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A Cat Admiral's Cup 2022 at Houston Yacht Club

by Gordon Upton 30 Apr 2022 10:23 BST 25 April - 6 May 2022
Local boy, Bruce Mahoney, gets it loose on the way to his Open Division win at the A Cat Admiral's Cup 2022 © Gordon Upton / www.guppypix.com

The Admiral's Cup has become a bit of a 'thing' here in the US since its inception 13 years ago. Nan Hall came up with the title, as it was the long time nickname of her husband, the venerable Ben Hall, and it was from an idea to have a small 'A' Cat regatta from their house in Bokeelia, Florida.

However, since then it seems to have grown somewhat and now is hosted by numerous venues in the Southern US, the latest being the Houston Yacht Club, and it has attracted and been won by some prestigious US 'A' cat luminaries too. This year's event was held as the perfect warm up for the 2022 Beacon Group A-Class Catamaran World Championships held at the HYC.

6 races sailed over 3 days, with the Classic Division fleet and then Open (Foiling) Division fleet swapping start times. It is sailed on the waters of the Upper Galvaston Bay, where the water is only some 3m deep. This can produce a significant short chop in certain wind directions and is expected to be the same for the Worlds next week.

Day one was the first day sailors properly has a chance to get afloat after the above class wind limits of the previous several days. 18 Classic and 19 open foilers were present. The format was Classics morning, and the very pleasant 9-10 kt breeze was idea for a shakedown. From the gun, it became pretty clear who the main contenders were to be. Ex-pat Scot Micky Todd ESP 7 started at his usual favourite pin end. The Admiral, Ben Hall USA 99 was not far behind with Ken Marshack USA 192 and Mark Miller USA 356 leading the rest of the pack. Over the 3 laps, in both races the lead looked up for grabs by either of the top pair, and it really came down to the one who could sail best in the lighter conditions. Ben pulled ahead on the last downwind leg of the first race and Micky did the same in the second.

In the afternoon, the foilers took the stage. This class was harder to call as there could be several potential winners. Local boy Bruce Mahoney USA 311 showed pace early on. However, he was chased closely by US Olympic 49er sailor Ravi Parent USA 76, until something went awry and he dropped to the bottom of the fleet. Former multiple World Champ Stevie Brewin AUS 4, testing set-ups for the Worlds, was also up there until he hooked the top mark. However, he battled on to get a 3rd. And Robbie Daniel USA 180 also showed great speed to get 2nd. Another top hotshot was the Spanish Olympic 49er sailor Iago Lopez Marra ESP 96. He was astonishingly fast, but somewhat superstitious and tends to deliberately finish the wrong side of the line in warm up events! Race 2 was in a similar vein, but with Stevie going up a place to 2nd.

Day 2 started promising, nice 12 kt breeze out before the start. However, this was starting to drop as the first race drew on. In the end they were floating about on 6kts. Occasional puffs could see some of the more competent foilers gain big positions, but it was snake and ladders all day for these boats. Stevie with a different rig setup had a poor first race coming 4th but Bruce took the race 3 bullet with Ravi 2nd and Emmanuel Dode FRA 2 got a good 3rd. The next race started badly and got worse for many. Minimal 5kt conditions for the class totally crucify the Open foilers with their increased underwater drag, so most simply limped around until the race was finished to the top mark with having got to the front.

The Classics fared better. A steady sea breeze of 8-9 kts kicked in as Pasadena heated up sucking in the air from the south-east. However Micky had a boat failure during the race and retired. Ben, Ken and Bobby Orr USA 4 took the top 3 slots. Race 4 was similar. Micky had fixed his issue, a stuck daggerboard and won convincingly. But Ben, not wanting to be outdone by Stevie's top mark antics on day one, decided to wrap himself around the top mark, leaving him last but one on lap 1. This opened the door for the Swiss IACA president Charles Bueche SUI 65, who, on a borrowed boat and struggling to get upwind speed, discovered awesome downwind speed to get 2nd, with Patrick Stadt USA 79 clinched 3rd.

Day 3 was to show what this bay can really offer. A nice 10-12 kt East breeze was lovely for the Classics last 2 morning races. Micky, Ben and Ken all showed consistency in a building breeze in race 5. Then before the 2nd race, a delay as a new anchor had to be found after the committee boat discovered it's anchor winch didn't work. This gave time for a sea breeze to come in, and add to the existing wind, swung around to the SE again. The chop started to build too. All meat and drink to the classic sailors though, and this is their zone. 15kts and a sea running is such fun in these boats. It was the same 1, 2, 3 again, and gave Micky the winners honours, but all went home with grins on their faces, none wider that Warren Mitchel USA 208, who embodies the 'A' Cat ethos of just doing the races is enough for me and who declared 'Lovin that!'

So, the delay and wind /sea state would prove more challenging for the foilers. These babies love flat water to get their high speeds and, for those who can, upwind foiling. This was not their zone really. Although the winds were not that high, 13-16 kts would be fine, it was the 2 half ft chop, with less than a boat length in amplitude was challenging and hard work for some. Stevie Brewin, with yet another rig came good, but was chased hard by Iago, Bruce and Ravi. Race 2 saw a few boats fall by the wayside. One unfortunate sailor fell off at the top mark only to see his boat then belt off downhill leaving him just holding onto his broken tiller, and then suffering the indignity of being rescued by your correspondent. However the crown pleaser of the day award goes to Michael Christensen who's wipe out was recorded for posterity as he piled in, at some 23kts, in the 'Zone Of Death' between the top mark and the spreader.

Stevie won the last race, but Bruce, with a second clinched the title. Emmanuel, with some nice consistent racing came 3rd.

And now it is onto the headline act of the Worlds. A days rest, chance to look at space rockets or for that last minute tweaking. Saturday sees the Practice race, then it is go for launch Houston on Sunday. We can't wait.

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