close to Bruce in speed and angle, but Ben always seemed a bit quicker so the flatter, less powerful Lars1 might have been a bit better downhill in the big breeze and chop.
We always have fun figuring out which developments are working and why – stay tuned for more feedback. From the next event, and keep track of the DNA chat in the A-Cat thread.
Photo credit Richard Kinnie