Two bullets for Ashby
There were postcard conditions today on Lake Macquarie, NSW for the start of the 2012 John Cootes Furniture Australian A Class Championships.
After a general recall in the first race, Principal Race officer Tony Outteridge gunned the fleet away just before 12:30 in a steady 14 knot ENEerly sea breeze.
At the top mark for the first time it was dual 49er World Champion and Moth World Champion Nathan Outteridge ahead of Tom Slingsby but Slingsby capsized just after the clearing mark. Bundock sailed into third, Simon McKeon was fourth and ahead of Glenn Ashby.
Using his superior down wind speed, seven times A-Cat World Champion Ashby sailed away to a 300 metre win from Outteridge and Bundock. McKeon was run down by 2011 A-Cat World Champion Steve Brewin, who beat him by just eight seconds.
In the second race the breeze was beginning to lift. It was 16 knots from the same direction. Bundock had a perfect pin end start, won the drag race to the left hand corner and was first at the top mark.
Down the second run Ashby sailed through his Tornado partner. Brewin was third and McKeon, the C Class pioneer who has done virtually no sailing in the last 12 months having attended some 300 functions and made 300 keynote speeches as Australian of the Year, was a strong fourth.
It was another impressive performance from Ashby who has a different trapezing style to any other A-Cat sailor. His body is much lower on the trapeze and his airborne hull seems to just skim over the waves, both upwind and downwind. His boat is therefore very flat and flat is fast.
Ashby explained: "It comes from the Tornado days. Darren (Bundock) was a low trapper and I needed to be lower than the helm, so I've always been a very low trapper. It provides maximum efficiency and I need that because of my lack of vertical stature. (Glenn is 5 foot 6 inches tall).
"Today I did not quite get that first work right in either race. I did manage to get the downwind right and I got to sneak back past a few boats and then I was able to stretch out.
"Tommy (Slingsby) got the glory at the top in the first race and then lost it. Boat positioning and speed from both Tom and Nathan (Outteridge) is very good and their boat handling skills are superb, they just need more time in the boat.
"With a nice couple of Ashby sails they have plenty of speed. I have a new development Doyle Stratis sail - it seems to be performing really well downwind.
"Today was some of the best racing I've ever had on the A-Cats. 16-18 knots and the earlier start time made for flatter water and really enjoyable racing."
Darren Bundock, smiling after his excellent start in the second race, secured a second and a third today to be in second place overall. "It was nice to get around the top mark first for once, for a little fellow. Glenn is in a different class downwind, if I am going to make a move I have to get some guts and get out on the wire. It's a different thing digging these boats in downwind; you don't get a second chance. I saw Tommy go in and I saw Nathan go in too."
Steve Brewin, the current A Class World Champion, had a giant stack when his boat leapt into the air on the reach between the top mark and the clearing mark in yesterday's practice race and he was unable to control it from two metres out the back.
Brewin said: "The curved foils just generate too much lift in strong conditions on the reach. My good mast broke in the capsize. Luckily I had a second mast rebuilt and was able to get going. I am thinking I might have to change to centre controls to get my weight forward. Anyway it's good to be back in the hunt today with a three and a four and a third overall."
Nathan Outteridge, the dual 49er World Champion and Moth World Champion is fourth overall after a second and a sixth today. "It was nice to lead the first race for a bit. I was never going to win it but it's nice to have some speed. But it could have been a lot worse. Upwind you try to stay flat. If I try and get as low as Glenn I can't get in again, or I hit the water and become slow. Downwind these A-Cats are a big challenge. I am still watching Glenn and trying to copy his technique."
Four times Laser World Champion Tom Slingsby was back at 15th in the first race but was fifth in the second to be 10th overall: "I had two good stacks in the first race. I rounded second and was a bit cocky; I tried to do all the controls from the wire. I had not even practiced it and it did not work. I can't trapeze down wind. I am just not that good so I just sit there and lose ground but it's a lot of fun."
56-year-old Simon McKeon was also smiling after his opening day: "A lucky day, my head was in the right space. I have been on holiday for three days and feel good. I am an old guy who feels really fat and flabby. But I got two good starts, and then stayed with the good guys, who showed me the way. I just had to stay upright. I am very happy with a five and a four and I'm fifth overall. I think I should go home now."
The Oracle America's Cup skipper James Spithill was irritated as he came ashore: "I had to do the second race with one rudder, it was brand new and it just blew apart. It was a shame because I was having a nice battle with Slingers (Slingsby) and the conditions were perfect out there today."
With a ninth and a tenth today, Spithill is ninth overall.
The final words came from Ian Johnson, the A Class President: "The conditions were straight out of the A-Cat brochure. Just watching Glenn motoring downwind is worth the event entry price!"
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