Just a month after Mischa Heemskerk and Stephan Dekker’s ridiculous, all-bullet (gold fleet) performance to win their first-ever F-18 World Championship, Mischa is back in the driver’s seat on Poland’s Baltic Sea coast as the A-Cat Worlds fleet fires up, and if this pic is any evidence, he’s on the prowl…[just joking, Carrie -ed]. Head to the thread to find out more about the deck sweepers, stabilizers, and no-boom rigs amongst the crazy tech in this fast foiling fleet. Video preview here and big thanks toPJ Dwarshuis and the guys at DNA Performance for their help in putting together this comprehensive preview/form guide. By the way, with both the Moths and A-Cats hosting their largest-ever world championships in 2017 and the average age continuing to plummet amongst the fleets, is there anyone out there who still thinks foiling is a fad? News and photos from the event are over here.
19 nationalities and 150 boats on the entry list proves the growing interest in this highly competitive and foiling catamaran class. Dozens of past World Champs in a variety of classes discovered the A class cat over the last few years as the ultimate in singlehanded excitement. The A cats are challenging to sail, with nearly unmatched and highly-refined development in one of the last truly open classes left. Many ideas coming from the A-class trickled down to other boats and even into the AC Cats; it’s not surprising then that many Cup sailors and designers play in the A for fun. .
The reigning world champion and man to beat at the moment is DNA team rider, developer and fellow Dutchman Mischa Heemskerk. Mischa is on a roll, as last month he also won the Formula 18 class world title with 7 straight bullets in the goldfleet final and before that won the locally well known Round Texel race.
Mischa will face big competition from the squad from Polish A-Cat builder Exploder, which has put in countless hours in their effort to break DNA’s string of five straight A-Cat Worlds. Heemskerk’s biggest competition should come from Aussie Exploder riders like two-time World Champ Stevie Brewin and double Olympic medallist and Tornado world champ Darren Bundock, who’ve been working as a team to unseat the reigning Dutch champ.
While Poland may be better known for growing gorgeous women and brewing great vodka, their sailors are a major force to be reckoned with, especially with the added motivation of winning on their home turf. The next generation of cat kids is led by 24-year old Jakub Surowiec who proved very strong at the last big European regattas, while Tymotek Bendyk and Jacek Noetzel are also factors – the latter is the longtime Polish champion and also the driving force behind the successful growth of the Class in Poland.
Mischa will again be sailing the stealthy black carbon DNA F1, unchanged for the second year of production now. The platform is identical to his winning boat at last years worlds in Medemblik, Holland.
The DNA F1 is highly optimized for low aero drag, proving extremely fast in all conditions. The construction is state-of-the-art carbon/prepreg/nomex honeycomb, built in a unique one-shot method in Holland Composites‘ autoclave. Carbon fiber to weight ratio is unmatched, resulting in platforms that remain stiff for longtime. We introduced the semi-rigid carbon trampoline last year, stiffening the platform and making the boat look extremely slick.
The ‘Z‘ foils, which have all four foils kept deployed in the water during sailing, as originally developed by DNA in 2014 are still unchanged. We have been playing with other foil designs however keep returning to the original shape – it is easy to optimize for one particular condition but in our view the best foil is the one offering the best all-around performance. You could see this clearly in the AC where they had various foils for different wind ranges – we have to make do with one throughout the entire event hence our quest for a good all arounder.
The decksweeper sails are common nowadays, but it was Mischa who developed the modern iteration of these super-efficient mainsails to a new level. The sail seals all the way to the airtight trampolines, resulting in significantly higher efficiency of the rig. This helped DNA take 1st and 2nd at the ’15 Worlds, and while Glenn is taking a much-needed family holiday instead of sailing Worlds, the America’s Cup winner and 9-time A-Cat world champ says he’ll be back soon to set things straight.
Sails might just be as important as foils in this fleet’s development, and Mischa Sails, the Polish Bryt sails and North Sails all use Contender Maxx cloth, which has proven very suitable for these refined and flexible rigs which needs to depower and repower within seconds. Brewin sails and Landenberger sails go for radial-cut sails from conventional laminates, some of them optimized for lower rigs and some top teams going boom-less, while other sailmakers stick to the ‘half-wishboom’ setup. where other sail makers stick to the ‘half-wishboom’ setup.
Polish builder Exploder pushed foil development to the extreme by developing literally dozens of prototype foils and rudders designed by Spanish designer Gonzalo Redondo. They’ve also varied their daggerboard and beam positions a lot over the last year, resulting in many different Exploders to come to the right setup. Exploder builds their boats out of home-made carbon prepreg/nomex, and in a more typical production method of two bonded halves per hull, making the boat a bit more straigh forward with less extreme beam shapes and conventional trampolines. Their Z foil (type number 21) looks to be the one to get right now, which surprisingly comes pretty close in surface and foiling angle to the now 4-year-old original DNA foil.
Foil design is all about finding the right compromise between control and speed , combining good low end performance with top speed and top control when it starts blowing. It really looks like the same challenge as seen in the AC , but on a smaller and more fun scale!
Upwind foiling seems to be the new challenge and it will be very interesting to see if this will pay off this championship. Australian sailors seems to have made a big step there, optimizing their rigs with shorter masts to get the center of effort lower for better, easier balance foiling upwind. Yet by doing this, they probably sacrifice some light wind performance there, so time will tell if it will pay off during the entire event.
Swiss manufacturer Schreuer with team rider and developer Sandro Caviezel pushes upwind foiling even further, developing his stunning airplane looking G7 with the same rigid trampoline technique first seen on the DNA F1. Sandro is looking extremely slippery upwind in this Swiss piece of art. Especially in moderate conditions and flat seas, Sandro could be a surprise contender.
It’s fantastic to see that the foiling revolution actually made the class stronger than ever. There has been a lot of discussion about foiling and about class rules in recent years, but the cool thing is that, in the end, those rules controversies led to the Z foil development, which proves to be the best foiling configuration possible for small catamarans. Loading boards from the top-down and leaving both boards down during racing brings easy handling of boats whilst sailing and also onshore. Most important, it eliminates the handling of boards up and down at each tack or gybe, and this important fact keeps racing interesting because tactical short tacks and gybes are not so costly.
The same type of boards are used now for the new Olympic upgrade of the Nacra 17. These boats are only on the water for a few weeks now, but sailors will quickly learn how to sail these boats fast and safe as happened in the A class. Without a doubt it will be an eye opener in the fleet of Olympic classes.
With the Polish Nationals/pre-Worlds having gone off in a mostly low-riding light-air affair, top Spaniard Manual Calavia came out on top, and the short-rigged Aussies may be scratching their heads to decide whether to go for the short rig (8 meters) or the common 9 meter rigs next week.
All European sailors stay with standardized 9 meter masts, nowadays nearly all produced by Scott Andersons’ Fiberfoam from Austria. Two choices there: The common and proven standard untapered section, which has been a class favorite for many years, or the tapered wingsection which was developed and built by DNA four years ago and now manufactured by Fiberfoam for DNA. The DNA’s mast section tapers from 165 to 125 mm, flattening out in the top to only 45 mm, so much more extreme than the original 60 mm thick standard section. Obviously, with the trend of foiling and smaller apparent wind angles these sections will become standard in the class quickly.
Attempts to wider wingmasts and even solid wings are still made in the class, but on the twitchy super light A-class, so far no one has proven any gain. But without any doubt, development also won’t stop in this area.
The A class is more alive than ever. More and more resources are put into development by builders and sailors, and foiling is no longer for pro’s only, but all average and above A class sailors are consistently foiling nowadays, making sailing the A‘s hugely attractive and addictive.
Which other class features competitive and attractive racing from 4 to 22 knots in all sea states, in more than twenty countries worldwide? We rest assured that the A-class remains the class to keep an eye on for the coming years.