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A Class Catamaran World Championship at Yacht Club de Toulon - Day 5

by Gordon Upton 15 Sep 2023 08:14 BST 7-15 September 2023

After Wednesday's excitement in Toulon, Thursday was only going to be a bit of a let-down. There was the now traditional stop in the boat park instruction. It was the Open foilers to go on first, and many had their super high aspect ratio rigs already fully set up on their 9m tall carbon masts.

There were instructions, under pain of death, that they must not pass through the entry gate onto the beach launching area unless they were fully ready to sail and dressed for the water. With 120 boats and a finite beach area, this was a very sensible policy from the Yacht Club du Toulon.

Then the AP flag went up at 11.30 so the launching began in earnest. The sailors were now well practiced in getting out of the rather tricky entrance, with a stone breakwater on the right, and jagged carbon destroying rocks on the left. They all set off to where the committee boat sat out in Toulon Bay. The wind had returned to the Southerly direction again, meaning they had a much wider area to play with. After they'd all arrived and spread around her like chicks and a mother hen., Corinne, the Race officer, decided she'd prefer a course set up further East in the bay. So the lovely big motor cat committee boat zoomed off west and all the chicks duly chased after her, always an amusing site I find. The course was then set up, and sequence started.

The wind had now arrived and become a lovely 10 knots. Perfect for not quite foiling upwind. At the gun, the 40 odd fleet set off and stayed on the left. Yesterday, the right side was favourite, today it was the left that paid. The top contenders overnight, leader Kuba Surowiec POL 411, Mishca Heemskerk NED 7, and Darren Bundock AUS 88 were all fast from the blocks. The wonderful thing these top sailors have is their ability to get right into any mode they need withing seconds. They'd switch from a higher one hull flying mode, to a full flying mode of a degree or so lower, but twice the speed in less than 4 seconds. I saw Kuba do it and counted. Now really flying their apparent wind goes forward, the boat accelerates to mid twenty knots and smooths out totally.

First lap top mark Mischa led Kuba, by a few boat lengths. Then followed Bundy, Ravi Parent USA 76, the reigning champion, along with Stevie Brewin AUS 4 and Adam Beattie AUS 14. Meanwhile over on the right side of the course, a handful of boats, including a couple of Vikings, Jan Saugman DEN 3 and Peter Boldsen DEN 20, seemed to be planning an attack on the latest French Navy Aquitaine-Class frigate. The terrified French sailors stopped their approach to their home port and blew their horn. The Viking pair decided not to press on and quickly tacked to port to find the top mark lay line. International incident averted, the shaken French frigate continued its passage unimpeded.

By now the wind had increased a knot or two, and all the boats looked to be enjoying foiling happily down to the bottom marks. The waves generated because of the shallow nature of the bay, caught out a few of them too. On the second lap, following a top mark move to the East, a couple managed to hook their noses into the back of a wave and did spectacular cartwheels. One such sailor was that brave Viking Jan. He was thrown a good way around the front of his mast, rather in the nature of that game Swingball, but made it back safely.

At the finish, Kuba got the bullet over Mischa second and Adam third, his best result of the series to date.

The second Open fleet race ace started with little problem. Being OCS in such a fleet is a game loser for sure, so many were a little line-shy. However the A-Cat's ability to accelerate from a standing start to pretty much flat out is impressive, and the top riders mode changes so precise that the traditional 'hit the line at full speed a second after the gun' technique can seem outdated here. The previous race proved the left was by far the best side, so all remained there. Mischa and Kuba, the two battling for the crown, both chose pin end starts.

However, at the end of lap one, it was Ravi who was showing the way. He rounded the port mark and led right to the finish. Another US sailor, Cam Farrah USA 426, showed she was as good as the lads, rounding in 4th. But then the wind started to switch off. Each lap got slower and more tactical. Modes were switched, holes in the win found, but at the end the young American came through to get the bullet. Mischa followed, then his DNA boss and team-mate PJ Dwarsluis NED 28, who has had a storming regatta, came in 3rd, knocking Kuba back to 4th.

It was then time for the Classic fleet. These guys go better in the light stuff than the Open foilers, but still need a class minimum breeze of 5 knots. This was now nowhere to be found. They all floated about in pretty sweltering heat, taking on litres of water, and sweating it all and more out. After 2 hours of this, and now sign of any wind, Corrine the race officer gave up and all drifted back to the beach. This is what sailing is all about though isn't it?

That result still keeps Kuba in the lead of the open fleet, but with 2 points behind, the flying Dutchman is well within getting his 4th crown from the young pretender. The Classics will remain as is, with Scott Anderson at the top. However, Friday will see the victor in both crowned and it promised to be a much frutier day they say. It would be great to end this closely battled regatta on both fleets on a blast.

Full results so far can be found here.

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