Thursday, 1 January 2009

A-Cat Worlds 2009: Australia's Glenn Ashby Wins A-Cat Australian Nationals

Glenn Ashby: champion A-Cat sailor. Image copyright

by Rob Kothe

Five times A-Cat World Champion Glenn Ashby reminded everyone just why he is the A-Cat King today. He has produced a dominating display in the five race Australian A-Cat titles on Lake Macquarie. His scorecard was 1, 1,3,3,1 - an impressive result in an 85 boat fleet.

The vertically challenged sailor, he is only 5 foot six inches (1.68 metres) has blistering speed, surprising when another six inches or 150mm would get more weight to windward.

Ashby has a different trapezing style to most of his competitors; his body is much lower on the boat, his airborne hull seems to just skim over the waves. His head is so low it's clear he often can't see the leeward hull, but his boat is flat and flat is fast.

Glenn Ashby: A-Cat Pre-Worlds Champion. Image copyright

Ashby says 'It comes from the Tornado. Darren (Bundock) is a low trapper and I need to be lower than helm, so I've always been a very low trapper. It provides maximum efficiency and I need that because I am far from tall.'

As well as speed, Ashby has always been a very smart sailor; he has five A-Cat World titles to prove that. But his silver medal Olympic Tornado campaign has sharpened his course skills even more, in the last two years especially.

He agrees. 'The last two years of the Tornado campaign have certainly improved my racing skills. Things like picking starting positions and shifts. The Olympic campaign has polished up some of the edges.'

'I guess it comes out best on tricky days. Today was a really 'woolly' day; we had a westerly from 6 knots to 28 knots, shifty, puffy wind. Really tricky conditions. There were some huge snakes and ladders. It was not a speed day; it was an eyes out of the boat day.'

Glenn Ashby has the right number on his sail for a champion! Image copyright

In the first race of the day, the fourth in the series, Steve Brewin won from Tom Slingsby, Glenn Ashby and Brad Collett. In Race Five, Ashby took the gun from Andrew Landerberger and Brad Collett. Slingsby was seventh.

2007 Australian A Class Champion Steve Brewin commented back in the boat park, 'Glenn is always very hard to beat, so it was nice to do that in the first race today. On Monday he gave us a sailing lesson right from the start and that was a wake up call.

'I would have said that Tom Slingsby is probably the biggest improver that I've seen in a long while, in the shortest time. Today he had a 2 and a 7. Scott Anderson's doing a lot of training with Tom and certainly he's come up to pace.'

In fourth place overall was BMW Oracle America's Cup match racer James Spithill, who had a 16, 12 day after a second and seven yesterday.

James Spithill at the Belmont Sailing Club on Lake Macquarie. Image copyright

'I've been able to string together a few good results. However I think my family who were watching on the first day, just think it's a miracle I have not capsized. I've almost done it coming into the finish. Yesterday in one race, closing on the finish line I just pulled off this gybe and my boat was right on the edge. I somehow flattened it out and it was a Spithill family disappointment, obviously' he laughed.

Slingsby, dual World Laser champion is another freshman in the A-Cat's who is messing with the pecking order.

He came ashore today with a huge grin on his face, after a second in this morning's race ahead of his Australian Sailing Team mate Ashby and then a seventh this afternoon.

Slingsby commented 'Starting catamarans is a whole new thing for me, so timed runs in are a bit different for me; but it's pretty crazy. I've been lucky to get off the start so far. I had one bad one yesterday.

'Glenn's quick. It's not the only thing. I think off the start line people can match him; he's just smart and his boat handling is better than everyone else's.

'In one race I saw him duck ten boats. It was just one of the biggest duckings, but then he came out and went the right way and was gone. I think his 'smarts' are what are getting him in front of everyone. He knows how to sail his boat, that's for sure.

'I like plenty of wind because I am a bitter heavier than most. The more shifts the better, (like today) I think. I'd prefer having a bit more of a mind game than everyone else. But it's fun, it's a great boat, a great class and I'm really enjoying it' concluded Slingsby.

The A-Cat Worlds commence at Belmont Sailing Club on Lake Macquarie on the 2nd January, with the Practice race. Racing concludes on 9th January.

A-Cat Worlds 2009

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