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A-Class Cat European Championships at Circolo Vela Arco, Garda - Runner and Riders

by Gordon Upton 3 Sep 2022 14:37 BST

There are currently gathering this week at the iconic Lake Garda, some 100 sailors of the World's fastest single-handed cat class. The A-Class Catamaran European Championships kicks off on Monday Sept 12th under the auspices of the Circolo Vela Arco on the North shore of the lake, and is in joint conjunction with the German and Italian A-Class Associations.

In this class the Euros are usually held whenever the World Champs are outside Europe. This year was the first opportunity since Warnemunde in 2018 to hold the event, as Covid put a stop to everything. The 2022 Beacon Group A Cat Worlds was the first International event to be held within the class, taking place in Houston Tx, back in early May and seeing a turnout of nearly 70 boats.

The 100 boat turnout in Garda is the result of a limit imposed on the class by the host club to allow a manageable number in a limited space. As a result, all National Associations fell back on their National ranking positions when handing out the limited place numbers for each county decided by the International Association. However, as there are two categories within this class; the Classic non-foilers and the Open foilers, the local Associations were left to decide on the split between two.

The final split is about 2:1 in favour of the Open Foilers. Hardly surprising as this place is a foiling nirvana. The entries are spread over 17 countries, with only the USA, ARG and NZL not represented.

So, who to look out for?

The Classic Fleet

In the smaller of the two fleets, there is no obvious favourite. The reigning World Champ, Andrew Landenberger is absent, so it is game on for the top riders. Former Class World Champion from back in 1986, Scott Anderson AUS (Exploder Ad3) is still as fast. 2nd in the Weymouth Worlds in 2019, he didn't compete at Houston, and that the wily old dog has another championship in him is probably not in doubt.

Another fast starter is Alberto Farnessi SWE. (Marstrom M5). He was 3rd at Weymouth, and had it not been for a DNF, could well have beaten Scotty into 2nd. Watch him, he goes like an absolute train in a blow. He can frequently be seen battling for the pin end alongside our next sailor. Expat Scot, Micky Todd ESP (Scheurer G7), who is reining World No. 2 from the Houston event, is capable of making his boat very fast with his own sails under his Hammer brand. He also seems also to be magnetically attracted to the pin at starts, so much so that on any photo of a Classic race start, he's in the foreground.

Another top 5 finisher at Weymouth is Enrique Cornejo ESP (Exploder A15) who can be fast in the windy stuff and he does like to shout a lot. Also we have another Scot, Hugh Macgregor GBR (Tool). He came a great 6th at Weymouth, beating Micky, and is also hoping for a top 5 position.

Then there is also the Dutch secret weapon and one of the two women sailors in the event, Caroline Van Beelen NED (Nikita). The current Dutch Classic National Champion's diminutive stature gives her a built in edge if the breeze fails to appear as advertised. However, don't think she's a one trick pony, she is happy in anything up to force 5!

It is interesting to note that all the other gentlemen mentioned in this fleet are, it has to be said, on the slightly larger side. This is somewhat encouraging for all of us of a certain, let's say, more comfortable weight. You just need to pick the sail and mast that suits you in the A-Cat. In this fleet, when the wind gets fruity, the big guys tend to just get going and very little can stop them.

The Open Fleet

With some 66 boats in this fleet, there is some tough competition happening here too. Again, the current Open World Champion, Ravi Parent, is not attending. He has Nacra 17 duties to attend to. However, the World No 2 is Kuba Surowiec POL (Exploder Ad3) who only lost out to Ravi by 2 points and all on the last downwind of the final race. So the Polish Champion will have something to prove.

But he'll be up against his club rival Tymuk Bendyk. POL (Exploder Ad3) Former POL champ. The 2017 World No. 2, Tymuk has been running A-Cat clinics and training weekends on Garda for much of the summer, so a dangerous competitor. He loves the bouncy stuff, so expect to see him right up there.

We also have the Aussie Double act of Brewin and Bundy on station. Multiple A-Cat World Champ Stevie Brewin was a little unlucky at Houston, the OCS in the 7th race saw him finishing 5th, losing by a single point to his training buddy Darren Bundock. Bundy, a multiple Tornado Champ, will be striving to get an A-Cat championship under his belt. He couldn't quite match the pace and agility of Riley Gibbs at Houston, but still saved his best until last, winning the final race in the short Texas chop in fine style.

There is another Multiple A-class World Champion, Mischa Heemskerk NED (DNA F1x). He has been somewhat out of the major circuit over since his World Championship win at Weymouth. House building took priority. This will be the first major outing for him and it will be interesting to see if he still has the pace.

Manuel Calavia ESP (Exploder Ad3) will be another to watch. The reigning European champ since 2018, Manolo is looking fast again. Hopefully his passionate Latin temperament will be harnessed in getting some good results. There is also the top French Open sailor, Emmanuel Dode. He had a great Houston event, put in much effort and was rewarded with a great 6th place. Maybe he will build on this and sneak into the top 5?

And again, if the wind does go light, look out for the other woman in the event, Katrin Brunner GER (DNA F1x). Another with an elfin physique and a South German lake sailor, meaning she can get going when others cannot. Hopefully all the sailors have 0perfected their upwind foiling skills, and as the front of the fleet tends to split away at this point, you will be in the lower half as a result if you can't manage to do it.

Training will continue with renewed vigour this last remaining week. The venue sometimes plays against the sailors, as it can tend only be blow in the afternoons, thus concentrating the training periods into a more concentrated time frame. Maybe this is a good thing?

The fleets will be racing down towards the Malcesine area of the lake this time. It provides more variation of racing tactics rather than the usual bang right after the start, stay as long as your weight can stand as the wind increases towards the cliff, then left to the mark, with the same way downhill. Exciting as it is to do, the predictability becomes dull after a while.

We all look forward keenly to this Championships, but remember as ever, the winner is usually the one who does the corners best.

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