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Top Gun regatta

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Hi all,

finally made time to write a very F16 bias report. Forgot a lot of the detail so I left it out. Also details of some reders of this forum, happy for you to post your accounts.

You can see photos by following the link in the Blade photo's thread on this forum.

Top Gun Regatta 07’

This long running regatta at Kurnell Catamaran Club on the southern shore of Botany Bay New South Wales posed a number of unusual challenges for a country Victorian, I was entered on the first production built Blade F16 from Formula Catamarans Australia. First the 8hr drive north from Victoria starting at sea level, over the mountains to a elevation of 1000m and back to sea level through thunder storms and driving rain. Second getting some sleep over the weekend, as Kurnell is across the bay from Sydney Airport and some of the planes seemed intent on landing on top of the accommodation, when combined with roosters crowing all night next door, sleep was intermittent at best. Third avoiding the floating debris from the recent storms, which drifted in and out with the tide. Branches, a sheet of plywood and palm fronds where some of the potentially damaging items, when combined with the usual suspects like plastic bags, bottles and seaweed, some radical changes of course where required to avoid race-ending damage or at least speed loss from dragging stuff around on your foils. Not all of it could be avoided and a number of thankfully small branches where not sighted until it was too late, testing the strength of the carbon foils. This may all sound like the formula for a bad regatta experience, but being greeted by Dolphins on the way to the start line and very smooth running of back to back races amongst 57 friendly cat enthusiasts, made for a enjoyable weekend.

Saturday dawned fine, warm and sunny, just the thing to get a sleep deprived southerner motivated. Lots of friendly banter with the locals and other visitors whilst rigging followed, as we checked out each others boats and I fielded lots of questions about the FCA Blade. Explaining it was a F16 not a F18 and yes, I do sail it one up with spinnaker and yes, it is also able to be sailed two up with a jib, but no, by some freak of nature I don’t have more than 2 hands.

The wind gradually built as the morning progressed and by the time I hit the water to make the first race scheduled for 11.30 am, it was around 10 knots. Waiting near the start line for the last of the 5 divisional starts, I realised I should have spent more time reading the sailing instructions and less time yakking, as my watch was set for a 5minute count down and the Kurnell club was very efficiently rolling through the starts at 3minute intervals. Resulting in a poorly timed start, at the wrong end of the line, how ever things improved from there, with the FCA Blade revelling on the long legs of the first windward leeward lap, followed by the triangle with a short tight reach to the finish in front of the club. The first race was over in less than 30 minutes with three F18’s and a Tornado leading the way, enjoying the breeze which had built to 15 knots, with the FCA Blade finishing a creditable fifth over the line out of 15 cats. In a division made up of mostly F18’s and A class’s with 2 Tornado’s and a Mosquito with spinnaker. Then it was time to return to shore for a quick lunch before the afternoon back to back races programmed for 1.30 pm.

The first two back to back races Saturday afternoon followed a similar pattern to the race before lunch, with the FCA Blade battling with the F18’s on the beats and duelling with both the F18’s and A’s on the run, with the two up F18’s having the upper hand on the reaches. However the wind had started to drop towards the end of the second afternoon race and by the start of the third it was around 8kts. The FCA Blade really came into it’s own in these conditions and I had one of those races where nothing went wrong, for me, a very rare occasion indeed. I rounded the windward mark with only 2 A’s not far ahead and then blew them away on the run to have a clear lead at the leeward mark. Second beat they caught up, but in the lighter breeze the FCA Blade was able to carry the spinnaker on the reaches, just managing to hold the course from trapeze and finished first over the line one minute ahead of the first A class, with the F18’s following.

Sunday dawned much the same as Saturday, but after a big day’s sailing exhaustion helped to overcome the noise of Jumbos and Roosters so a little more sleep was had overnight. The wind was slow to pick up and was only around 5knots at the start of the first back to back morning race. The A’s made the most of these conditions followed by the FCA Blade, with the F18’s well behind. The second morning race saw the breeze start much the same but it built for the triangle to around 12kts. Which meant the one up FCA Blade was unable to carry the spinnaker on the reaches leaving the F18’s to power away catching up to the A’s. Then it was back to shore for a quick lunch before the final race in the afternoon.

The afternoon race started in a fading 10 knots, around the windward mark the A’s and F18’s lead with the Blade within attack distance for the run. I gybed into clear air shortly after rounding the mark and carried pressure down the run to have the lead A class and F18 in my sights. As I gybed on to the lay for the leeward mark flying a hull the wind dropped and so did my windward hull, just in time for the centre board to hit a small branch I hadn’t seen floating ahead of me. There was a bang the branch snapped and I was happy to see the centreboard still in one piece. But what was the bang from? I looked up to see the pole bent at right angles, the windward guy had let go. My race for the front of the division was over, I continued to sail the course hoping the wind would pick up on the triangle as it had done for the previous race, but no such luck. I limped home looking like a seagull with a broken wing, with the pole sticking out at right angles finishing closer to the back of the fleet than the front, with the F18 I had in my sights leading the fleet home.

On VYC Yardstick over the whole fleet the FCA Blade F16 finished 5th. A good result from only it’s second regatta and with it’s Yardstick of 71 equal to the A class and only 1 point behind the F18 it proved it can race head for head at the front of the fleet in these conditions with the more established classes. Leaving me with much to look forward to in the coming season and catching the attention of many sailors, that could enjoy the versatility of sailing on their own or with crew whilst retaining the exhilaration of spinnaker sailing.

Regards Gary.

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