The International C-Class Catamaran Championship succeeded in living up to its nickname of the ‘Little America’s Cup’ yesterday when on the opening day, racing was blighted, San Francisco-stylee, on this occasion by thick fog.
The day got off a wonderful start as the C-Class fleet show-ponied in the field just above the launch area by the Restronguet Yacht Club in Mylor for the benefit of the media and spectators. Never before had such a sizable fleet of these exotic 25ft long catamarans, ranging from the 1985 generation Patient Lady VI, through to Steve Clark’s 1996 winner, Cogito, and on to the very latest launches from Groupama, to the Swiss Hydros Lombard Odier cats and defending champion Fred Eaton’s new Fill Your Hands, ever assembled before. Of the 11-strong fleet, ten were present, with Team Cascais not ready, following her late arrival from Portugal.
Sadly Team Cascais did go sailing in the morning only for her main beam to break causing the boat to fold up "like a taco" (which Lars Gluck tells us is the official US terminology). Through fast reactions her crew managed to save their boat’s wing, but the main crossbeam is broken and there is damage to one of the hulls. Sadly their campaign is over for this regatta, but the team including sailors Diogo Cayolla and Nuno Barreto and team manager Antonio Reis intend to stay on in Falmouth to learn what they can from this regatta.
Meanwhile the ten remaining boats had been sent out into Falmouth Bay for an intended 1100 kick-off, only to discover dense fog and next to no breeze. After a lengthy wait and moving the start area to the southeast, due east of the mouth of the Helford River, the fog eventually cleared enough to get a start in.
The first was canned at the gun allegedly because everyone was over. The line was then reset and the second start was carried out under threat of the black flag in around 4-5 knots from the southeast. In this the line bias was such that Canadians Billy Gooderham and Christian Pavey on Fred Eaton’s 2010 winner, Canaan, successfully port tacked the fleet (a nice opening to the regatta) only for a shift to force them back on to starboard. Americans Steve Clark and nephew Oliver Moore on Aethon performed the perfect pin end start while Anglo-French crew of Tom Phipps and Cedric Bader on the Airbus-backed Invictus Challenge were up at the committee boat end and after crossing flipped quickly on to port tack – Nacra 17 sailor Phipps has sailed here since he was in nappies and is considered ‘the local knowledge’.
Sadly within 10-15 minutes, while the boats were about two thirds of the way up the first beat, a pea souper enveloped the fleet once more and, with it deemed unsafe to continue, PRO Ian Fraser pulled the plug on the race. At the time, Franck Cammas and Louis Viat on the new Groupama C were winning, while impressively, Invictus Challenge, sporting her three day old wing, was lying in second place.
Thank heavens for tracking as Lars Gluck and Max Kramers on Cogito fully missed the mark in the fog and ended up continuing upwind for another mile before turning back. Fortunately a safety boat was guided towards them and they were told the race had been stopped. The New Englanders are clearly used to racing in fog.
After heading back to the start zone and the fog showing no signs of dissipating or burning off, Ian Fraser eventually canned racing for the day.
Back into Carrick Roads, the fog of course immediately cleared and there was good wind. The teams took the opportunity to vent their frustration with some fast laps. Particularly impressive was the pace of the Swiss Hydros Lombard Odier cats and their foiling ability. Most people expect this week to pan out as a fight between them and Groupama, all three boats representing the latest generation of foiling C-Class.
Back ashore the Hydros Lombard Odier crews shared their thoughts: “It was really hard to see where we were going,” Mischa Heemskerk’s crew Bastiaan Tentij explained. “We spent a long day on the water and it is a pity we couldn’t race. We were able to organise a small speed test between Hydros and Groupama, and then we took the time to work on the manoeuvres and to train. I hope that the visibility will be better tomorrow. If all goes well, the wind should be stronger so we are very hopeful.”
However having trained here for two months, Team Manager and sailor Jérémie Lagarrigue was not overly concerned: “It is absolutely not a problem for us. It is the lot of sailing competitors, and we are used to it. Actually, this waiting period enabled us to observe all our future adversaries on water, and to measure our level of preparation compared to them.”
Racing is scheduled to get underway tomorrow at 1100 and while three races are scheduled there is the possibility the PRO might try and squeeze four in.