Friday, 20 May 2011

New Zealand A-cat Nationals: Luc Dubois Wins on DNA boat

Luc Dubois (NZL 8) in action on the race course. Image copyright Brent Harsant.

by Brent Harsant

The 2011 New Zealand A-Class Nationals were held by the Kerikeri Cruising Club in the sunny Bay Of Islands.

This year was the biggest fleet we have had for some time, with 19 boats (16 A Grade & 3 C Grade) and sailors with a range of experience from those new to the class up to some with Americas Cup experience. We also had the pleasure of viewing and racing against some of the newly designed DNAs and ASG3s for the first time, including those sailed by Luc Du Bois (NZL 8) and Murray Philpott, with their radical curved boards, infused beams and flat bottom hulls. The rest of the A-Class guys were very keen to go out there and mingle with them on the race course.

Day 1

We awoke to a nice sunny autumn’s day with a nice north easterly sea breeze blowing straight into the bay. The guys were rearing to get out onto the race course and enjoy the perfect sailing conditions that the Bay Of Islands offered.

A cats just before a race start. Image copyright Brent Harsant.

Race 1 - Started at 1100 and consisted of sailing two laps around the course. The first beat Luc, Murray and Blair Tuke (sailing an ASG3) revelled in the conditions and respectively came 1st, 2nd & 3rd on the finish line. As the day progressed the wind and waves started to build gusting up to 15 knots. Alexis Reeves seemed to enjoy the windier conditions, reaching a personal best 7th place against stiff competition.

Race 2 – With the wind opposing the tide some of the fleet decided to head out to the right hand side of the course to get into the flat water. It paid off with all these boats reaching the top mark ahead of the rest of the fleet. Luc showed how fast the DNA was down wind by doing the wild thing off the trapeze. It was very impressive to watch and he went on to win the 2nd race.

Dave Aarons (NZL 233). Image copyright Brent Harsant.

Race 3
- The wind started to become quite shifty and gusty at this stage with the fleet trying to find the quickest way up to the top mark. Steve Ashley was one of the last boats up to the top mark but with his downwind expertise he finished with an impressive 4th. The hard luck story was watching Bruce Curson sailing down to the finish line in hot pursuit of the leaders and then capsizing. He managed to hold his head high for the rest of the regatta and came out with some good results.

Race 4 - The breeze was starting to moderate but was still very shifty. With the wind and tide coming from the same direction the fleet headed out to the left hand side of the course. On the second rounding of the top mark Tom Block was in the top 10. He decided to stick to the left of the course while the rest of the fleet stayed in the middle. With the finish line looming the decision paid off, managing a very respectable 2nd placing.

NZ A-cats on the race track. Image copyright Brent Harsant.

Race 5 (final race of day 1) - The fleet were starting to get into the rhythm of things and the start line was getting more competitive. Luc was the first boat to the top mark. While rounding the mark he managed to stay in front of a small rain squall carrying his own private breeze all the way down to the bottom mark, opening up a huge lead and finishing 5 minutes ahead of the second boat.
Daryl Senn, Michael Hooper and Peter Hooper retired with boat damage.

Day 2

The weather forecast was predicting 20 knots and rain. Neither eventuated, with north easterlies of 6 – 12 knots being the order of the day.

Race 6 - With an eager bunch of guys, a perfect breeze 6-12 knots and the course all set the racing got underway on time. The young guns started to shine with new comer Blair Tuke giving Luc a good run for his money, only to be passed within metres from the finish line, while Geoff Wolley placed an excellent 3rd. It was interesting to observe the older plywood boats with their larger centreboards holding their position on the start line much better than the lighter carbon boats.

Murray Philpott (NZL 1). Image copyright Brent Harsant.

Race 7 - Presti Phillippe managed to keep the two DNA’s at bay on his Flyer MK 2 to be the first boat to the top mark. The three of them reached along the port lay line with Murray gibing first, followed closely by Luc and Presti. It came down to a close tactical race with Luc rounding the bottom mark first. Once he was in that position no one could catch him and again another gun. Dave Aarons posted a 6th placing on his Flyer MK1, while Leroi Ford capsized which resulted in him putting his knee through the hull almost to the point of sinking. Luckily a rescue boat was close by and came to his aid.

Race 8 - The breeze was holding well. Pat Ashby was starting the get the hang of his new ASG3, and moved up the placing with a 5th, 7th and 9th – not too bad for his first regatta on it. Daniel Philpott (also sailing an ASG3) managed to get one over his dad to record a 5th placing. Blair Tuke took a sudden fall due to his harness breaking, but was back in time for race 9. The hard man of the regatta Kevin Wichman (sailing with an infected finger) did well to keep up with the rest of the fleet to post some good results. Luc was unstoppable by now to record his 8th first placing.

Race 9 (final race of day 2) - After two unfortunate OCS Ken Urquhart (sailing a Tool) stayed in touch with the leaders to record his best placing (5th) for the regatta. The grade C boats were starting to make their presence known on the race course, reaching the top mark ahead of many of the carbon boats only to be passed down wind due to losing out on hull weight. It was great fun watching the 3-way battle between the C Grade boats. The boats are almost identical, although Peter Hooper decided to cant his hulls at 10 degrees, which worked well in the windy conditions.

Luc Dubois sailed Dean Barker's DNA A-cat to victory. Image copyright Brent Harsant.

By the end of day 2 Luc had an unassailable lead and didn’t race on the final day.

Day 3

The weather started to turn for the worse. The wind had swung around to the north with big threatening rain clouds looming. Despite only having two races the day was important though, particularly for three of the competitors who started the day all within a point of each other.

The guys were enjoying the regatta so much they decided to do 3 laps instead of 2. With the absence of Luc on the race course they were all keen to post a 1st place onto their result sheets.

A cats waiting for racing. Image copyright Brent Harsant.

Race 10 - Daryl Senn (skippering his own designed and built boat) got a bit too eager on the start line to post a OCS but came back fighting in the last race with a 10th placing. With a quick patch up job using polyester car filler and plywood backing pads Leroi was keen to get back into the action. Bruce Curson showed them how to sail a Fossil design to record a 2nd place, while the race was won by Blair Tuke on his ASG3.

Race 11 - Steve Ashley managed to pull some tricks out of his bag to get a 2nd on line just behind Murray Philpott. Kevin Wichman posted his best result of the regatta 3rd (those antibiotics must had been kicking in). Trevor Simpkin decided to let his hair down and show them what skills a North Island dairy farmer is made of to post his best result, and Leroi Ford managed to keep the Hoopers at bay to win the grade c division and receive the gold medal.

Luc Dubois receives the winner's trophy at Kerikeri Cruising Club. Image copyright Brent Harsant.

Overall the regatta was a very well run and enjoyable event. It provided an opportunity to meet and compete against a number of new sailors to the division, and was a good indicator of the future strength of the class. On behalf of the New Zealand A – Class Association I would like to thank the Kerikeri Cruising Club for a very well run regatta, and to all of the volunteers who helped with making the regatta such a great success.

Final Placings

A Grade
1st Luc Du Bois
2nd Blair Tuke
3rd Murray Philpott

C Grade
1st Leroi Ford
2nd Michael Hooper
3rd Peter Hooper

Note from SailRaceWin: Luc Dubois was sailing Dean Barker's DNA A-cat at the New Zealand Nationals. Dean Barker was otherwise engaged, sailing the ETNZ AC45 in Auckland.

NZ A-cat Association