by Rob Kothe
2008 Olympic Tornado Silver Medallist Glenn Ashby is five times A-Cat World Champion and the Australian sailor is odds on to take a sixth title on Australia's Lake Macquarie this week, but the new boys could make it tougher than expected.
Ashby had a convincing win in the Pre-Worlds event, the Australian Championships which finished on Wednesday, in which most of the world's best A-Cat sailors competed.
The nine race World Championship starts tomorrow at Belmont 16 foot Sailing Club and today was the final hit out for the 94 boat fleet.
Today's practice race was sailed in an eight to 13 knot wind from 065. The breeze stayed steady at the bottom of the course but was quite shifty up the course and at the top mark 1.1 nautical miles upwind.
The championship fleet in the time honoured way tested the patience of Principal Race Officer Peter Moor, with two general recalls then up went the I flag.
Ashby was just below the Committee boat and was fast away, but half way down the line dual Laser World Champion Tom Slingsby powered left.
Slingsby said ' I was down a little bit more to the pin than most, I started out to the left a bit; got a big left hand shift, tacked then just played the little shifts and just got ahead to the top.
'I have to concentrate so hard on these boats; I don't have much time to look around. I was just having a good battle with Germany's Bob Baier.'
Slingsby held his lead down the run battling to keep an in-form Baier behind him, with Australian 1996 Olympic Tornado Silver medalist, Andrew Landerberger climbing into third place by the second top mark.
America's Cup skipper, Australian James Spithill, is a multihull neophyte, but has been thrust into the multihull world with the giant BMW Oracle 90 foot catamaran and now he is proving a dab hand at the A-Cats, finishing fourth in the Pre-Worlds.
Today he was in the top six or seven until he spectacularly slipped off the back of his boat, 100 metres short of the top mark on the second beat. 'I was leaning back and the boat accelerated from underneath me', he smiled.
Many of the fleet sailed off the course after two and a half laps, so the final results were not a real guide to the Championship ahead.
Glenn Ashby had the final word. 'Defending my title was always going to be tough this year, with guys like Steve Brewin, Scott Anderson, Bob Baier and a host of others keen to knock me off as the A-Cat fleet continues to get more competitive.
'But now we have some pretty talented 'newbie's'. Tom beat me the other day and he did it again today, just natural talent and he, James and Nathan are all improving very rapidly, so its going to be an interesting week.'
A-Cat Worlds 2009