Glenn Ashby - with a day to spare
After eight races in the nine race series, Glenn Ashby, seven times A Class Catamaran World Champion, has won the 2012 John Cootes Furniture A Class Australian Championships being sailed on Lake Macquarie, NSW.
First into the boat park after the completion of the day's racing, Ashby was pleased with his latest victory. "Every National win is important but this field, with so much depth of talent and competition, is definitely the strongest fleet I have ever sailed against in the A-Cats at ANY level. It's fantastic, the top guys coming in from other classes, here giving it a go. The fact that these guys want to come sail in the A Class Championships is a giant tick for multihulls."
Ahead of the first race on day 4 of the Championships, there was a delay waiting for the breeze to moderate. Race 7 of the series started in a 16 knot south south easterly, under grey clouded sky.
At the top mark Ashby, Steve Brewin, Darren Bundock, Nathan Outteridge and Tom Slingsby were all close to each other. On the second lap Ashby was just eight seconds ahead of Bundock, Outteridge and Brewin, then a gap back to James Spithill in fifth.
On the second beat Ashby fell off the back for his boat, just managing to hold onto the mainsheet and tiller extension but he recovered to retake the lead.
It was Ashby's tightest victory finishing just 12 seconds ahead of Darren Bundock, with Nathan Outteridge four seconds further back, then Steve Brewin followed by James Spithill.
Outteridge said, shaking his head: "I missed all the shifts on the last run."
For race 8, the breeze was 16-17 knots off the start line. Brewin and Ashby were fourth and fifth up the line at the gun. 95% of fleet went left. Heavy gusts hit the fleet, with lulls of six to seven knots between them but it was much softer at the top of the course.
At the top mark for first time, Slingsby led by 21 seconds with Outteridge second, then Brewin and Simon McKeon. Ashby was ninth but fought his way forward to be third behind Slingsby and Outteridge.
Down the last run Outteridge was on the trapeze, as was Slingsby just behind him. As the two leaders powered down the course leaping from pressure areas at hot angles, Slingsby suddenly put his bows in but recovered. Just a few seconds later Outteridge did the same then capsized and Slingsby sailed away.
Shades of Qingdao and the 49er Medal Race for the World champion, but this time with nothing broken, Outteridge got his boat up and struggled across the line, just ahead of the fast finishing Ashby.
Ashby said: "Nathan and Tom certainly sailed very well today. Darren and Steve had their time at the front but these windier conditions probably suited the bigger guys as they can accelerate better in the puffs, they can put the bow down and rip across to the next puff.
"First downwind in the first race, I was sailing into a wobbly puff just as I was coming in off the wire to gybe and the rig unloaded and the hull came down quicker than I expected. I lost my balance and fell off the back but I had the mainsheet and the tiller in my hand. I flipped the boat back up quickly and I was still in touch and managed to get round the top mark in the same pressure band and get back into the race.
"In the second race I was happy to let Tom and Nathan go. Anything can happen in these races and it nearly did. Down the last run, I consolidated ahead of Steve and Darren and I was happy to take a few on the chin and stay between them and the mark.
"An amazing regatta - we will talk about this for years to come."
Nathan Outteridge commented: "The last finish was something else. I was trapping downwind, battling with Tom. I gained on each of the runs and on the last one I got ahead but he was pushing hard. Downwind trapezing on days like today you can really work the modes - so many options. I was bow forward, but not far enough, so I jumped out onto the trap to go forward and then as I was coming out of the foot straps to go back inboard both Tom and I hit a big puff and the bows went in. I let everything off and hoped the boat would not go over - but it did. Luckily I managed to get back up and finish ahead of Glenn."
Steve Brewin was rueful: "The first race today I got fourth. In the second race I came round the mark doing well, into a hole and they gobbled me up ... fourth to eighth and I ended up ninth. Now I have a fight with Nathan on my hands tomorrow."
Outteridge is keeping the pressure on Brewin, the 2011 A-Cat World Champion, for second place with Brewin three points ahead with one race to be sailed.
Tom Slingsby was coughing and spluttering, fighting off a worsening cold, as he hosed down his boat: "I had a shocking first race, two swims. But the second race today was the best race of the series. I was pushing Nathan and we got a big gust before the finish, we both put our bows down and I was the only one that popped up."
James Spithill came over to apologise to Tom. "I smashed into Tom in the prestart before last race. I will claim the credit, I gave him a little spark up, you know a love tap. I said come on mate get it all together and he did."
Simon McKeon related: "I was neck and neck with Tom for the lead 400 metres from top mark then I busted the centreboard. It just snapped. Maybe I hit something, perhaps a shark? Definitely not a sunfish. And that was the end of my race but I had to go past the top mark anyway, on my way back to the Club."
Darren Bundock summed up his day: "Amazing racing, just to have all the good guys from all the different classes get into the A-Cat is awesome."
So while Glenn Ashby is the 2012 A Class Australian Champion, the remaining podium spots are up for grabs with Steve Brewin currently second and Nathan Outteridge third.
One race is scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday 7 January to conclude the 2012 John Cootes Furniture A Class Australian Championships.
The event is being hosted by the Wangi Amateur Sailing Club, Lake Macquarie NSW.
Top 50 results:
|44||NED112||Dirk de Ridder||35||25||34||[71.0O]||71.0B||38||28||71.0F||302|