Race Day 1 Australian A Class Championships.
Lake Cootharaba turned on champagne sailing conditions for the 73 entrants in the 2011 Australian A Class Championships which commenced today. The two races sailed today, were blessed with clear blue skies, a steady south east breeze of between 12 to 15 knots ,and flat waters.
With the addition of the 6 sailors from the America's Cup scene, as well as 7 former Olympic medallists, this fleet represents a pinnacle in Australian A Class Catamaran history, both numerically, and in quality.
The first race started clearly at the first attempt ,with most of the acknowledged top skippers away at the pin end of the line.
Glen Ashby, seven time World A Class champion, and newly appointed coach to Team New Zealand, stamped his authority on the race, and assumed the lead during the second windward leg, and was never thereafter challenged for the lead.
The challenge for the minor places was intensely fought, and was not determined to near the end of the final downwind leg. Darren Bundock rounded the final windward mark behind Ashby, pursued closely by Andrew Landenberger, and Steve Brewin. Brewin is an acknowledged downwind ace, and true to form, he overtook Bundock and Landenberger to finish second overall, relegating Bundock to 3rd, Landenberger to fourth,with the Queenslander Brad Collett taking out fifth position.
Dean Barker, the skipper of Team New Zealand and new to multihull racing has given notice that he is a fast learner, finishing a very credible 6th place.
The start of the second race began with a general recall. The Principle Race Officier, after the multiple general recalls at the start of yesterday's practice race, indicated that her patience with overly aggressive starters is over, and promply produced a black flag for the second attempt.
Once again, Glenn Ashby soon revealed his dominance by taking an early lead which held onto until to the second rounding when he befell an uncharacteristic and really totally unexpected error, with a sudden capsize. Unfortunately he also impaired the performance of his boat ,by severing the tiller extension, a very desirable piece of apparatus for steering from the trapeze. Amazingly, he was able to promply upright his craft, sail the remaining 4 legs, and finish 8th overall.
Following the capsize demise of Ashby, Bundock and Landenberger became the contenders fighting for the lead. Landenberger when on to win. Brewin ,with his noted downwind skill ,once again passed Bundock downwind to finish second across the line. Unfortunately, Brewin's efforts were in vain, as he had been seemd to be over at the start line, and disqualified. This left Bundock with the 2nd position, Brad Collett inishing 3rd, Dean Barker 4th, and the veteran A class competitor Scott Anderson in 5th position.
We are clearly in the early days of this 9 race regatta. Discounting today's capsize, Ashby appears to be the inform favourite. Steve Brewin, with two 2nd's across the finishing line today also indicates good consistency, but a disqualification this early in the series is a significant problem as he will be forced to sail the remaining aceswith a degree of conservatism.
Landenberger, Bundock, and Collett also clearly sailing well. The dark horse at this stage is Dean Barker.
So far he has a 4th and a 6th, but he is the one most likely to improve as the regatta progresses.