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Pieces in motion at C-Class Catamaran Summit

by Will Clark 13 Nov 2012 22:31 GMT 10-11 November 2012
Pieces in Motion at C-Class Catamaran Summit © Will Clark

With the 2013 International C-Class Catamaran Championship in Falmouth, England less than nine months away C-Class Catamaran enthusiast from six countries met at Rhode Island’s Bristol Yacht Club (USA) on the weekend of November 10th.

With the Class growing at an unprecedented rate, and interest from Italy, Switzerland, and France joining the class renaissance started in the United States, Canada and England, International Chairman Steve Clark called for a summit in early November to discuss all things C-Class. After almost two days of discussion and deliberation one thing is clear – the C-Class game is afoot.

From 1960 to 1996 the C-Class Catamaran was dominated by an event similar in format to the America’s Cup, in fact the International C-Class Catamaran Challenge Trophy came to be known as the “Little America’s Cup” because it was conceived along the same lines. However the restrictions of the event were not conducive to class growth. A yacht club would issue a formal challenge to the current holder of the cup, and the winner was determined by a best of seven series at the defender’s preferred location.

In the 60s and 70s the format worked brilliantly – the Cup was in England and teams from Australia and the United States challenged every year. However the format of the racing inhibited the defender’s ability to promote class activity or encourage racing of any kind without a formal challenge. So when the class went semi-dormant in the late 90s-early 2000s Clark seized the opportunity to restructure the class when fresh challenges arrived from Australia and Great Britain in 2004.

“Ten years ago I placed this class under martial law,” said Clark, who was re-elected as class chairman on Saturday. “There was not enough activity to justify more than one class officer, so I did it all myself, and made a number of changes to the premier event format with the goal of making attending the event more rewarding and increasing participation.” Clark’s Cogito, who first wrested the cup away Australia’s Edge IV in 96’ with helmsman Duncan MacLane and crew Eric Chase on board, carried the day in 2004 as well with MacLane at the helm and Clark as crew.

However the race format was drastically different with both finalist having to be determined by a fleet race series before moving on to match racing for the championship. “By eliminating some of the barriers to entry active teams are now able to support other prospective participants” said Clark. “However with this in mind the involvement of Fred Eaton has been the most critical component to the success we are now seeing.”

The game changed in late 2004 when Canada’s Fred Eaton got involved. Eaton’s team took the cup away from the Americans in 2007 at Toronto’s Royal Canadian Yacht Club, and with Eaton’s Alpha and Cogito installed as what Clark calls a “breeding pair,” the Canadians faced challenges not only from the United States but also Australia, England, and France in Newport, Rhode Island in 2010. Now, with as many as 16 boats expected in England in 2013, the class is well on it’s way to getting off the sailing endangered species list.

The meeting spent a long while reasserting the bylaws and constitution. However after Magnus Clarke had been elected to succeed Duncan MacLane as International Secretary, and national representatives had been appointed from each attending nation, the chairman opened the floor for team reports.

  • Steve Killing of Team Canada reports that the Canadians have already built a new platform (christened “Fill Your Hands” by Clarke) and are considering building a new wing but there are no set plans to build one at this point.
  • Roberto Grippi’s team Challenge Italia, while somewhat behind schedule, plans to build as many as four platform, with the first hitting the water in January, the second in March, and at least two competing in Falmouth.
  • Jeremie Lagarrigue of Hyros confirmed the Swiss team’s commitment to building two boats, one Archimedean and one foiling capitalizing on their Hydropter expertise, and both being raced in Falmouth with the first platform launching in December.
  • Benjamin Muyl of Challenge France confirmed that the French team has Patient Lady VI fully functional and confirmed that progress is well under way with two other French teams who do not wish to be identified at this time.
  • Norman Wijker of Team Invictus brought news from Great Britain that tooling for their new wing is nearing completion in Portugal. They plan to use their existing Invictus platform with a new wing, updated foils, and be sailing in early March
  • Clark concluded the team reports with news that American’s have been sailing Aethon all summer and have a replacement wing for Cogito in final stages of production. Clark is still assessing the results of the summer and determining a future plan of action.

The meeting adjourned for the night and reconvened at 9 the following day where rumours continued to surface. Clarke confirmed that the Canadians have sold Alpha to one of the French organizations that thus far chooses to remain anonymous. However he also mentioned that one of the conditions of the transaction was that the boat must be sailed in Falmouth, so it is only a matter of time until their identity is revealed. Meanwhile Grippi noted the existence of another interested Italian team and Wijker put in that the shop manufacturing their wing in Portugal may enter a boat as well. There are even rumors of a Hungarian squad putting together a challenge.

After more administrative affairs, including a proposal to redraft the somewhat outdated class by laws, the meeting broke up with heads spinning. Early indications of how successful all the proposed builds have been will be at the European event in Quiberon, France in late May. The North Americans also have a tune up event, tentatively known at the North American Championships, scheduled for May in Bristol, Rhode Island. The 2013 International C-Class Catamaran Championship in Falmouth, England is scheduled for September 23-29th, 2013 with a warm up week running from 16th to the 22nd.

See a second video: ClarkSail goes one on one with Jeremie Lagarrigue of Hydros

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